Later this week, I am going to be sharing my (much anticipated!) tutorial for creating virtual design boards. As I was outlining all the steps, I realized it might be useful to share this quick tutorial in a post all of its own. Whether you are a blogger or not, being able to remove the backgrounds of images is a pretty handy skill. Not only does it make assembling those fancy design boards pretty simple, but this trick is also helpful if you are needing to make party invitations, flyers, decor, cut files etc. You might think you need fancy computer software or graphic design skills to give images a transparent background, but I have a super simple way of doing it that I’ve been using for years. Today, I want to show you how to remove backgrounds from images using…PowerPoint!
What does “Transparent Background” Mean?
Before I dive into the tutorial, let’s just quickly review what I mean when I say “transparent background.” If you were to search for and save an image for use on a design board or other project, you will likely come across several different file types. Sometimes you will be able to find images with a transparent background already; and you’ll know it because the area surrounding the image has a pattern of small grey squares around it (below right). Most times though, the image will be a JPEG with a solid white background (shown below left).
If the background of an image is solid white (or has any other color/design to it), it doesn’t have a transparent background. Therefore, when you lay it over a colored background or other images, you will still see the white box around it (below left). With a transparent background, you can layer images over any color or any other object and be able to see the background (below right).
I’ve played with lots of different programs to take the background out of images because it’s something I do quite often. By far, the quickest, easiest and cleanest way to do it is using Microsoft PowerPoint. Seriously! PowerPoint has amazing photo capabilities for the everyday user. Not only does it allow you to easily drop in images and move them around without any weird bounding boxes or formatting restrictions, but it also has a tool built into the program to remove backgrounds in just a few clicks.
How to Remove Backgrounds from Images
Start by finding and saving your desired image to your computer. If the image has small white/grey squares all around it, then you don’t need to use this tutorial; your image already has a transparent background. If it has a white or colored background, here is how to get rid of it!
Open a new PowerPoint file:
Remove any default text boxes already on the first slide by just clicking on them and hitting the delete key on your keyboard.
Drag and drop the picture you have saved to your computer (or navigate to Insert –> Image) onto the blank slide.
Once you drop the photo onto the slide, the Format Picture tool bar will automatically appear across the top of the screen. If it doesn’t, double click on the image. In the middle of that toolbar, you should see an option to “Remove Background.” With your image selected, click that button.
Once you do, you’ll see a pink box appear around your image. Your image should be in full color, and the pink box represents everything that will be made transparent (as in clear, not white). Notice below that the automatic boundaries that PowerPoint creates don’t catch my full graphic, so parts of the dresser are being made transparent. Tip: You can use the mini slide in the sidebar to see a preview of how your image will look once you’re done using the Remove Background Tool.
To make sure your entire image is shown in full color, simply adjust the handlebars of the box to fully frame out your image.
Depending on the image, you may notice that the program automatically makes certain parts transparent (notice the little pockets of pink throughout the dresser above). To make them opaque again, simple click on the pink parts with your mouse, and they will change back to the original color. The + symbol means it will be shown in its original color (as in, not transparent).
Once you have your image adjusted to your liking, simply click outside the pink box to de-select the Remove Background tool. Before you save or use your image, make sure it is really transparent by copying and pasting it onto the same slide. If the white box is removed and your two images can lay over each other as shown below, your image now has a transparent background! (You can delete out the extra copy of the image once you determine it has a transparent background.)
Now that the background is removed, you’ll need to save it so you can work with it in various ways. To do that, right click on the image, and select Save Picture As.
A new window will open, and you’ll notice the image file type is automatically now set as a PNG file (that is typically the file type for images with a transparent background). Type in a file name and click save.
Removing the Background in Complex Images
For images with white solid backgrounds (like shown above), removing the background is super easy. PowerPoint almost always automatically gets which parts of the graphic should be in color versus transparent. For images that are layered into a complex photo (like the chair in a room shot below), it is still possible to isolate out the chair, but it takes some playing around with the same Remove Background tool. Just as above, drop a photo onto an empty slide in PowerPoint.
Again, double click on the image and then select the Remove Background tool from the Format Picture toolbar. Below, you can see that PowerPoint automatically selected which elements of the picture should be shown in color and which should be transparent, but didn’t get it quite right. Like before, start with moving the bounding box to fully surround the image you want to isolate out.
Then, use your mouse to continue to select pink areas to bring them back to full color. Sometimes just clicking on an area will switch them (like the stripe on the left side of the chair), yet other times you will need to draw a straight line for the program to acknowledge a certain part of the graphic.
Continue clicking around the photo and turning various areas from + to – or vise versa. Notice in the photo above that I had to draw and click on several different areas to finally get the chair shown in full color with a transparent background throughout the rest of the photo. It may take some trial and error, just keep clicking around until you have what you want. Once you’re done, click off the pink box and save the image as I showed you above!
And that’s it! I told you it was quick and simple!
In just a few clicks, using a program most of us have (I even keep PowerPoint for Mac on my computer for this exact reason), you can easily remove the backgrounds of images so they can be layered and used in any number of ways. I mostly remove backgrounds from images when I am creating themed party decor (e.g. Ninja Turtles images), preparing cut files for my Cricut Explore, and creating design boards for room makeovers. Keep in mind, however, if you’re using this tutorial to remove images of pictures you find on the web, it should be for personal use only!
Speaking of creating design boards, I’m going to pick up there on Friday and show you exactly how I create virtual design boards for room makeovers using this exact trick! See you then!