In this post you’ll learn how to remove the background from images in PowerPoint (as pictured below) using two different tools.

And the reason that knowing how to use these tools is so important, is they greatly increase the range of ways you can use pictures in your PowerPoint presentations.

Example of a picture with its background removed

Tool #1: The Set Transparent Color tool.

This technique works best for pictures with 100% solid backgrounds (like the white backgrounds you 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 that don’t have a 100% solid background. Also, this technique gives you the most flexibility when deciding what parts of the background you remove.

After removing your background, you can then compress your images in PowerPoint to reduce your PowerPoint file size. To learn how to do this, read our compression guide here.

Note: If you are using a picture or image you found online, make sure you properly cite the creator or website you downloaded it from. To learn how to properly cite pictures and websites in your presentations, read our citing guide here.

[Watch] Removing an image background

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.

You can alternatively make your image background transparent (instead of removing it). For details, see our guide here.

Removing a White Background

The fastest way to remove an image background is to use the Set Transparent color tool. The only catch is this only works for removing solid colors, like white backgrounds.

To remove a white background, select your picture, picture format tab, open the color drop down and select set transparent color and select that color in your image

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. In this case, the white background is removed.

Example of a picture with the white background removed

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.

You will find these types of backgrounds on a lot of the stock photos you find online. For example, you can find these kinds of free stock photos on www.pexels.com.

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 that because the entire image below is basically the same color, the woman’s face is removed with the background.

Example of a problem when setting a transparent background when the whole image is basically the same color

Example #2: This technique does not well with gradient color backgrounds as you can see below.

Because the Set Transparent Color tool only removes a single color, the majority of the gradient is not effected.

Example problem of setting a transparent background color when the background is not entirely white, but is instead a gradient

Example #3: This technique does not work well with minute details like strands of hair or clothing. This also includes pixels around people’s hands, as pictured below.

Example of setting a transparent background color when there are lots of details like hair and fingers in the image

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 complicated image background select your photo, Picture format and select remove background

To remove a background from an image, 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.

Example of a complicated picture background remove from an image, letting the background color of your slide stand out

Note: Instead of removing the background from an image, you can instead make your image background transparent. See how to do this,  read our guide here.

Adjusting what gets removed in your Image

When you first select the Remove Background command, PowerPoint takes a guess at what you want to remove.

In the picture below, the pinkish (magenta) area is image background that PowerPoint is guessing that I want to remove.

The pink area in the photo is what PowerPoint is guessing you want to remove from the background (it doesn't always get this right).

While PowerPoint normally does a pretty good job at guessing, it doesn’t always get it right.

Notice in the picture above that the woman’s arms are magenta ,as is the bottom part of the man’s body. Because those are similar to the background image, PowerPoint is guessing that those should be removed too.

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

Select Mark Areas to Keep and color in the areas of the photo that you don't want removed from your image

If PowerPoint doesn’t guess correctly, 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 (a green marker)
  3. Click Keep Changes

Selecting keep changes, PowerPoint readjusts what parts of your image background are removed. You might need to mark areas to keep a few times before you finally get it right

Mark Areas to Remove in Your Image

Select Mark Areas to remove and color in the areas of your photo that you do in fact want PowerPoint to remove from your image

If PowerPoint guesses incorrectly, you can also mark areas to remove from your photo. 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. Click Keep Changes
Selecting keep changes, PowerPoint will readjust what parts of your background image are removed. Keep in mind that depending on the complexity of your image, you might 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.

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.

Example of a difficult photo to remove the background because the image is one solid color

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

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

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 undo your background removal, select your photo, select Remove background and 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. This allows you to readjust what parts of your image background you want to keep or remove.

The only time that you will not be able to move back to your original image is if you compress your images. To learn more about your image compression options to save file size, see our blog post here.

Final thoughts

In summary, while the Set Transparent Color tool is the fastest way to remove your image backgrounds, it only works some of the time.

That’s why I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the Remove Background Tool. If you work with lots of image, this will become your go-to tool for removing backgrounds in PowerPoint.

If either of these methods doesn’t work, you can move over to Photoshop for more precision.

While PowerPoint’s picture editing features are GREAT… it’s hard to beat a dedicated picture editing program like Photoshop.

To learn more about our PowerPoint training courses and other presentation resources, visit us here.

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