How to Make a Picture Transparent

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Creating picture transparency is one of those zany things in PowerPoint that is technically impossible (you cannot directly add a transparency to a picture) but there just happens to be a simple workaround.

How does it work?

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

  1. Insert a rectangle
  2. Copy your picture (CTRL + C)
  3. Open the ‘Format Shape’ dialog box and go to ‘Fill’
  4. Select ‘Picture or texture fill’ and then click on ‘Clipboard’
  5. 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.

Pro Tip

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.

PowerPoint Picture Transparency Single Step #1 - Insert a Rectangle

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.

PowerPoint Picture Transparency Single Step #3 - Right-Click Format Object

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.

Pro Tip

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’

PowerPoint Picture Transparency Single Step #4A - Fill from Clipboard

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%.

PowerPoint Picture Transparency Single Step #5 - Adjust Your Transparency

Troubleshooting

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%.

PowerPoint Picture Transparency Single Step #4B - Double Check Your Offsets

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!

Nuts & Bolts - PowerPoint Picture Transparency - Seahawks Legion of Boom

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!

Video tutorial

What's next?

Updated on December 10, 2017

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