ClipDrop is a graphic designer’s best friend
Ask most graphic designers which activity they hate most and you’ll get a single answer: deep-etching. ClipDrop could make it a thing of the past.
Deep-etching is one of the banes of illustrators, graphic designers, and layout artists’ lives. It’s the process of removing an object in an image from its background, and it can take hours. Especially painful is removing a person against a mixed background — say, part grass, part sky — who’s also got lots of frizzy hair. Because to make the result look realistic, every stray strand needs to be included. Various tools have tried to simplify this process, but a new app is aiming to consign it to the rubbish bin of design history. The app is called ClipDrop, and it’s nothing short of magic.
What’s in a name?
As the name suggests, ClipDrop lets you “clip” objects and “drop” them somewhere else, whether that's into a blank image, or on top of an existing one. The best bit, though, is that ClipDrop doesn’t just work with digital images like Adobe Photoshop and similar software do. Instead, the app is able to harness a smartphone camera to isolate and amputate subjects, from furniture and houseplants, to musical instruments, cutlery, clothing, or anything else you can point a phone at.
Assuming your computer and phone are on the same Wi-Fi network, it’s even possible to take a picture of something, have ClipDrop digitally cut it out, and drop the result directly onto your desktop by simply hovering your phone over your computer screen (you’ll need to have ClipDrop’s desktop app installed). The results are, in a word, impressive. In two words, they’re extremely impressive.
Once you’ve “clipped” something you can download it to your device, share it, or save it to ClipDrop’s cloud service. If you’re using the free service, files are deleted after 30 days.
A picture of 1 000 words
The app also works with text, and the experience is much the same. Point your smartphone camera at a body of text (or drag your cursor over it after selecting the text tool from the ClipDrop menu in the desktop app) and it’s instantly converted to text you can copy and paste to use wherever you want to. This sort of technology — called optical character recognition (OCR) — isn’t new, but having it in a single app that can also recognise images is very convenient.
Point, shoot, extract
ClipDrop uses something called Boundary-Aware Salient Object Detection (BASNet) to automatically identify objects and smartly isolate them. You don’t even need to have one of the recent, high-end smartphones capable of depth detection. BASNet is capable of making sense of 2D objects, which massively reduces the barriers to entry.
It also brings the functionality ClipDrop is capable of to a whole new audience. Say, for instance, you’re a jewellery designer looking to get product shots of your work for your website. Previously, you probably needed someone to take pictures of them, or someone to deep-etch those images so you could use them on your online store. With ClipDrop, you can do it yourself.
Works wherever you do
Whether you use Photoshop or Canva, Microsoft Powerpoint or Apple Keynote, ClipDrop will work with your existing workflow. And it’s being improved all the time. Just this month the French duo behind the app — Cyril Diagne and Jonathan Blanchet — added support for editable masking with a plugin for Adobe Photoshop. That means instead of just getting the cutout image, you can get the whole picture with a malleable layer of what’s been cut out, so you can further fine-tune it to your needs.
ClipDrop is available for Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. The trial version of the app will let you try 10 “clips” of physical objects for free, and lets you smartly clip an unlimited number of photos or snippets of text, but thereafter it costs $39.99 a year (roughly R655). That may sound like a lot, but if you’re a professional visual creative who spends their life manipulating images, you’ll likely make up the cost in saved time in a couple of days.
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