Digital Toolbox

Edit Photos in Preview

Many Mac users see the Preview app as a very nice PDF reader. That’s just one of the many things Preview can do. It also serves as a very nice photo editor too. No, it will never replace Photoshop or Pixelmator, but it can handle most of your basic editing functions like resizing, cropping, adding text or shapes and adjusting color. It also supports Instant Alpha. If you aren’t familiar with Instant Alpha, it’s a tool used to remove selected background areas.

ponce ornamentI found this beautiful little ornament on the back of an 1887 brochure advertising the famous Flagler resort hotels in St. Augustine. I can put this beauty to many uses but I need to get rid of the background first. That’s where Instant Alpha comes in. It works by removing color from the background area. What makes it an amazing tool is that I don’t have to spend a lot of time selecting the area. After turning Instant Alpha on, all I have to do is drag the pointer across the area I want to remove and the tool will select all the area matching my selection.

Instant Alpha is easier to demonstrate than describe so here’s a short video demonstrating how it’s done using the Preview app.

The image was originally a .PNG file. I opened it in Preview then clicked the Toolbox icon to display the editing tools and selected the Instant Alpha tool. Next I began dragging the mouse across the background until I had all the area I wanted removed selected. I then cut the selected area from my image. Preview automatically asked me if I wanted to change this to a .PNG file. The .PNG format supports transparency so I said yes.

I can now layer this ornament over any number of backgrounds with ease. Thanks to Preview I had the job done in less time than it takes to get most of the “big” photo editors loaded. Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at Preview . . .

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