Tech Confidential: Creating a Transparent Background Without Using Photoshop

12.30.10 By //

Photoshop Elements is a paired down program that is a tad more user friendly for us Non-Graphically inclined folks…but let’s be honest, even that has a price and a definite learning curve. So what if you want to create graphics or edit photos on the fly and you neither own such a program nor have the time to learn it before you need to have your project finished?

Enter Microsoft Office… Most of us have it, in some form or another…so whether you have a student version or the full blown Office Suite, this technique will work for you. If you aren’t familiar with your Microsoft Office program, visit your start menu and scroll through your Programs or Accessories. From there, you will choose either PowerPoint or Publisher depending on which program your Office Suite happens to have. It will almost definitely have one or the other, or both!

Not to difficult so far, ay? Well not to worry it stays precisely this easy all the way through this tutorial! So once you have your program open, whichever it is, you will insert your image of choice. For this lesson I will choose an ‘easy to see the transformation’ image, and I happen to be working with Power Point on my current computer. Truth be told PowerPoint is a newer program for me to be doing this with, and I previously used Publisher 98% of the time, but I don’t have it on my current computer and so boo hoo…although Power Point actually seems to do everything Publisher does…AND MORE!

In the image above I have INSERTED the PICTURE I am using in precisely that format…Insert and then Picture, browse for the file and choose it. Once you have inserted your image you will Click on it to select it, which gives you an additional set of menu options. For PowerPoint, the options appear in the menu bar of the program for Publisher some of the options may also appear as a floating toolbar specifically for making changes and edits to the picture, depending on your settings. In the image above, for Power Point, I will choose Format which appears after I select the image. Once I am in that menu bar item, I will select the option to Recolor, and then choose the little wand and corner bracket icon for Set Transparent Color and I will select that then click on the gray blue background of my image to remove the background color! For Publisher it is a bit more direct in that once you select the image (by clicking on it) and once the Picture Edit Toolbar appears you simply click on the icon, then click on the background of your image. It won’t very likely say the words Set Transparent Color as mine does for Power Point but the icon is the same. Below is an enlarged image of the icon, so you know what you are looking for. So now that I have touch the background color with the wand, you can see below how fabulous the image looks!

Now that your image has a transparent background, in order to keep the background Transparent.. you must follow this next set of steps. You will need to save your image. Right click on the image and your Right Click menu appears. You will scroll down and select ‘Save as Picture’.

Once your Browse Folder Opens for you to select a file name, you can type in any name that fits your purpose and then you will change the File Type to PNG. This is crucial, if you save the file as a JPG or TIF, it most likely won’t retain your transparent background. At least not from these programs, you need to save as a PNG to keep it clear…

Assuming you followed the steps as indicated above and managed to save your Image as PNG file, when you are ready to use your image or insert it into a Blog post, it will have your beautiful transparent background an you can overlay it on another image, arrange it in a collage or display it withougt extra ‘junk’ in the background. Note: There are some tricky aspects to creating a transparent background that pop up in certain situations, such as if your image has a portion that is white. You will likely find that it will ‘transparent’ out a bit of your image in a less than desirable way. If this occurs you should consider another course of action, such as a magnetic lasso or cropping tool. If you are interested in how to do some of these things without using Photoshop please speak up and let me know…I will assume you aren’t interested if you don’t say anything, how’s a girl to know….you know?

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