In this blog, I will show you how you remove the background from images using good old-fashioned PowerPoint using two different tools. Knowing how to use these tools is important because they give you more ways to use pictures in your presentations, including interior mood boards, sample boards, material boards and portfolios.
Note: if you're an iPhone user, you're in luck, iOS now has a built-in tool to remove the background from a photo. Read here how.
Tool #1: The Set Transparent Colour tool
This technique works best for pictures with 100% solid backgrounds (for example images with white backgrounds you often find in stock photos). If your background is not 100% solid, you’ll have to use the Remove Background Tool instead.
Tool #2: The Remove Background tool
This tool works best for removing complicated backgrounds from photos and images. Also, this technique gives you the most flexibility when deciding what parts of the background to remove.
Removing a Solid Background from an Image
The fastest way to remove an image background is to use the Set Transparent Colour tool. The only catch is that it only works for removing solid colours, like white backgrounds.
To remove a solid background from an image in PowerPoint, simply:
1. Insert and select a picture on your slide
2. Navigate to the Picture Tools Format Tab
3. Open the Colour dropdown menu
4. Select the Set Transparent Colour tool (your cursor becomes a little pen with an arrow)
5. Click on the colour you want to remove from your background
PowerPoint turns that solid colour transparent throughout your entire picture. In this case, the white background is removed.
This technique works best when you have a fairly simple background. If your background is more complicated, you’ll need to use the Remove Background Tool instead.
When Set Transparent Colour Doesn’t Work
The Set Transparent Colour tool works very well if you have photos with solid backgrounds. You will find these types of backgrounds on a lot of the stock photos you find online. Just keep in mind that the Set Transparent Colour tool does have limitations. This technique does not work well if the content of the image and its background are too similar in colour. PowerPoint also makes the background colour used within the picture transparent.
This technique also doesn’t well with backgrounds that have shadows or gradients. Because the Set Transparent Colour tool only removes a single colour, gradients and shadows will be left in. It is also tricky when your image has a lot of detailing (like strands of hair, clothing, and skin). For any of these types of scenarios, you’ll want to use the Remove Background tool instead.
Removing a Complicated Image Background
To remove a background from an image, simply:
1. Select the image on your slide
2. Navigate to the Picture Format tab
3. Select the Remove Background command
4. Adjust your removal settings
5. Select Keep Changes
Adjusting What Gets Removed from Your Image
Imagine you would like to use the artwork pictured in the image below for your presentation. When you first select the Remove Background command, PowerPoint takes a guess at what you want to remove.
In the picture below, that is shown in a magenta colour.
PowerPoint usually makes a pretty good guess as to what needs to be removed. However, it doesn’t always get it right. You'll see it didn't quite get the whole canvas. PowerPoint thinks the top part needs to me removed.
To fix this you need to specify what you want to keep and remove in your picture using the designated tools.
1. Mark Areas to Keep in Your Image
If PowerPoint doesn’t guess correctly and removes too many parts of your image, you can simply mark the areas you want to keep. To do that, simply:
1. Select Mark Areas to Keep
2. Click and draw over the parts of your photo you want to keep (creates green marks)
3. Select Keep Changes
PowerPoint readjusts the parts of your image background that are removed. You might need to repeat this a few times to get it right.
2. Mark Areas to Remove in Your Image
If PowerPoint guesses incorrectly and leaves too much background, you can mark areas to remove. To do that, simply:
1. Select Mark Areas to Remove
2. Click and draw over the parts of your photo you want to keep in Red
3. Select Keep Changes
PowerPoint readjusts what parts of your background are removed. Sometimes you need to do this a few times to get it right.
When Remove Background Doesn’t Work
While the Remove Background tool will work for most backgrounds you want to remove, there are some limitations. If your picture is too homogenous, even the marking areas to keep and remove may not work. Sharp crisp photos work best. It can also be hard to remove the background around small details or if the background is a gradient, is too complex or has shadowing.
While the Set Transparent Colour tool is the fastest way to remove your image background, it only works some of the time.
It is best to familiarise yourself with the Remove Background tool. If you work with lots of images, this will become your go-to tool for removing backgrounds in PowerPoint.
If you really want to professionalise your work, I would suggest you try a program such as Photoshop for more precision. While PowerPoint does a pretty good job, it cannot compete with dedicated picture editing programs.
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