When you’re working with picture images in PowerPoint, you may want to remove unnecessary parts of an image so that you can see other graphics behind it. If the image in question is a vector image (e.g., WMF), it may be very easy to customize the clip art image. However, if the image is a bitmap image (e.g., PNG, JPG, GIF), then you cannot simply “ungroup” the image and edit it as you want. If you own Photoshop and you’re proficient with it, this task may be fairly straightforward for you. However, many business users don’t have access to this expensive photo editing software or if they do, they may not know how to use it.
PowerPoint’s Set Color Transparent feature can be used to select a color and make it transparent. If the image has a low resolution (pixelated) or an intricate mix of colors, it can be very difficult to isolate a particular color to make it transparent. Images with a solid color background (e.g., white) can be very easy to edit and achieve a clean-looking effect.
Where can you find it?
Based on the new Ribbon navigation of PowerPoint 2007, the Set Color Transparent tool is a little harder to find than it was in PowerPoint 2003. If you’re using PowerPoint 2007, left-click on the photo image that you want to edit. Then on the far-right of the top Ribbon, select Picture Tools > Format. On the far-left of the Ribbon under the Adjust section, click on the Recolor button. At the very bottom of the subsequent menu that appears, click on the Set Color Transparent button. The pointer will then change its appearance, and you just need to click a solid color within the picture to make it transparent. If you’re using PowerPoint 2003, you can find this feature on the main menu in this manner (View > Toolbars > Picture).
What to do when the solid color is also within the main picture
Sometimes when you’re using this feature, the color you set to transparent is also within the main picture. As you can see in the example below, this can ruin the effect that you’re trying to achieve.
In order to avoid this problem, you draw a Freeform shape to cover the area of the main picture that contains the transparent color. If you fill this Freeform shape with the color that was made transparent (white in this case) and set it behind the front image but in front of the background graphic, you can preserve the original look and feel of the front image.