Quick Image Manipulation with PowerPoint

It doesn’t matter if you were preparing some images for a Tableau viz, or working on your presentation for #Data16, here are some really easy techniques to up your game (quickly and without fancy software).

Set Transparent Color – This is the fastest way to make a solid background transparent, but this example shows you why this is far from perfect when you have shadows and gradients.

Set_Transparency

Remove Background – When you have a more complex background, and you just want a few elements, you can use PowerPoint to remove the background. This is a relatively newer feature, so I only recently found out about this one.

Remove_Background

 

Let’s see that again with an image that requires a few more steps to keep only the elements that we want. You will notice on this one that I crop the background. Don’t forget this step because this extra space can make it harder to work with the image (e.g. placement, unable to click through transparency in Tableau).

Remove_Background_Batman

 

Remove Background – PowerPoint has great features like being able to Union and Subtract shapes from each other, but subtracting from an image is a bit more complicated. First we overlay a white or solid colored shape (usually best if you can match your presentation background in case there is any halo), then cut or copy both elements. We paste special as a picture and follow the steps above to remove the background.

Subtract_Shape_From_Image

 

Bonus Tip: Match Colors – While this isn’t much of a trick, this tip is a reminder that you can sample colors from any images, particularly useful for customizing text titles for your next Viz.

Sample_Colors

 

Right-Click to Save Image – From PowerPoint you can quickly save your image to PNG for transparency or as a regular JPG. Using a PNG, you can either have transparent floating objects in your Viz or you can make custom shape files to use as marks.

Save_as_PNG