Do you want to remove a sky, a wall, any backdrop, or something else in a photograph so that the slide background shows through within those
removed parts of the picture? The Remove Background option may be just what you need to remove the backdrop from an
PowerPoint does a very basic background removal for a picture. For pictures that have fine edges such as those
comprising human hair, you may want to explore a dedicated image editing application such as
Follow these steps to learn how the Remove Background option works in
Before you start, we assume you already have a picture on your slide. It helps if the parts of the picture you want to remove are fairly
different in color than the rest of the picture, at least to begin with. As you get more proficient with PowerPoint's
Remove Background option, you will be able to work with more complicated compositions. Look at our sample picture, as shown
in Figure 1. You will notice that the color of the background is distinctly different than the rest of the picture.
Figure 1: Picture with a fairly distinct background and foreground areas
Select the picture to display the Picture Tools Format tab (highlighted in red within
Figure 2) of the Ribbon. Activate this tab by
clicking on it, and click the Remove Background button (highlighted in blue within
Figure 2: Remove Background button within Picture Tools Format tab of the Ribbon
Once you click the Remove Background button, PowerPoint makes a guess and shows the areas that it ascertains you want to
remove (see Figure 3).
The Picture Tools Format
tab is a contextual
tab. Contextual tabs are special
tabs in the Ribbon
that are not visible all the time. They
only make an appearance when you are working with a particular slide object which can be edited using special options.
Figure 3: Background Removal tab on the Ribbon
In addition, note these behaviors:
• You will see a selection box, indicated by the eight handles shown in Figure 3. Four of the eight
handles in the selection box are corner handles. The other four are side handles. You use these handles to resize the selection box.
• You have the new Background Removal tab on the Ribbon, highlighted in
green within Figure 3. We will explain the options in this tab later within this tutorial.
• The active slide within the Slides Pane
will show a preview of the picture with the background areas removed, as shown highlighted in blue within
Figure 3. Don't worry, nothing is removed yet. This is just a preview.
Figure 4 shows a zoomed in part of the picture; you can see that a major portion of the picture has been covered with a
magenta overlay. This magenta overlay indicates the background areas to be removed. Only those areas that still show the original colors of
the picture will be retained. As you can see in this example, except the partially visible ladies and a small prtion of the table in the
picture, everything else has been identified for background removal.
Figure 4: Magenta overlaid areas indicate the background selected for removal
At this stage, you have two options. The simpler option is to drag the handles of the selection box to help PowerPoint decide the areas of
the picture you want to remove or retain:
• You remove more areas by resizing the selection box smaller. Click on any of the handles and drag inside the
picture area. Wait for a while for PowerPoint to add more magenta areas to your picture.
• You retain areas by making the selection box larger. Click and drag any of the handles outwards you can press the
Ctrl key and drag any one of the four corner handles outwards to select all areas of the picture as shown in
Figure 5, below. Notice that the selection indicated by the non-magenta areas is abysmal at this point of time, and
that's OK since we will modify this further.
Figure 5: Modified selection for the background removal
For simple pictures, this is all you need to do – and everything will be automatically selected. If you are happy with the results, go ahead
and click the Keep Changes button within the Background Removal tab of the Ribbon.
Alternatively, you can click anywhere on the slide outside the picture area to remove all magenta overlaid background areas of the selected
picture. In our case, this approach does not work – and we explain how to fine-tune your selection next.
The second, and more involved option is to manually fine-tune the selection using the options within the Refine
group of the
Background Removal tab that you can see in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Refine options within the Background Removal tab
These options are explained below:
Mark Areas to Keep: Click this button and draw lines by dragging within the areas that you want retained in the picture. For
some reason, diagonal, longer lines work better than horizontal or vertical lines. Lines you draw will be indicated with a plus label (see
Figure 7). You can always undo your last few markings by pressing the Ctrl+Z key.
Mark Areas to Remove: Click this button and draw lines by dragging to mark the areas you want to remove from the picture.
Lines you draw will be indicated with a minus label (see Figure 7). You can always undo your last few markings by pressing
the Ctrl+Z key.
Figure 7: Plus and minus labeled lines indicate the areas to be retained and removed respectively
Delete Mark: If you need to remove any of the plus or minus lines, click the Delete Mark button, and click
on the line to remove it completely.
You will see how the Refine options influence the selection -- all areas to be removed have a magenta overlay that is
updated dynamically, refer to Figure 7.
- Now, you can either abandon your selections, or remove the background:
• If you want to start all over again or abandon the Background Removal process, click the
Discard All Changes button within the Close group in the Background Removal tab.
• If you want to go ahead with the Background Removal, click the Keep Changes button in the
Background Removal tab of the Ribbon. Alternatively, you can click anywhere on the slide outside the picture area to remove
all magenta areas of the selected picture.
In the example on the left in Figure 8, you can see the picture with only the sky area removed, and towards the right,
you can see the same picture with everything removed except the church building. Compare these with Figure 1, shown earlier
on this page and notice the difference.
Figure 8: Two variations of the same picture showing the different areas removed
Remove Background from Pictures in PowerPoint 2013
Remove Background from Pictures in
PowerPoint 2011 for Mac
Advanced Remove Background Options
for Pictures in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac
Remove Background from Pictures in PowerPoint
2010 for Windows
Resources from Microsoft:
The Magic of Background Removal by Tucker Hatfield
More About Background Removal in Office 2010 by Tucker Hatfield
PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences:
PowerPoint 2016, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2007 and 2003 for Windows
PowerPoint 2016 and 2011 for Mac
Have your ever used keyboard shortcuts and sequences in PowerPoint? Or are you a complete keyboard aficionado?
Do you want to learn about some new shortcuts? Or do you want to know if your favorite keyboard shortcuts are documented?
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