How to Remove Image Backgrounds and Borders in PowerPoint 2007



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In one of my previous blog posts titled “Photoshop Quality Cropping in PowerPoint” I introduced a useful trick I used often to remove borders and backgrounds from pictures I intended to use in my presentations. If you are reading this blog post, chances are you’re on a journey for “out-of-the-box” presentation design and understand the value of using cropped pictures at some level. If you read the previous statement and you are currently thinking to yourself “assuming just makes an ass out of you and me”, I say ”touché!” and suggest after reading this post you click yourself over to some of my previous posts such as “Seeing is Believing: The Power of Images in a Presentation” and “10 Ways to Create an Extraordinary PowerPoint presentation“. Better yet! bask in the glory that is Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen blog posts on the use of visuals in presentations.

No worries, you can thank me later ;-)

Now back to the task at hand! What I failed to discuss in my first picture cropping post was the PowerPoint 2007 built-in functionality “Set Transparent Color”. This tool is aimed at achieving the very same goal of getting a sharp, border-less, background-less picture I so proudly proclaimed is achieved using my simple technique. With that said, I think it is worth while exploring how to use this tool and when it is appropriate.

I want to begin by giving everyone a “warning” of sorts that using the “Set Transparent Color” tool will not always yield it’s intended results. I will go as far as stating that in PowerPoint 2007 this tool will prove to be rather useless in MOST cases. However, a successful execution is an oh so sweet time saver.

Check it…

I will attempt to save you the time you would have spent on trial and error trying to make good use of the tool. First things first this is where to find it:

After inserting and selecting a picture, click Picture Tools > Format > Recolor > Set Transparent Color:

How does this thing work? Essentially you are isolating the desired image by making the background or border color transparent. Simple concept with not so simple implications.

The key to a successful image isolation is recognizing when you have the ideal conditions. I compare it to having all the right ingredients before baking a batch of delicious cookies. You can bake cookies without baking soda, sugar, and I guess you can even put “something” in the oven without the flour, but something tells me those “cookies” won’t be very delicious…

What are the right ingredients for a successful use of transparent color you ask?

  • The image background or border is a single color
  • The image background is absolutely not gradient in any way shape or form
  • The image does not have any kind of shadow effect
  • No part of image is the same color as the background it’s on

If your picture meets all of the above conditions, congrats! You’re going to have some nice results :-) All you have to do is click the “Set Transparent Color” tool and click the background or border color you want to banish to PowerPoint obscurity!

See my “drama-free” example below where I had the ideal conditions to successfully isolate an image:


Trust me when I say you will not always have the perfect conditions for success when it comes to the “Set Transparent Color” tool….but when you do, rest assured you are on the right path towards a kick-ass presentation.

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