Graphical problem with tiles

the problem im having is:

my game is going to be tile based but im planning on running 2 layers of tiles. The bottom layer is just the background but the problem is on the top layer. The top layer consists of all the objects, npc’s and the main characer. Im using bitmap images as the tiles but the images dont take up the whole size of the tile. What i need is a way to get rid of the white around the object while still keeping the actual object there. Should i trace bitmap and run vectors or is there another way of solving this problem?