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.
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 in PowerPoint, simply:
- Insert and select a picture on your slide
- Navigate to the Picture Tools Format Tab
- Open the Color drop down
- Select the Set Transparent Color tool (your cursor becomes a little pen with an arrow)
- 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.
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.
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.
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
For any of these types of scenarios, you’ll want to use the Remove Background tool instead.
Removing a complicated background
To remove a complex image background in PowerPoint, simply:
- Select the image on your slide
- Navigate to the Picture Tools Format tab
- Select the Remove Background Command
- Adjust your removal settings (described below)
- Select Keep Changes
Clicking Keep Changes, the magenta background portion of your image will be removed from your photo, as pictured below.
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).
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
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:
- Select Mark Areas to Keep
- Click and draw over the parts of your photo you want to keep in green
- Click Keep Changes
Mark Areas to Remove in Your Image
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:
- Select Mark Areas to Remove
- Click and draw over the parts of your photo you want to keep in Red
- 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.
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 (or start over) simply:
- Select your photo with the removed background
- Navigate to the Picture Tools Format Tab
- Click Remove Background
- 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.
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.