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Remove Black or White Background in After Effects

In this quick tip, we’ll take a look at how to remove a black or white background from our footage or images to get an alpha channel. We’ll be doing this without using any 3rd party plugins and will only be using built-in effects. This technique is very useful over blending modes in situations where you do not want to blend (either Screen, Add, or Multiple) your asset into the scene because they may be faded or blown out. This is also a nice way to “key out” the background so you can overlay the items nicely in your NLE without messing with blending modes.

Dojo BG Remover Presets

You can save time and download my Dojo BG Remover presets, which will apply all the effects in one step. You can download the presets below. The presets are compatible with After Effects CS5 and above.

Additional Tips

Another quick tip is to use a matte to cut out your objects, obtaining an alpha. Since your background is white or black, using a series of Luma/Luma Inverted mattes could be very beneficial. You may need to clean up the edges with a matte choker of some sort though. Red Giant also has a free plugin called Knoll Unmult which can remove blacks (not white). We cannot use Keylight to key out the black/white background as many beginners would assume because Keylight is a chroma keyer, meaning it only keys colors (RGB) and not black/white. I decided to do this quick tip while working on a project for a client. The client only had his logo on a white background. Using blending modes would’ve distorted the look of his logo, and I felt too lazy to hop into Photoshop to get a proper selection. By doing it this way, you’ll be able to stay within After Effects and avoid delay. This method also works with footage, something Photoshop can’t handle at the moment. I hope this technique helped some of you, especially using the presets. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to ask them below! Special thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring this tutorial. Use promo code: DOJO2 to save 10% off the life of your order.

  • Jason Bowdach

    thanks for the preset VinhSon!

  • Anytime Jason, hope they are useful!

    • Jason Bowdach

      Absolutely, gonna be using them today as a matter of fact!! Couldn’t be more perfect timing

  • Akan Selim

    Can you make a tutorial about how to make the intro of Modern Warfare 3 ? 😀 That would be awesome lol!

  • 0superc0

    Awesome preset

  • Yogi Purnomo Putra

    Thanks a lot dude..can’t wait to see your next work. god bless you..

  • Courage Platypus

    It also makes the whole thing look like a transparent ghost if you use the remove black option.

  • Justin

    very new to AE, but is it possible to mask out a certain region to not convert white to transparent? specifically i have white text in the middle of my video that i want to remain, but everything outside of a rectangular bounding box i want transparent. this difficult to do?

    • Usually you would have separate layers so separating the text shouldn’t be a problem. If it’s all 1 layer, perhaps apply the effect to an adjustment layer and mask the adjustment layer.

  • For professional images I dont think that built-in tool is a good choice. Rather I prefer to do this stuff in photoshop using pen tool and clipping path technique.

    • Of course, Photoshop will always be superior in terms of image editing!

  • Rolle T

    Hello,i saw your preset on youtube and its something i was serching for some while.Unfortunately i`m not using facebook or twitter.Is it possible to get the preset without it?Thanks

    • Hey Rolle, feel free to message me on my contact form page and I’ll send you them.

  • Anh Nguyễn Ngọc

    Thank you verry much Son, anyway if i have a white wall at home, can i remove it quickly?
    Cam on!

    • You can remove white using the preset, although keying out white is usually discouraged since so many things contain “white”. If you’re trying to key something out, try and grab a green screen or some other uncommon color 🙂

  • ValerieBoyd

    Wow, thanks. That was so simple and straight forward.

  • This is really awesome tutorial man, i knew after effect only for animation work but this tool also can do background remove i really didnt knew it. And tip you given below in the video this is also very helpful for using this tool. And one thing is clear this work happened by very professional one, normal hand cant be able to bring this type of texture. This is really awesome work you have done. Want more like this.