Remove Background From Photos With Instant Mask

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 25, 2009
Updated • Jan 30, 2017
Software, Windows software

Instant Mask is a free program for Microsoft Windows devices that lets you remove the background on photos that you load into the software.

It may sometimes be necessary to remove the background of images or photos, for instance when you need to extract an object from an image, to work with it alone or integrate it into another image or photo.

Examples of where this may come in handy is when you want to exchange a background with another one on an image or photo, or when you want to copy several objects or people on photos to paste them on to a new image.

Instant Mask

Instant Mask Free is a basic but capable software program to remove the background from photos. A single photo can be loaded into the program at a time.

The removal of the background is a three step process. It begins by using the red marker to mark the background area of the photo. After that the green marker is used to mark the foreground area of the photo in yellow. A click on the preview button will process the request and display the results based on the user's selection of the background and foreground marker.

The basic nature of the program becomes apparent if it is necessary to tweak the marker settings as there is no way to remove existing markers from the photo.

It may therefore be necessary to reload the image, and apply all markers again to remove the background properly from the photo.

The zoom can be used to mark both areas more thoroughly on the photo to make it a bit easier.

Photos can be saved as new images, or as the same image overwriting it. Instant Mask is available for download at the developer's website. It is compatible with most Microsoft operating systems including Windows 7.

The company responsible for the program has created InstantMask Pro and Ultimate, two commercial programs that improves the capabilities of the free version. One feature that both add are options to fine tune the selection by going back to the drawing board to improve background and foreground selection.

There is also an eraser tool, options to change the marker width, use a perview mode, and make use of special brushes to fine tune the results even further.

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  1. Antony said on January 4, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Even by looking at the example picture of the Pro version we can see that the result isn’t perfect.

    But I think that this is acceptable and the same can happen by using expensive and professional software (or plugins) so we still need to work with the extrapolated image and clean up the remaining background or foreground.

    As per this free version, I think it’s very cheap and it still does the job! :))

  2. MikeR said on December 28, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    @ Matthew:

    Perhaps if you addressed your own point —

    Yes, using a free and easy to use program can be at the bottom of a learning curve. There is nothing essentially wrong with that, and we all start there. It’s whether we should start with something which gives an inadequate result or not that is in question

    — there’d be more light and less heat where this thread is concerned.

    As you can’t seem to think of an alternative to this freeware, and neither I nor anyone else on here seems able to, then the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from your post is that photo-editing newbies still have no background removal starting point for their journey towards a greater understanding of, and greater facility with, photo-editing:

    This is crap software; don’t use it; there’s no freeware alternative available, so. . . Tough.

    Yet the very fact that this software produces a less than perfect result is exactly the stimulus needed by those who would seek perfection. Who knows: it could even set them off on a journey towards image handling in Photoshop and the creation of images where issues of opacity, smoothing and merging are fully understood.

    So whilst I agree that “free” doesn’t necessarily mean “worth having”, I think in this instance your sweeping condemnation is ill-advised, because far better this software than nothing at all to stimulate a newbie into refining her / his photo-editing skills.

    As a Photoshop user for more than a decade, I’m pretty well versed in image processing and manipulation.

    But I started somewhere — can’t remember where, now — and like as not it was with some Windows 3.1 software that, compared to this little offering, really was “awful”.

  3. matthew said on December 27, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Picasa is free. Ubuntu is free. Gimp is free. Lots of good stuff is free. But hey ho I’m a complete ass for pointing out this bit if crudware is rubbish.
    Savaged by a someone who argues with non sequiters: what connection is there between being paid for work done, and freeware? Twat.

    Still, I suppose Dan Te is tired. Poor guy. Hard work doing the teenage keyboard warrior bit of earning lots and lots, being in the business for years and years, jeez, bet he gets all the girls too, and rides around in a gold Merc, has his condoms specially made by a donkey breeder…

    Thanks for correcting me on Genisis. BTW there are two ‘t’s in Matthew.


  4. katmando said on December 27, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Mathew, you are a complete ass. You’re just another moron who expects something (everything) “professional” for free. When was the last time on payday that you returned your check to your employer?

    Dante, you made some good points until you felt it necessary to indicate you “think” yours doesn’t stink. Wrong! Smell it again.

    Mathew, he spells his “handle” Genisis, not Genesis.

  5. matthew said on December 26, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    As I said:
    “It’s a shame because there is a need for a product like this”
    So, obviously I don’t have an alternative.

    If there is one, that works, I’d love to know.

    BTW I take no pleasure in rubbishing it. It would be great if the people behind it had a good product, and had the commercial sense to market it well. I love start ups and if possible support them. But when something doesn’t walk the walk or even talk the talk it’s time to say so and move on.

  6. matthew said on December 26, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Snide is still not an antonym of direct. Heh.

    Yes, using a free and easy to use program can be at the bottom of a learning curve. There is nothing essentially wrong with that, and we all start there. It’s whether we should start with something which gives an inadequate result or not that is in question.

    The mod had already replied, and is a part of the conversation. If this is a threat, tough.

    I have not claimed any particular expertise, intelligence or IQ, certainly not that I am a “self proclaimed genius”: these are your responses to my opinion of a naff bit of kit, which has been presented badly, and will fail because of those two combined. It’s a shame because there is a need for a product like this, and I looked at it to see if it was right for a number of people I know, who are intelligent, able people but neither good with Gimp or PS, nor willing to accept third rate results.

    But I think Genesis has summed it up, for which I thank him.

    1. Martin said on December 26, 2009 at 8:50 pm

      How about you provide us then with your alternative?

  7. DanTe said on December 26, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Oh, and before you confirm my “low expectations” of a “matthew”: No, I don’t work for InstantMask nor for Ghacks.

    I make way too much money for them to afford me.

  8. Genisis said on December 26, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Is all this really needed? Don’t like it, don’t use it. Like it? Use it. Thanks for the tip Martin.

    1. DanTe said on December 26, 2009 at 8:14 pm

      Actually, you’re right. All this is not necessary. But it’s fun :)

      When you’ve been in business as long as I had, you’d recognize these kind of “customers”. They talk “down” everything to make themselves look “up”. Than they barely spend a dime. Not worth the time, and can actually block your salesmen from going to a customer who has money.

  9. DanTe said on December 26, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    And liking a free, easy to use program is “bottom of the learning curve”?

    My, my. Such “high expectations” of your own IQ. Must be quite frustrating when people just don’t see it, huh? Especially when it just keeps happening.

    I also love how you try to drag a moderator in (by mentioning Ghack) to delete posts because you just can’t counter the logic in them. tsk. I had “higher expectations” from self proclaimed geniuses like you.

  10. matthew said on December 26, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    PS: ‘snide’ is not the antonym of ‘direct’. Not even a good try…

    1. DanTe said on December 26, 2009 at 7:58 pm

      Definition of SNIDE:
      1 a : false, counterfeit b : practicing deception : dishonest

      Tsk Tsk. Such “low expectations” on basic English.

  11. matthew said on December 26, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Thanks DanTe.
    I’m thinking of you, this product and how devastatingly funny the reddit generation are.
    Be satisfied with being at the bottom of the learning curve, I just didn’t think that was where Ghacks positioned itself.

  12. DanTe said on December 26, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    This is one reason why I stopped helping out on the soup lines a long time ago. Some folks have great expectations of freebies because they don’t want to breed contempt. Some actually whine about how come we are too snobbish to serve steak and lobsters at least once in a while. And all we give out is cheap awful soup and bread crumbs. They “deserve” better.

    Some actually asked to speak to the “chef” to complain about the cooking.

    Oh, this is NOT a snide remark. It is a DIRECT remark. I don’t do snide, it’s all out in the open.

    (And people wonder why some companies like Alcohol 120% stopped giving out the free version.)

  13. matthew said on December 26, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    If you think the left shoulder and arm are satisfactory in the promo picture, (which is better than the result I got), I don’t know what to say.
    As for snide remarks about free meals: the stale crumbs might satisfy you, but some of us expect better.
    Low expectations breed contempt, and this product treats users with that contempt.
    Still, firstcomment here, and if that’s the level, play on.

    1. DanTe said on December 26, 2009 at 7:17 pm


      Now you can rage on.

    2. Martin said on December 26, 2009 at 7:07 pm

      Matthew you should see if from a beginner’s perspective. If this result is better than all the other results that a user can achieve then this is something that helps those users. Not everyone is able to achieve better results be it with other software or by using a photo editor.

  14. matthew said on December 26, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Awful bit of gear. Look how jaggedy the cut out is on her left shoulder and arm, and that’s the Promotional picture!
    Not good at all.

    1. DanTe said on December 26, 2009 at 6:36 pm

      I’ve just downloaded and tried it out. It’s free and it’s idiot simple. So I don’t see the “awful” about it.

      Some people will still complain after a free meal.

    2. Martin said on December 26, 2009 at 3:25 pm

      I would say it produces fine results with some tweaking and restarting, enough for everyone who wants to work with a person or object without the background. It is not intended for professional use but aids users without photo editing experience.

  15. Jojo said on December 26, 2009 at 7:02 am

    I downloaded the free version. There is also a PRO version that is not free but has much more functionality.

    What other free image products also offer this functionality? The Gimp?

  16. junkman said on December 25, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Nice find man, thanks for this. I was just looking for something simple in use like that.

  17. DanTe said on December 25, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Neat. I’ll bookmark this for the next time some girl breaks up with her weekly beau and asks me how to remove him from “her life” :)

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