UPDATE (Office 365 & PowerPoint 2019)
It's now easier than ever to make a picture transparent in PowerPoint! If you have PowerPoint 2016 (Office 365 subscription) or PowerPoint 2019, you can simply adjust the transparency settings of your picture in the Picture Tools Format tab.
To do that, follow these steps:
- Select the picture whose transparency you want to adjust.
- In the Picture Tools Format tab, select 'Transparency'.
- Choose from one of the presets, or click on 'Picture Transparency Options' to choose a custom setting.
Creating picture transparency is one of those zany things in PowerPoint that is technically impossible (you cannot directly add a transparency to a picture) in older versions. But there just happens to be a simple workaround.
How does it work (pre-2016)?
The trick to creating picture transparency, regardless of how many pictures you are working with, is to first fill a shape with the picture, and then add a transparency to the shape fill.
Although the pictures themselves cannot directly take the transparency, shape fills can. So by filling a shape with your picture and then applying the transparency to the shape fill, you quickly work around the technically impossible (whew)!
To learn how to do this, follow the written steps or watch the video demonstration below.
In a nutshell
- Insert a rectangle
- Copy your picture (CTRL + C)
- Open the ‘Format Shape’ dialog box and go to ‘Fill’
- Select ‘Picture or texture fill’ and then click on ‘Clipboard’
- Add a transparency
Step by step
Step #1: Insert a rectangle onto your slide
From the Insert tab, find the Shapes gallery, select a rectangle and draw it onto your slide so that it’s the same height and width as your picture.
Once that’s done, move the rectangle a bit to the side.
Note: If your picture isn’t on your slide yet, make sure to do that as the first step.
If your rectangle isn’t the same height and width as your picture, your picture will likely warp. That’s no good, so make sure your shape has the same dimensions as your picture before you do anything else.
Step #2: Copy your picture
Select your picture and hit CTRL + C to copy it.
Step #3: Open the ‘Format Shape’ dialog box
Right-click your shape, select the ‘Format Shape’ dialog box and navigate to the Shape Fill section.
Step #4: Select ‘Picture or texture fill’
Here you have quite a number of options to work with. Since your picture is already on your slide and you have already copied it, just click the ‘Clipboard’ button. Doing so, your rectangle will fill itself with the picture.
Another that we always recommend taking here is locking the aspect ratio of your rectangle so that your image doesn’t get accidentally stretched and warped when you resize the shape.
Step #1 – Right-click your rectangle and select ‘Size and Position’
Step #2 – Tick the box next to ‘Lock aspect ratio’
Fill from a File
Another option – the slower method – is to fill the shape with a picture from a file on your computer by choosing ‘File,’ and then selecting a picture.This method can be used when the picture is not already on your slide, but you risk warping it if the dimensions aren’t right (see warning in step #1).
Step #5: Adjust the transparency settings
Now to make your picture transparent, simply use the transparency slider or input the % of transparency you would like. In this case I’m using 50%.
If you picture is warped, double-check that:
#1: Make sure that the rectangle has the same dimensions as your picture.
#2: Make sure that you offsets at the bottom of the dialog box are all set to 0%.
Examples of slides with transparent pictures
You might be wondering when you’d ever want to make a picture transparent?
The primary reason is that it makes it possible to overlay multiple images. Here are some examples to give you some ideas…but sky’s the limit!
Another example is if you are really excited about football, you could (for example) take the members from your favorite team and superimpose them over your home stadium to create a cool effect!
Making multiple pictures transparent (in one go)
Do you have many pictures that you want to make transparent in one go?
There is a clever trick way to do this, by using SmartArt to convert your images into shapes. And once they’re in shapes, you know what to do!