In this tutorial, you’ll learn a variety of different ways to crop pictures in PowerPoint. This gives you more control over the images you use in your presentations.

And besides just resizing your images, cropping pictures also allow you to:

  1. Crop your images into circles (or other shapes)
  2. Crop your images into aspect ratios to fit your slides better
  3. Reduce your image file size by cropping out the parts you don’t want and then compressing them
Examples of cropping an image to a shape vs. cropping an image to an aspect ratio in PowerPoint

ARTICLE GIVEAWAY: Click here to download a printable PDF of this how to crop pictures in PowerPoint article to keep by your desk.

[Watch] How to Crop a Picture in PowerPoint

If you decide to use the Crop to Aspect Ratio feature, you can quickly and easily make great slide backgrounds for your presentations.

1. How to crop a picture (step-by-step)

Use the crop command in the Picture Format tab to crop a picture in PowerPoint

To crop a picture in PowerPoint, follow these steps:

  1. Select the picture you want to crop.
  2. From the Pictures Tools Format tab select Crop to enter cropping mode.
  3. Resize the Cropping Handles (they are black) on your photo.
  4. Select Crop again (or hit the Esc key) to exit cropping mode.

After you adjust the black handlebars on your picture, the grey or faded parts will be removed from your picture. Only the colorful parts of your picture will remain (as you can see in the picture below).

If you add a lot of pictures to your presentation, you can reduce your PowerPoint file size by compressing your images after you crop them. To learn how to compress your images in PowerPoint, read our guide here.

NOTE: If you are using a picture or image that you found online, make sure you know how to properly cite it in your presentation. To learn all about how to cite sources in PowerPoint (including websites, pictures, and books), read our guide here.

2. How to crop a picture into a circle (Crop to Shape)

Instead of just cropping an image down to a normal square or rectangle, you can also use PowerPoint’s cropping tool to immediately crop your image into a circle, triangle or other PowerPoint shape.

There are two different ways to do this. I personally prefer the second method – Intersect to Shape – but that feature is not available in all versions of PowerPoint, so let’s first look at the most basic way to crop a picture to a shape.

Use the Crop to Shape command in the Picture Format tab to crop an picture into a circle or other shape

To crop a picture into a circle, triangle, or other shapes in PowerPoint, simply:

  1. Select the picture you want to crop to shape.
  2. Navigate to the Picture Tools Format tab.
  3. Open the Cropping Tool dropdown.
  4. Select Crop to Shape.
  5. Select the Circle shape (or other shapes)
  6. Click the Crop tool again or hit Esc on your keyboard.

If you cropped your picture to a circle (what’s called a circle crop), it will now look like the picture below.

Now, notice in the picture above how the butterfly is not centered perfectly inside of the circle or oval? If this happens to you, you will want to adjust the image using the Offset X and Offset Y commands in the Format Picture dialog box as discussed below.

WARNING: To crop a picture into a perfect circle, you need your picture to first be a perfect square. If you don’t crop your picture into a perfect square first (or start with a perfect square), your picture will crop as an oval shape. A perfect circle has the same height and width, just like a perfect square.

3. How to crop multiple pictures at once (Power Cropping)

Instead of cropping your images one-by-one, you can also save yourself a BUNCH of time by using SmartArt to quickly crop and resize all your pictures at once (detailed below).

To see more PowerPoint tricks like this that will save you 40 hours a year in PowerPoint once you start using them, check out my free speed training course here.

WARNING: This Power Cropping trick only works on PC versions of PowerPoint 2013 and later. If you have an earlier version of PowerPoint, this is one of many good reasons to consider upgrading soon. To check out the latest version of Microsoft Office (Office 365) click here.

Select your pictures and choose the Picture Layout dropdown to push all of your images into SmartArt

To crop and resize multiple pictures at the same time using SmartArt, simply:

  1. Select your images
  2. Navigate to the Picture Format tab
  3. Open the Picture Layout dropdown
  4. Select a SmartArt layout

As you hover over the different SmartArt layouts, you get a live preview of how your pictures will be cropped and resized.

Below is an example of cropping pictures using the Bending Picture Semi-Transparent Text layout.

Example selecting the bending picture semi-transparent text SmartArt graphic to crop your pictures

After you choose a layout, you can then break the SmartArt graphic apart so that you can freely work with the cropped pictures.

Use the Convert to shapes command in the Picture Format tab to convert your SmartArt graphic to cropped pictures

To break your SmartArt graphic apart you can either hit Ctrl + Shift + G to Ungroup the object twice on your keyboard or use the Convert to Shapes command.

  1. Select your SmartArt graphic
  2. Navigate to the SmartArt Design tab
  3. Open the Convert dropdown
  4. Select Convert to Shapes

That turns your SmartArt graphic into a group of cropped pictures that you can then ungroup and use any way you like within your presentation.

If any of the pictures aren’t cropped the way you like them, you can adjust the cropped image as discussed below.

4. How to adjust a cropped image

Select your photo and click the Crop command to adjust your image inside the cropped area

You can adjust what parts of your cropped image show within the cropped area in PowerPoint. To do that, simply:

  1. Select the cropped picture
  2. Navigate to the Picture Format tab
  3. Select the Crop tool
  4. Move the picture around within the frame (you can just click and drag, or readjust the black handlebars on the photo)
  5. Select the Crop command again (or hit Esc) to exit cropping mode

You can also adjust your photo within the cropped area using the Offset X and Offset Y values in the Format Picture dialog box. This is what I would recommend if you are stuck with an off-centered picture inside your circle crop.

To adjust a cropped picture using the Offset X and Offset Y values, simply:

  1. Right-Click your picture
  2. Select Format Picture
  3. Click on the Picture icon
  4. Under the Crop area, adjust the Offset X and Offset Y fields

Adjusting the Offset X value moves your picture horizontally within your cropped area. Adjusting the Offset Y value moves your picture vertically within your cropped picture area.

5. How to Intersect to a shape

The fastest and easiest way to crop to shape is using the Intersect command in PowerPoint 2013 and later (see the latest version of Office here).

The reason it’s faster and easier is that you can draw the shape directly over the part of the photo that you want inside the shape, without having to do all the manual adjusting.

Open the merge shapes dropdown and select Intersect to intersect a shape with a picture in PowerPoint

To crop a picture to a shape using the Intersect command in PowerPoint simply:

  1. Insert the PowerPoint shape that you want, on top of your photo (in the picture above I’ve inserted an Explosion: 8 Points).
  2. First, select the picture, then while holding the Shift key, select the shape that you want to intersect with the photo (if you do it in the reverse order it won’t work).
  3. With the picture and shape selected, navigate to the Drawing Tools Format tab (or Shape Format tab).
  4. Open the Merge Shapes tool.
  5. Select the Intersect command.

Selecting Intersect, the intersection points between the shape and picture are combined, as pictured below.

Example intersecting a shape with a picture in PowerPoint

6. How to crop a picture to an aspect ratio

The fastest way to turn a photo into a full-screen visual image for your slide background is to use the Aspect Ration crop tool.

That allows you to crop a photo down to either the 16:9 aspect ratio for widescreen monitors or the 4:3 aspect ratio, which is perfect for printed slides. To learn more about these PowerPoint slide sizes, read our guide here.

To crop a picture to the 16:9 aspect ratio, simply:

  1. Select the picture you want to crop.
  2. Navigate to the Picture Tools Format tab.
  3. Open the Crop dropdown.
  4. Open the Aspect Ratio options.
  5. Choose your aspect ratio. In the picture above I chose 16:9 for widescreen photos (another common aspect ratio is 4:3 for printed slides).
  6. Adjust your photo within the frame.
  7. Hit the Crop command again or hit Esc on your keyboard.

Once you have cropped it to the 16:9 aspect ratio, your photo should fit PERFECTLY on your 16:9 slide. Just make sure you hold the Shift key while you enlarge your image so you don’t accidentally warp your picture.

Example of an image cropped to the 16:9 aspect ratio and resized to fit the entire PowerPoint slide

The crop to aspect ratio command works best on photos that have a lot of negative space (sky, sand or other aspect, as pictured below).

Example of negative space in an image

When you don’t have a lot of negative space in your photo, cropping to aspect ratio greatly increases the size of the main people or objects in your photo.

Instead of cropping your picture, you can also remove the background image instead (click here for details) or make your background image transparent (click here for details).

7. 3D picture cropping trick

Another clever cropping trick in PowerPoint allows you to create 3D pictures in PowerPoint, as you can see with the apple below (what is known as an out of bounds effect).

Example of an image cropped into a 3D photo in PowerPoint

The trick is to overlay two photos and then use your cropping tools to create the 3D effect (also known as an out of bounds picture).

The 3 part process for creating a 3D image in PowerPoint is as follows:

  1. Find a high-quality image (see blog post for image requirements).
  2. Properly frame your picture in PowerPoint.
  3. Overlay and crop your images down to create the 3D picture effect.

To see the step-by-step process for creating 3D pictures like this, check out our blog post here.

Final Cropping Thoughts

So that’s how to crop a picture in PowerPoint, and a variety of the formatting options you have available to you.

Like many things in PowerPoint, there are a variety of different ways to do the same thing, depending on your desired outcome.

Because adding visual elements like photos is critical to your success in designing your PowerPoint slides, I consider cropping photos a must-know in PowerPoint.

If you enjoyed the depth of this tutorial and want to learn more about our online training courses and other free resources, visit us here.


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