What Is a Transparent Image?

Clip Art Of An Assistance Dog
Dixie Allan

A transparent image is a photo or a piece of clip art that has a see-through background around it, allowing the webpage to show through, without having a square or a rectangle area of white (or another color) surrounding the image or clip art. Example: To create a ball in a graphics program you would start with a blank white square. Draw a circle in the square and fill it in with a color and you have created a ball image.

Use a graphics program to select the white background around the ball and turn the white background into a transparent area.

When you use the new transparent ball image on your Web page that has a dark or patterned background you would see only the ball image and not the white part of the creation that surrounds the ball.

There are two different approaches used by graphic file formats for supporting transparent image areas: simple binary transparency and alpha transparency.

A transparent GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is an image file that has one color assigned to be transparent so that the assigned color will be replaced by the browser's background color, whatever it may be. The GIF format is rarely used because PNG supports all the features of GIF with additional features The GIF format is still used for animations.

PNG (Portable Network Graphics) is a file format for compressing images and in time, it is expected to replace the Graphics Interchange Format that is widely used on today's Internet.


Desktop Publishers like transparent images especially if they are using colored backgrounds. A transparent files background becomes the color of the files background.