PowerPoint – How to ‘Remove Background’

After the amazing PowerPoint effects achieved by Diana Wallace Peach in my previous post, I just had to see if I could master some of those techniques myself. The answer is…kind of. This is my, ahem, masterpiece:

I don’t think I’ll be headed to Cannes any time soon. But…I did learn some really useful skills, and today I’ll walk you through the PowerPoint ‘Remove Background’ option. If you’ve tried this option before and given up in frustration, don’t worry, I had the same problems so we’ll do it step by step. 🙂

The first step is to open PowerPoint [hereafter known as PP] and select a blank slide.

Next, click the ‘Insert’ option on the Ribbon and find an image that you want to work with:

The image below is the first one I worked with:

The picture frame looks as if it’s empty, but in reality the middle is not transparent at all. It’s white.

In order to have the mask appear as if it were inside the frame, I had to get rid of the white in the middle. Easier said than done. When I tried to remove the background in PowerPoint, PP wanted to delete the frame, not the white in the middle!

The purple area is what PP thinks should be removed

PP helpfully colours the area[s] to be removed in purple. Pity that’s precisely what I want to keep. -rolls eyes-

I guess the default setting assumes that whatever you want to keep will be in the middle…. Trust me to do everything backwards. In my own defence, however, the labels on the buttons and the explanations of those buttons only made sense after I’d finally worked out what to do and how to do it. -grumble-

Anyway, allow me to explain the buttons:

Background Removal buttons in PowerPoint
Mark Areas to Keep

If you hover your mouse over the ‘Mark Areas to Keep’ button, you’ll get a tooltip that says: ‘Draw lines to mark areas to keep in the picture’. I assumed that the word ‘lines’ had to be some kind of misnomer. It would take a lifetime to draw enough lines to take out half a picture! Ditto for the ‘Mark areas to Remove’ button. I was wrong.

When you click on the ‘Mark Areas to Keep button’, and then draw any kind of line across your picture, a whole section of the picture will be selected. In the following screenshot, I clicked ‘Mark Areas to Keep’ and then drew a line from the top left of the picture frame to a point near the bottom. The line was not straight:

reclaiming part of the picture frame in PowerPoint

Given that the picture frame is made up of straight lines, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to ‘fill in’ the frame properly. What I discovered was that the ‘line’ is not set until you release the mouse button at the end point.

In other words, you click the mouse at your start point and hold it down as you drawn the line. If the line is wonky, you can straighten it just by moving the mouse. So long as you keep the mouse button held down, you can keep moving the line wherever you want:

How to ‘Mark’ a line in PowerPoint
Mark Areas to Remove

Once I’d ‘marked’ all the purple areas and changed them to ‘keeps’, it was time to mark the middle as an ‘Area to Remove’. The principle is the same as for marking areas to keep: click the ‘Mark Areas to Remove’ button, click the mouse on an area to be removed, hold down the mouse button as you move the mouse across the image, release the mouse button to trigger the ‘remove’:

Delete Mark

If you make a mistake, you can undo the last line by clicking the ‘Delete Mark’ button and then clicking the line you wish to remove. That second part is critical as nothing will happen unless you do. You can also use the keyboard shortcut CTRL-Z to ‘undo’ the last thing you did. So much easier.

Discard All Changes

This is like a global undo. If you select this button you will delete every single change you have made. Use with caution.

Keep Changes

This is the button you hit once you’ve done all that you want to do to the image. ‘Keep Changes’ bakes all the changes so they ‘stick’. No more undoing any of the changes. It’s the last step in the whole process.

And now for those eyeballs.

PP is very good at detecting curves so long as there is a strong contrast between the object and its background. The eyeball I wanted to use is perfect…except for the bit at the top where the eyelashes are basically the same colour as that part of the eye.

free image from Pixabay

To excavate that eyeball from the eyelashes, I made the image as big as possible using the slider down in the status bar [bottom of screen]. Then I clicked on ‘Mark Areas to Remove’ and drew teensy weensy little lines. <<cue grinding of teeth>>

My stubbornness persistence paid off because I managed to get an almost circular eyeball, but when I tried it in the mask, the not-quite-perfect curve was noticeable. So I cheated. I turned the eyeball upside down. 🙂

I should say here that the easiest image to clean up was the mask!

free image from freeimages.com

Although the left side of the mask is in shadow, the shadow is a different colour AND there’s still enough contrast to allow PP to detect the edges.

All in all, I’m loving the ‘Remove Background’ function in PP. It has limitations – the lack of curved lines is a big one – but for large jobs that can be a little rough, it’s miles easier than vectoring an image in Corel. As always though, you have to use the right tool for the right job.

My thanks to Diana for introducing me to a very useful tool indeed. 😀

cheers,
Meeks

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

17 responses to “PowerPoint – How to ‘Remove Background’

  • robbiesinspiration

    Hi Meeks, thanks for this. I am busy following Diana’s instructions for my YT book trailer for my new children’s book. This is also useful so I am going between all your posts and working out how to do this. So far, I’m pretty pleased with the result.

    Liked by 1 person

  • D. Wallace Peach

    I’m so glad you shared this detail. It’s not hard, but it’s not straight-forward either. Turning the eyeball upside down is a great example of the kind of experimentation and trial and error that’s needed to make this all work. You’re on your way.

    I’m sitting on a little balcony overlooking an absolutely teal lake, but had to stop by and comment. Happy Creating!

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      Hey! Thanks for popping in Diana! I’m so envious of that teal lake. Still cold, wet and miserable here in Melbourne.

      Removing the background isn’t straight forward, but it is surprisingly powerful so it’s worth a bit of experimentation. I’m sold. 😀

      Have a great time in your little slice of paradise!

      Liked by 1 person

  • New toys, new skills | Meeka's Mind

    […] I hope to make short how-to videos to complement my how-to posts. You saw a tiny snippet of that in my last post. For now though, I’m doing player housing walkthroughs while I learn the ropes. This is my […]

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  • The Pink Agendist

    I’ve been trying to get rid of my background for years, unsuccessfully!

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      -giggles- Is that your…derriere?
      Btw how are you coping with the heat and the fires? I know the big ones aren’t near Mazamet exactly, but are you getting smoke?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist

        The heat has been more than we can take. Having resisted it for years we decided to finally put air conditioning in one room. As for the fires we’re fortunately in an area that’s not affected. This isn’t one of the dry areas of the south. We stay green year round. Lots of rivers, lakes and melting ice coming down the mountains in spring.

        Liked by 1 person

        • acflory

          I think aircon has become one of the luxuries that are no longer luxuries. At the risk of sounding like an old foggie [sp?], we didn’t even own a fan when I was growing up. Now, with 40+ temps regular visitors during summer, aircon has become a must.
          I’m relieved that the fires aren’t a threat to you. -hugs-

          Liked by 1 person

  • Grant at Tame Your Book!

    Excellent introduction, Meeka! I love it — another powerful way to remove image backgrounds.

    My wife and I use Canva Pro, and it makes background removal a snap. Also, for writers wanting to create book trailers, Canva is also an easy and cost-effective solution for making videos.

    My favorite tools are Affinity Photo and Designer, the inexpensive alternatives to Photoshop and Illustrator. Affinity’s onetime-priced products are much easier to learn and use as compared to the Adobe’s subscription-based product line.

    BTW: If anyone wants to see Canva Pro used to make book trailers and evidence boards, visit my site and enter “book trailer” in the search box at the top. Oh, and it’s fun making these videos!

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      Hi Grant, thanks for dropping in. I’m always interested in learning new tools. Some of the other regulars to this blog also use Canva, but only the free version. I tried it some years ago but went back to Corel. Now I use an odd bunch of tools from Corel Draw X8, PP, Action! [video capture] to VideoStudio Pro [another Corel product].
      Affinity Photo sounds interesting as I’ve never been able to get my head around programs like Photoshop. I guess that’s because I’m a terrible photographer!
      Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Audrey Driscoll

    Thanks for figuring this out and sharing it, Meeka! Looks useful.

    Liked by 2 people

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