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Remove Background from Image in PowerPoint (Step-by-Step)

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In this post you’ll learn two different techniques for removing backgrounds from images for free in Microsoft PowerPoint, as you can see in the picture below.

Example of an image of a man with the city background removed from the image

Background removal technique #1

Set Transparent Color tool.

This technique works best for 100% solid backgrounds (all white, all black, etc.) like you will find in standard stock photographs that you find online.

Background removal technique #2

The Remove Background tool.

This tool works best for removing complicated backgrounds from photos or photos that don't have a 100% solid background.

[Watch] How to remove an image background in PowerPoint

If instead of removing an image background you want to make your image transparent, see our step-by-step guide here.

NOTE: These background removal techniques DO NOT work with vector graphic files such as svgs, wms and DRWs.

If you have one of these vector graphic files you'll first need to convert it to the JPEG or PNG file format to follow along with these PowerPoint tutorials.

Removing a White Background

The fastest way to remove a background form an image is to use the Set Transparent color tool, but this technique only works if the background you are removing is a solid white (or other) color.

To remove a white background from an image, from the pictures tools format tab, select the color drop down and set the white background as the transparent color

To remove a white 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 Color drop down
  4. Select the Set Transparent Color tool (your cursor becomes a little pen with an arrow)
  5. Click on the color you want to remove from your background

Clicking the color, PowerPoint turns that solid color transparent throughout your entire picture, the light pink background in this case.

Example of a white background removed from an image of a lady

This technique works best when you have a fairly straightforward (and simple) background as pictured above. If your background is more complicated, you’ll need to use the Remove Background Tool instead.

When set transparent color doesn’t work

The Set Transparent Color tool works super well if you have stock photos with solid colored backgrounds, product photos, any kind of photo with a uniform crisp background color.

Just keep in mind that while the Set Transparent Color Tool is amazing, it does have limitations.

Example 1 - This technique does not work well if your background and image are too similar in color. Notice in the below picture that because the entire image is basically the same color throughout, setting the transparent color remove parts of the woman’s face.

Set transparent color doesn't work when your background and image are too similar

Example 2 - This technique does not well with gradient color backgrounds as you can see below. Because the Set Transparent Color only removes a single color from your picture, the majority of a gradient colored background will not be affected.

Removing a white background doesn't work if your image background color is a gradient

Example 3 - This technique does not work very well with minute details like strands of hair, clothing or even sometimes around the color pixels around a person’s hand or fingers

Removing a white background doesn't work well with minute details like strands of hair

For any of these types of scenarios, you’ll want to use the Remove Background tool instead.

Removing a complicated background

To remove a complicate background in PowerPoint, you need to use the Remove Background command from the Picture Tools Format tab

To remove a complex image background in PowerPoint, simply:

  1. Select the image on your slide
  2. Navigate to the Picture Tools Format tab
  3. Select the Remove Background Command
  4. Adjust your removal settings (described below)
  5. Select Keep Changes

Clicking Keep Changes, the magenta background portion of your image will be removed from your photo, as pictured below.

After selecting the background pieces that you want to remove (they will turn purple) click keep changes

Note: Instead of removing your picture background you simply want to make your image transparent as pictured below, see how to make an image transparent in PowerPoint here.

Adjusting what gets removed in your Image

When you first select the Remove Background command, PowerPoint guesses what part of your image you want to keep and remove (marking anything it thinks you want to remove in the magenta color).

When removing a background in PowerPoint, whatever is colored magenta is what will be removed from your picture.

While PowerPoint normally does a pretty good job at guessing what you want to remove, because it’s just a software program, it doesn’t always get it right as you can see below.

Notice in the picture above that Camille’s arm’s are magenta and so is the bottom part of my body (not what we want here).

When this happens to you, all you need to do is adjust the background removal options to specify what you want to keep and remove in your picture.

Mark Areas to Keep in Your Image

Use PowerPoint's Mark Areas to Keep command to adjust what PowerPoint keeps in your image

Mark Areas to mark the areas of your photo that you want to keep in a green color, telling PowerPoint that you do not want to remove those pieces from your photo.

To mark areas to keep, simply:

  1. Select Mark Areas to Keep
  2. Click and draw over the parts of your photo you want to keep in green
  3. Click Keep Changes

Mark Areas to Remove in Your Image

Use PowerPoint's Mark Areas to Remove feature to mark parts of your image that you want to remove from your photo

Mark areas to remove allows you to color in the pieces of your photo that you want to remove, telling PowerPoint that you do not want to keep those pieces of your photo.

To mark areas to remove, simply:

  1. Select Mark Areas to Remove
  2. Click and draw over the parts of your photo you want to keep in Red
  3. Click Keep Changes

You can continue to mark areas to keep and mark areas to remove until you get it right.

When you are finished adjusting the area of your background that you want to remove, click Keep Changes, and the magenta part of your photo will be removed.

When Remove Background doesn’t work

While the remove background tool will work for most backgrounds you want to remove, there are some limitations.

Limitation #1: if your picture is too similar, even with the mark areas to keep and mark areas to remove, it can be extremely difficult to remove all of the right pieces. Sharp crisp photos work best.

The remove background command doesn't work when the pieces of your image are too similar

Limitation #2: Small details can be hard to remove the background around (like the background around strands of hair, binder rings, etc.)

Example showing it's difficult to remove the background around minute details like strand so hair or binder rings

Limitation #3: If the background is too complex or a gradient color, removing the background can also be very challenging.

Example showing it's difficult to remove background that are too complex or a gradient color in PowerPoint

Undoing Your Background Removal

By default, when PowerPoint removes the background from your image, it merely hides it from you.

That means that at anytime you can always revert back to your original image or change your mind about what parts of the image background you want to remove.

To rest a picture in PowerPoint and bring your background image background back, from the Remove Background command select Discard All Changes

To undo your background removal (or start over) simply:

  1. Select your photo with the removed background
  2. Navigate to the Picture Tools Format Tab
  3. Click Remove Background
  4. Adjust your settings (or Discard All Changes)

Clicking remove background, you will see that your background edits return, allowing you to readjust what you keep and what you don’t keep.

The only time that you will not be able to move back to your original image background is if someone has compressed the images in your presentation to save on file size.

To learn more about your image compression options to save file size, see our blog post here.

Final thoughts

So in summary, while the Set Transparent Color tool is the fastest way to remove a background from an image, it only works for a small percentage of your photos.

That’s why I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the second method (the Remove Background Tool), as you’ll most likely be using it more often.

If either of these methods doesn’t work for you for whatever reason, you’ll need to move over to Photoshop. While PowerPoint's picture editing features are GREAT... nothing beats a dedicated picture editing program like Photoshop.

What's next?

Updated on May 17, 2019

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