image provider

Background Eliminator


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

The Problem

The most common thing I do to images is eliminate the background and make it a *.png with a transparent background. This is very tedious work, and the results are not that impressive. I use Paint Shop Pro and Tint Picture Cutout Guide. Your job is to create a utility that does this quickly and that produces high quality results.

Simple Case

Much of the time, a professional has already done most of the work for you. They produced a *.jpg with a white background, either by retouching or by filming the subject on a white background. Your problem is just to turn the white pixels to transparent, and to convert the format to *.png. The user still has to warn you about spots of white on the subject that are not background poking through, but are actually white, that should be left as is. You don’t have to do much work to tell the background apart from the foreground. You might tackle this as a simpler project or as an optimisation.

Complex case

With a complex case, there is a multi-coloured background and the user has to help the program tell the difference between background and foreground. In other programs you do your markup, then let the program make inferences about places not marked. Then you iterate. In this new program, the process should be continuous. This lets you instantly know of areas you don’t need to mark because the program has already assigned them correctly based on its inferences.


The program should look for sharp lines wherever it can to demark foreground and background. png has an alpha channel. When the foreground merges gradually with the background, you should use the alpha channel so that when this images is displayed over a non-white background it will look right. Test your program with an image of long hair draped over background and test it over a different colour background.

background elimination
Paint Shop Pro
Tint Picture Cutout Guide

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