How to Make a Background Transparent in Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator allows users to make a background transparent so that they can showcase the image and graphic in the foreground of the project. This can be done from new and existing files by following simple steps.  

My name is Kerry, and I am here to help you learn how to use Adobe Illustrator whether you’re a  beginner or want to add more skills to your craft! 

In this post, I’ll explain how to make background transparent in Adobe Illustrator from both an existing and new file. We also will review the steps as to how you can then export your file to use for external projects.

Let’s get to it! 

Key Takeaways

  • Creating a transparent background will allow the image to be saved without a white background.  
  • To make a background transparent, highlight the background using the selection tool and then use the clipping mask. 
  • By saving your file as a PNG, you will be able to maintain a transparent background and be able to use the file for external projects such as print-on-demand products. 

Why Make a Background Transparent?

There are several reasons why a transparent background is useful in graphic design. First, it allows you to use your image on different backgrounds without a white box around it. This is especially useful when you create a logo because you can apply the logo to other artworks later on.

Second, it allows you to overlay your image on other images or designs without any visual interruptions. This is great when you want to get creative editing! 

Finally, a transparent background makes it easier to edit your image later on, as you can add or remove elements without worrying about the background. Especially for those who are looking to use images for projects to sell (like print on demand), this is a great option!

How to Make the Background of an Image Transparent

If you want to cut off part of an image and make the rest of the image transparent, you can create a clipping mask. 

Step 1: The first step is to open your image in Adobe Illustrator from the overhead menu File > Open. Navigate to the location of your image and select it.

Step 2: Use a shape tool or pen tool to create a path/shape on top of the object you want to cut out with a transparent background. For example, I created a rectangle on top of the camera. 

Step 3: With both the background and path selected, go to the Object > Clipping Mask > Make

This will cut out the shape of create a mask around the background of your image, making it transparent. 

Step 4: Finally, save your image by going to the overhead menu File > Save As. Choose a file format that supports transparency, such as PNG or GIF, and save your image. 

How to Make Artboard Background Transparent

If you are starting a new project and aren’t looking to edit an existing image, you may still want to have a transparent background.

Step 1: Start a new file in Adobe Illustrator from the overhead menu File > New.

Step 2: Hide the default white background on the artboard and enable the transparency grid. To do this, go to the View tab at the top of the screen and select the Show Transparency Grid option.

Step 3: Once your artboard changes to a gray and white background, you’ll know that it worked! (And don’t worry. That patterned background will not show up in your final saved file. It just shows that the transparent background is activated. 

How to Export Your Image as a PNG With a Transparent Background

Once you have made the background transparent, you will want to be able to export it so that the file can be used for projects. 

Follow these steps to learn how to export your file as a PNG:

Step 1: In the menu bar, click on File > Export > Export As

Step 2: Choose the name that you want to save the file as and where you would like it exported. 

Step 3: In the Save as menu, click on PNG and make sure that you have changed the background color to Transparent, and click OK. Once you do this, your file should be good to go! 

Final Thoughts

By using this technique to create transparent backgrounds in Adobe Illustrator, you’re really opening the door to use your designs for so many additional types of projects. Your design will be the main star and viewers won’t get distracted by any background noise! (Pun intended.)

Do you have any tips or tricks for using transparent backgrounds in Adobe Illustrator? Are there particular types of projects that you use this technique? We would love for you to share your thoughts and advice in the comments down below!

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