PowerPoint 2010: Remove a background

(Note: We first published this post in 2010, but since then so many of you have looked it up that we thought we’d share it with you again.)

As we noted in the last post about inserting a screenshot, a lot of the work for Office 2010 has been about improving workflow for image insertion and editing.

I’m going to show you how to use the new Remove Background tool on pictures to make a slide like this:


The Remove Background button will isolate the foreground object in an image and remove the background elements. Here’s the original image of my skateboard:


If you click the “Remove Background” button on the Picture Tools Format tab, you’ll enter the Background Removal contextual tab:


You’ll also see that PowerPoint makes an initial guess about what to remove. In many cases this will be the end of the story, so you can just click “Keep Changes” and move on:

clip_image008                        image 

This all depends on the characteristics of the picture and which object you are trying to isolate. When the guess is incorrect, there are a couple of quick steps you can take to get the result you want. First, drag the rectangle to fit around the object you want:


Then, click the “Mark Areas to Remove” button and draw lines over the unwanted areas, such as the wood floor. If part of the object you want is under the purple mask, then use the “Mark Areas to Keep” to make sure they aren’t removed accidentally:


In a couple minutes you’ll have just the areas you want, and everything else in the image will become transparent. As a final step, you may wish to use the crop tool to remove transparent areas so that the bounding box fits tightly around the object. Since it’s just a picture, you can apply effects, rotation, and scale just as you would to any other picture in PowerPoint (notice how the shadows project only from the isolated skateboards):


This is a very powerful tool that opens the doors to a whole new realm of creativity. You’ll be pleased to find it in other Office apps such as Word, Excel and Outlook. Have fun.

-Christopher Maloney