Which is Better: Manual Background Removal or AI-based Solutions?

April 23, 2024 -





Manual background removal VS AI - Tech Cloud Ltd

In the past few decades, Artificial Intelligence technology has significantly evolved. The breakthrough in AI technology and easy access to a variety of AI tools have sparked growing interest in their use for various purposes. The realm of post-production is no exception.

Many eCommerce business owners are contemplating whether AI is reliable enough for image editing. From clipping paths to image retouching, numerous tools on the market claim to do the job.

There are countless tools available for background removal. But are these tools reliable? Or would it be wiser to remove the background manually using professional image editing tools?

In this article, we will answer these questions. We will compare, discussing the pros and cons, and offering insight into which option is right for you. Without further ado, let’s dive in:

Why you need to remove background from photographs

Many industries and professionals need to remove background from photographs. Which includes professional photographers, eCommerce businesses, and advertising firms.

They might need to post-process hundreds, even thousands of images daily. Their primary image editing requirement often involves background removal. But why is that?

What makes background removal so crucial? Here are the top seven reasons:

1. The background is undesirable

It’s a common problem that many people face, particularly for eCommerce business owners. It can be quite frustrating to see a product you’ve photographed look unappealing in an image simply due to the background.

Sometimes you may not have access to your desired backdrop. As a result, you may need to photograph your goods in front of a mediocre backdrop or even without one at all. In these scenarios, it’s essential to remove the background.

2. Marketplace requires a white background image

Some eCommerce marketplaces require product photos to have a white background. However, access to a pure white background may not always be possible.

Moreover, achieving a pure white background requires a high-quality white backdrop. Not only that you will have to use specific camera settings and a particular lighting setup.

On the other hand, using the clipping path technique makes removing the background manually far more convenient.

Read Also: New Photo Editing Requirements for Marketplaces

3. You need a transparent image for a design project

In many image editing projects, transparent product images might be required. For example, when designing a flyer, banner, or promotional content for social media marketing, you might need it.

By using a transparent image, your graphic designer can effortlessly incorporate it as a design element.

4. Branding requirement

Your brand color and audience preference may necessitate the use of certain colors as a background. If your original product image features a different colored background, it’s crucial to remove it.

After removal, you can effortlessly replace the background with one that matches your brand color. In this way, you can create a cohesive and memorable brand experience for your audience.

5. Versatility and adaptability

Background removal provides the flexibility to adapt images to various marketing channels. By isolating the subject from its original background, you can effortlessly incorporate product images into diverse settings.

For example, you can use them in digital advertisements, online marketplaces, or social media platforms.

6. You want to present the product differently

Sometimes, using the same white background for all your product images can seem monotonous. With so many unique backgrounds available, it’s common for business owners to try variations for their product images.

Consequently, they often opt to remove the background manually and replace it with their preferred one.

7. Visual consistency

Manual background removal ensures that all images within a collection or product catalog maintain a consistent and uniform appearance. With this approach, you can eliminate distracting or irrelevant backgrounds.

As a result, the focus will be solely on the subject, providing a seamless visual experience.

8. Time and cost efficiency

Removing backgrounds from a large number of photos can be time-consuming. For busy business owners, outsourcing this task to a reputable clipping path provider is often more time and cost-effective.

It saves professionals valuable time and resources, allowing them to focus on other crucial aspects of their work. As a result, there is a growing demand for background image cut-out providers to streamline the editing process.

Compare AI vs. manual background removal

You are likely already familiar with the precise results of manual background removal. If you’re in the photography, eCommerce, or advertising business, you’ve probably seen photos with white backgrounds.

Most of these white-background photos were not captured in a studio setting with proper lighting and a white backdrop. In most cases, the original background is removed and replaced with a white one.

Therefore, you already understand how precise manual background removal can be. But have you ever wondered about the effectiveness of AI background removal tools?

We tested the top three AI background removal tools on the market. We didn’t task them with removing complex backgrounds. Instead, we attempted to remove fairly simple backgrounds, which should be a cinch for any image editor.

Here are the results:

Pixelcut AI

Pixel Cut asserts that it can automatically detect the subject and then accurately create an image cutout.

We have tested their tool, and you can see the result below:

Pixelcut AI Background Remover - Before - Tech Cloud Ltd
Pixelcut AI Background Remover - After - Tech Cloud Ltd

Output Rating: 4 out of 10

Our Assessment: At first glance, it might seem that the tool did a good job. However, upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that the original picture had a pile of books on the left side.

However, this AI tool removed it during the automatic image cut-out process. Parts of the chair were also deformed or removed. There are leftovers in the output as well.

Therefore, in our opinion, it’s highly risky to use such a tool for any kind of professional eCommerce image editing process.

Erase Bg

In one of their blog articles, the website claimed that their AI tool is superior to removing background manually.

Let’s investigate the validity of their assertion:

Erase Bg Background Remover - Before - Tech Cloud Ltd
Erase Bg Background Remover - After - Tech Cloud Ltd

Output Rating: 3 out of 10

Our Assessment: In our opinion, the outcome of using this tool is unsatisfactory. It’s clear from the example that remnants were left behind. Moreover, significant portions of the main product image were damaged during the removal process.

This was a straightforward photo, so we expected better. Regrettably, the result was disappointing.

Remove Bg

This is one of the first automated background removal tools available. The website asserts that it provides high-quality background removal via its AI tool.

Let’s examine the before and after images:

Remove Bg Background Remover - Before - Tech Cloud Ltd
Remove Bg Background Remover - After - Tech Cloud Ltd

Output Rating: 5 out of 10

Our Assessment: In the output image, we found clear remnants, damaged elements, and an overall loss of detail and shine. We’ve indicated some of the issues with red arrows; you can zoom in and assess for yourself.

In our view, you can’t use such a low-quality transparent image for any design project, marketing campaign, or as a white background product photo.

Keep in mind, that we didn’t give that tool any complex image, yet it failed to deliver professional results.

Examples of manual background removal:

Remove image background manually - Tech Cloud Ltd

Now, let’s compare the AI outputs to the results of manual background removal:

Note: We’ve added white backgrounds to all our images to clarify the differences for you.

Advantages and disadvantages of AI background removal

AI background removal tools have been gaining attention in recent years. But can they compete with removing background manually?

Let’s explore their pros and cons to better understand what they offer:

Advantages of AI background remover:

◾ Speed

AI background removal tools utilize AI technology to strip backgrounds from images. They offer faster results when editing a few images, compared to manual background removal.

This is because you don’t need to spend time contacting a provider, placing an order, or providing instruction.

However, creating image cutouts for hundreds or thousands of images and reviewing them can be extremely time-consuming. The process of editing each image individually and checking their quality could take an inordinate amount of time.

This is especially true when compared to the speed at which a large team from an outsourcing company can edit bulk amounts of images.

◾ Require no skill

To remove a background manually, one needs expert image editing skills, attention to detail, and experience. On the other hand, AI tools can automatically remove backgrounds, eliminating the need for any skill.

However, if you prefer to remove backgrounds manually, a company like Tech Cloud Ltd can handle it for you, saving you the time and effort of learning.

◾ Variety of options

In recent years, numerous AI background removal tools have emerged in the market. However, few image editing companies possess extensive experience, large teams, and proven expertise like ours.

As a result, some people may find AI tools convenient. But remember they won’t deliver the professional results you’d get with our services.

◾ User-friendly UI

Many AI tools have user-friendly interfaces. Users are not required to have any technical knowledge to operate these tools. Conversely, software like Photoshop may not seem as user-friendly for beginners.

◾ Photo editing software is not required

Manually removing backgrounds requires expensive photo editing software, which may not be feasible for some people to purchase or subscribe to. AI removal tools offer a more affordable alternative.

Alternatively, you could hire an affordable image editing company to do the edits, eliminating the need to buy costly software.

Disadvantages of AI background remover:

◾ Loss of fine details

AI background removal tools often struggle with preserving fine details in an image. This can result in the loss of intricate patterns, textures, or small elements that are important to the overall composition.

◾ Inaccurate edges

Background removal tools may produce inaccurate or jagged edges around the subject. This is particularly true when dealing with complex or irregular shapes.

This can make the final result look unnatural and unprofessional. From the examples provided above, it’s clear that this is a common issue.

◾ No option to provide feedback

After using an AI tool to remove the background, if you’re unsatisfied with the result, you can’t provide feedback or improve it. In contrast, working with a reputable image cut-out company allows you to give feedback.

Furthermore, a company like ours offers unlimited revisions to ensure maximum client satisfaction.

◾ Poor performance on complex backgrounds

In our test, we didn’t use any complex images for AI editing, yet the results were still subpar. Almost all AI tools struggle when the subject has a complex background.

For example, these tools find it difficult to deal with overlapping objects, intricate patterns, or similar colors.

◾ Unwanted removal of subject elements

AI background removal tools lack contextual understanding. Furthermore, they may not be able to accurately interpret the semantics of an image.

As a result, It’s not uncommon for AI background removal tools to unintentionally remove parts of the subject. This can lead to an incomplete or distorted representation of the original image.

As a result, the overall quality and usability can be affected. You can find evidence of this in the example of Pixelcut AI.

◾ Dependency on image quality

The performance of AI background removal tools heavily relies on the quality of the input image. Low-resolution, low-contrast, or noisy images may yield unsatisfactory results, as the tool may struggle to distinguish the subject from the background accurately.

On the other hand, human editors don’t necessarily need high-quality images to do an excellent job.

◾ Low-quality output

In most cases, the output of AI removal tools is in lower resolution or a grainy version of the provided image. Regardless of whether you provide AI tools with a high-resolution image or not, this happens.

This likely occurs due to their compression or other removal processes that degrade the original quality of the image.

◾ Privacy and security concerns

Most reputable image editing companies have strict privacy policies. They will not use your image nor sell it to third parties. Therefore, you will not get into trouble later on.

However, when using AI tools, the privacy of images is not guaranteed. The AI tool can use your copyrighted image for its training without offering any compensation.

◾ Limited customization options

We’ve tested numerous AI tools in the past to evaluate their quality. Our findings suggest that AI background removal tools provide limited customization options.

That means it is difficult to adjust the output to meet specific requirements. This lack of control can be troublesome for users who desire more flexibility and precision in background removal.

For example, you might want to change your background to something entirely different, add drop shadows, or retouch the image. Unfortunately, most AI background removal tools can’t fulfill all your needs.

Consequently, you’ll inevitably have to hire a service provider to complete the task. Wouldn’t it be better to do all the editing from a single place?

◾ Reliance on internet connectivity

Most AI background removal tools function as online services. Without a stable internet, you can’t use them. This reliance on internet connectivity can be inconvenient for users in areas with limited or unreliable internet service.

◾ Need for manual post-processing

Opting for AI removal tools may lead to spending nearly twice as much. AI background removal tools often deliver imperfect results that require manual post-processing.

However, this manual refining can be time-consuming. Moreover, in addition to the cost of the AI tool subscription, you will also need to pay for post-production services to assist with the refinement process.

Pros and Cons of removing background manually

Removing background manually is the industry standard for creating transparent images and replacing backgrounds. Why do most businesses still prefer the manual method over AI?

The following pros and cons will provide some insight:

Pros of removing background manually:

◾ Precise Removal

When image editors remove the background from an image, they use techniques such as clipping paths and image masking. By drawing a path precisely around the subject, they ensure no residue is left in the image.

This level of precision is particularly important for complex or intricate images. In those images where AI tools may struggle to accurately distinguish between foreground and background elements.

◾ Customizability

With manual background removal, you have boundless customization possibilities. Regardless of the type of background customization you need, an expert image editor can easily fulfill that.

You can remove backgrounds with varying levels of transparency, tweak colors, or even add special effects.

Moreover, if needed, you can readily choose from various services like image retouching, eCommerce image optimization, image masking, or image resizing for different platforms.

This flexibility is particularly beneficial for businesses that need unique branding or have specific design requirements.

◾ Quality assurance

Most commercial image editing companies enforce strict quality policies. You can expect them to have a dedicated quality assurance team that ensures each of your images is free from any issues before delivery.

This is particularly crucial for industries like e-commerce, where high-quality product images are vital for attracting customers.

Manual background removal enables you to refine each image meticulously, ensuring they meet your desired standards.

◾ Complexity is not a problem

By manually removing the background, you don’t have to worry about the complexity of your images. From simple to extremely complex clipping paths, expert image editors can eliminate any challenging backgrounds.

Whether it’s a crowded scene, intricate patterns, or fine details, manual editing enables a more accurate and precise removal without compromising the integrity of the main subject.

◾ Attention to detail

Removing a background manually requires a thorough examination of the image to ensure no unwanted elements remain.

Image editing experts, with their trained eyes, can easily identify imperfections, stray pixels, or any remnants of the removed background, a task that AI tools may not be able to accomplish.

◾ Context is considered

Human image editors can comprehend context. They can easily understand which parts to remove and which to retain. This isn’t the case with AI.

These tools may inadvertently remove essential elements or an entire part of a subject during the editing process.

◾ Retaining fine details

Manual background removal excels in preserving the fine details of a subject. Automated software may struggle to accurately maintain delicate elements like hair strands, fur, or intricate textures.

Manual editing enables precise selection and refinement, ensuring that even the smallest details are kept intact. As a result, you can get a more realistic and visually appealing image.

◾ Seamless integration

Manual background removal allows for the seamless integration of the subject into various contexts or backgrounds. Whether you need to situate the subject in a new environment or combine it with other elements, manual editing allows for accurate positioning and blending.

This flawless integration results in a more natural and believable composition.

Cons of removing background manually:

◾ Time-consuming

Removing backgrounds manually depends on human judgment, attention, and skill. Unlike AI tools, it doesn’t use any algorithm to automate the process. Also, depending on the complexity of the image, it might take more time than AI tools.

However, if you hire a company with hundreds of editors, the overall editing time for a bulk amount of images can be as short as 12 hours.

◾ Require skills and expertise

Without skills in image editing software, you cannot manually remove a background. Since the background removal process requires Photoshop skills, you must either learn them or hire a clipping path service.

◾ Communication requirements

When working with an image editing company, you need to provide some instructions, which might consume some of your time.

However, you can also allow the image editors to edit the photos using their best judgment.

◾ Pricing

Removing the background manually might be slightly more expensive than some AI tool subscription plans. However, the cost difference isn’t as substantial as some might think.

Unless one is ready to compromise on quality to save a few dollars, AI removal tools may not be the best fit for most businesses.

The best way to remove background

Manually removing the background is a time-tested method for achieving industry-standard images. Given the ineffectiveness of AI tools as demonstrated in this article, it’s advisable to stick with manual removal.

Since your business reputation is precious, don’t let unproven AI tools damage it by providing subpar photos. Choose to remove the background manually.

This way, your business reputation will remain intact and your products can continue to appeal to customers.

Got a project in mind?

We've got you covered with Image Post Production, Web Dev, SEO, Graphic Design, and 3D Rendering.


Receive tailored productivity tips by email.

We'll drop you an email twice a month and never share your details.

Liam Barnard is a freelance writer and independent blogger who dives into digital marketing, tech, and business communication. Based in Melbourne, he’s a digital marketer by day and a sci-fi binge-watcher, travel enthusiast, and guitar strummer by night.

Related Posts!