Make a Transparent Image (PNG or GIF) Easily with Preview for Mac OS X
It’s extremely easy to make an image transparent with the help of Preview app, the built-in image editing app that comes along with all Macs with Mac OS X. Do note creating transparent PNG or GIF images this way works best on images with uniform colors in the area you want to become transparent. The more complicated the image and color variation, the more work you will need to do with the alpha tool to make a portion of the image transparent.
How to Make a Transparent Image on Mac with Preview
You can turn any image transparent with Preview, though you’ll find the resulting image must be saved as an image format that supports transparency.
- Open the image in Preview
- Click the Toolbox icon in the toolbar of Preview app to reveal the image editing tools
- For earlier Mac OS X Preview versions: Click the little pen icon in the toolbar to reveal the image editing tools
To get the finer details transparent it can help to zoom in and out of the image using Command+Plus and Command+Minus keys.
If the original file was a PNG or GIF and you are satisfied you can just save as usual, but in a lot of cases you may not want to overwrite the original file. Instead, you can save the newly transparent image as a copy by using “Export” or “Save As”.
Exporting the Image as a Transparent PNG or GIF
PNG files are much higher quality than GIF, and for most uses you’ll want to use a transparent PNG, but we’ll cover both how to create and save as either transparent GIF or PNG anyway.
Saving a Transparent PNG
- Go to File and choose “Export”
- Select “PNG” from the pulldown menu, and check the box next to “Alpha” to insure the image maintains it’s transparency
- Save as usual, maintain the .png file extension
Saving as Transparent GIF
- Go to File and select “Export”, then Option-click on the file formats menu to reveal “GIF” as an option
- Check the box for “Alpha” to preserve the image transparency, then save as usual with a .gif extension
Because you’ll need to perform manual adjustments with the alpha tool, this would not work on a group of files, though you could batch convert them ahead of time to PNG or GIF, then open each individually to make them transparent.
The video below walks through the process of turning an image into a transparent version of itself, including cleaning up areas that didn’t get immediately grabbed by the alpha tool by using zoom. This is demonstrated in an earlier version of Preview where the Editing Tools button was the Pen rather than the modern Toolbox icon, otherwise all else is the same:
You can make transparent images in Preview for Mac with nearly any version of the app this way, whether you’re in a modern macOS release, or an earlier Mac OS X version, the Preview app can create transparent gifs and transparent PNG files easily. Just remember to look for the Toolbox button in modern Preview versions and the Pen button in earlier Preview releases.