Your presentation-development partner … demonstrate and inspire!
Best Practice

Set transparent color


There are many photos available now on the photo sites that have a white background so the subject of the photo really stands out.

  • They look really good if you have a template with a white background (figure 1). The figures we're using aren't photographs, but they're jpgs and can be formatted just like a photograph; and they illustrate the steps nicely.
  • The problem with these types of photos is that they don't really work that well if your company uses a template that has a colored background (figure 2).
  • PowerPoint has the capability of setting a transparent color (only one) (figure 3).
    • PowerPoint 2003: you must have the Picture toolbar active: click on Tools on the main menu, select Toolbars in the Customize menu, make sure the Picture toolbar is checked, click Close.
      Click on the photograph, click on the "magic wand" button on the Picture toolbar (when you mouse over it you'll see "Set Transparent Color." Click on that and then click on the white background (anywhere) on the photograph. The white background will be transparent.
    • PowerPoint 2007: click on the photograph and the Picture Tools ribbon will appear. Click on Format and then click on the downward pointing arrow next to Recolor. Click the Set Transparent Color tool at the bottom of this drop-down menu. Then click on the white background (anywhere) on the photograph. The white background will be transparent.
  • Notice that the edges of the silhouettes in figure 3 have a little white showing? This is normal and cannot be avoided. You can, however, add an oval with a gradient behind the photograph with a the transparent background so the white edges are only slightly visible (figure 4).
The next time you use a photo with a white background in your presentation, remember this technique. By knocking out the background, you will raise the visual quality of your slide.