Office: Remove Background From Picture


Remove_BGThe Office suite has many possibilities to refine your documents. Sometimes you want to add that nice looking picture but it needs a little tweaking. If you have the experience and the tools you can use Photoshop to edit your pictures. If you do not have Photoshop or the knowledge to work with Photoshop you can use the build in functionality of Microsoft Office. In this blog post I will show you how to remove the background of images so you can use them in your Office documents.

Insert Picture
For the first example I am going to insert a picture in a blank PowerPoint slide. Remember this can also be done in  Word and Excel. We start with a simple picture. A crack in a wall where we want to remove the background from.

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When the picture is inserted you will see an additional tab appear in your ribbon. This format tab is just the one we need for our task. With the picture in place we click on the contextual format tab. There you click the Remove Background button. This will present you with another contextual tab as shown below

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Overview of actions
At this point something interesting will happen. You picture becomes a ‘negative’. A purple color with some handles to play around with. The magic happens on the left on the slides sorter where you can see a preview of your outcome. So while moving the handles in your picture your preview will be updated constantly.

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Easy background removal
I know what you are thinking… This one is easy! It is.. so let’s try a more difficult picture. So new picture same task. This time I will insert a traffic light where I want to remove the background.

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Same technique same handling
We want to get rid of the blue sky and that pole thing on the bottom right. So take the same steps. Activate the contextual tab and move the handles so it fits your needs. Keep your eye on the preview on the left.

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Now for a difficult one
Remember it takes a little patience to get the result you might be looking for. The key tip here is Zoom in, Zoom in and Zoom in. The next picture is one of my favorite pictures just because of its simplicity.

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Now remove that background
In this picture we need to completely remove a building from the background. That’s a whole different ballgame. Let’s see what we can accomplish. First we activate the Remove Background contextual tab. Now we are of to the tuning part. Remember Zoom is the keyword here.

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Starting point
When the remove background tab is activated PowerPoint will propose a first step. Not bad but it shows a couple of twitches that need some additional tuning. Everything that is ‘negative’ will be removed from the picture. In this case the ‘ONE WAY’ signs have some tweaking that needs to be done. To solve that the first steps I take is to set the ‘square’ a little bigger by moving the top handles up a bit and the bottom handles down a bit.

Remove_BG_VIIIRemoving ‘the rest’ – tuning
The first steps I took was zooming in on my picture. You can do this simply by using the zoom + sign on the lower right of your PowerPoint screen. Now I need to get rid of the purple strip on the white outlining of the ONE WAY sign. I click the button ‘Mark areas to keep’. This will change you mouse to a ‘pen’. With this pen you can draw over the area to keep. So in this case I want to keep the white outline of the sign.

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Select just a little more…
To make sure PowerPoint gets what I want I select just a little more white border than needed. Now PowerPoint will understand that this is part of the outline. In your picture you will see the purple area disappear from the outline just as you wanted. But what if I want to remove areas instead of keeping them? Well in that case choose the button ‘Mark areas to remove’. Instead of a + sign in your line you will see a – sign in your selection line. That way if you have a very complicated picture you can always detect what areas you have selected to keep and which areas should be removed.

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Cropping the final part
I usually set the selection handles to a wide range. The final step is to ‘crop’ all the areas I don’t need in my picture.

Concluding
Sure it takes a little effort to get the result you are looking for. But remember easy pictures show instant result. More complex pictures take more tweaking. I think the provided default functionality offers a lot of possibilities without having to dive into Photoshop to get the same result. If you have simple pictures and need to keep going I would say give it a try!

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