Tag Archives: vector

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜€


Circuit board vectoring, version xxxx….

I’ve deliberately turned comments off this time as the graphic isn’t done…I just wanted to share what I’ve done so far:

505 separate objects, no background as yet so the silver effect isn’t that obvious, and the edges have to be trimmed blah blah, but I think the circuit board will look good in print and reasonable in thumbnail. That’s what I’ll be testing out next but for now I feel as if my eyes will never uncross!

I hope you’ve all had/are having a great weekend,



#Corel X8 vector graphics vs photos

In my last post about the new Innerscape cover, I vented about the trouble I was having getting the silver effect I wanted. Your suggestions were brilliant so I thought I’d do a quick update of my progress. The pic below is a test graphic to illustrate the difference between the two methods and how they might look in the finished product:

The silver ‘wire’ was created using Corel X8’s fountain fill. It is clearly silver, even when I reduce the size down, i.e. it scales well. Unfortunately it is absolutely uniform, something a real ‘wire’ would never be.

By contrast, the gold ‘wire’ is a photo taken of a thin needle shape covered in foil. The foil was silver, but the lighting created this decidedly golden effect [evening, overhead light and table lamp, both with bulbs of ‘warm white’]. I only know this with the wisdom of hindsight. 😦 If you look closely at the column on the right, you will see that when I increase the size of the gold wire, it becomes more and more pixelated, i.e. it doesn’t scale well. [Clicking on the image should display a larger version]

Finally, I created two, identical slices of the circuit board. Both were made by creating the individual components and ‘grouping’ them together. The silver, vectored one is shown below:

Although each of the tubular components comes from the one, basic shape, I fiddled with the fountain fill to a) make the image more realistic, and b) to reduce the uniformity. The golden slice is also made up of individual components, but essentially I just cut them out and stuck them together. I really like the way the image turned out, and I like the golden colour, but it’s not what I was after.

Which will I use?

This question is not as either/or as it looks. In designing the covers for the Innerscape print version, I wanted each one to:

  • have a unifying ‘theme’
  • be different
  • tell a subtle visual ‘story’

Thus, as book 1 is about Miira leaving the real world and entering a virtual one, I want her facing towards the stark, artificial image of the circuit board. That’s why the image has to be instantly recognizable as part of a computer. Books 2 and 3, however, will show a gradual blurring of the lines between real and virtual, with the changing circuit board being the unifying ‘theme’ that binds each image of the series.

At least, that’s the idea. Whether I can actually pull off this ambitious idea is moot. To make it work I’ll have to create two, completely different images of the circuit board – one with the silver wires and one with the gold. As each small wire will be made up of at least 3 components, it’s going to be a huge job. Not impossible, but it will test my patience as the original circuit board image has very few wires that are exactly the same.

To be honest I think I’m crazy to even think about doing this, and yet…how often do you get to create your first print book? Sitting here, calmly typing about my options, I know I’d hate myself if I gave this project anything less than my best, and fudging the graphics would definitely be a cop out. So…I’m going to be a busy girl. πŸ™‚



First Map of Vokhtah

Another hot day, more bushfires and non-stop radio killed my concentration, so I updated this old vector map of the Northern Trade Route described in Vokhtah. Β Left click on the image to see it at full size.

NC route2

%d bloggers like this: