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.


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.



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 – 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.



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.



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.