Sometimes there are images that have no backgrounds, making them overlay nicely on other media. Some programs even allow backgrounds to be removed which then means that it would logically stay removed when saved. However, only certain file types support transparent backgrounds.
It is not possible to save a JPG without a background. This is because the file type does not support transparency or alpha channels in attempt to keep as many colors as possible while maintaining heavy compression. Therefore, it will fill in any transparency when it saves in order to compress more effectively.
If a transparent background is needed, a different file type will have to be used. Keep reading to learn more about JPGs and transparent backgrounds.
Does JPG Allow Transparency?
A .jpg file does not support transparency, nor does it support alpha channels. A white pixel is considered fully opaque as far as a digital file is concerned, while a black is complete transparency. The reverse is true for printed works.
This is because in RGB color mode— the one that digital screens use to display images and colors— is made up by blending light. In this instance, white is all of the colors blended and black is the lack thereof. In CMYK color mode— utilized for print— the opposite is true as the colors are mixed to create black, and the lack of color is white. A file can be switched between these color modes in certain programs to more accurately depict the colors that will be available for digital or printed projects.
A .jpg file is also a very compressed file, and in order to do the heavy compression it needs to do while also retaining the color ratio, it essentially fills in any transparency.
What if the Background Needs to be Transparent in the Image?
A .jpg does not support transparent backgrounds or alpha channels, so that is not the file type to use if there absolutely must be a transparent background.
Here are some solutions to try if the image must have a transparent background:
- Ensure that the program itself can support transparency and alpha channels
- Select “Save As” instead of “Save” and select a compatible file type (like PNG)
- Select “Export” or “Export As” and select a compatible file type (like PNG)
Programs such as MS Paint do not support transparency and alpha channels, so even trying to save as a compatible type will not result in a transparent background. Be sure to use a program that does support transparency if the image is going to need to have a transparent background.
Which File Types Support Transparent Backgrounds?
While a .jpg does not support transparent backgrounds and alpha channels, there are plenty of others that can. Instead of saving as a .jpg, consider using the Save As or Export functions to select a different file type if transparent backgrounds are necessary.
Such file types include:
A .png is rather large in terms of size but is great at keeping quality. It doesn’t support animation however, so that would need to be saved as a .gif or rendered out differently. Additionally, simply keeping it in the native file format such as a .psd will preserve the transparency.
Can You Fake a Transparent Background on a JPG?
If the intent is to print, a .jpg is going to be the MVP. It supports a massive range of colors and is recognized by printers in a way that fancier file types don’t always. It will keep great quality, and a transparent background can be faked with some clever layout design.
There is no white ink. When an image has white in it, the printer merely skips that part of the paper. White added onto a dark background has to be done by other means, not by ink in a printer. The same goes for glow-in-the-dark and extra bright neon colors. So, if the image is going to be printed, just leaving a white or exceptionally light background is enough to fake the look of a transparent one.
A .jpg can support a massive range of colors in crisp, beautiful quality while also being recognized by printers. It’s also a relatively small file size despite everything, being nice and compressed. Unfortunately, it does not support alpha channels or transparency. Therefore, if a transparent background is essential, a different file type will have to be used.