Make a picture transparent

Great pictures can make a big difference in your document, but sometimes you want the picture to be lighter so it doesn’t fight with text. You can do that by adjusting the transparency of the picture.

Picture of flowers with 70% transparency
Picture with a transparency of 70%

The bad news is that you have to take a few extra steps to make your whole picture transparent. The key is to put your photo inside a shape first, and then change the transparency. Here’s how it works:

Make the whole picture transparent using a shape picture fill

  1. Add a shape, such as a rectangle.

  2. Right-click it, and then click Format Shape.

    Under Fill, click Picture or texture fill, and insert the picture.

    Picture or texture fill button on Format Picture pane

  3. Move the transparency slider until the picture is as light as you want.

    Transparency slide on Format Picture pane

  4. If you want, remove the shape outline.

Tip    If you are using PowerPoint, you can make a picture transparent and use it as a slide background.

Make part of a picture transparent

You can make one color in a picture transparent using the built-in transparency feature. A word of caution, as areas that seem to be a single color (for example, green leaves) might actually be made up of a range of subtle color variations and so you might not get the effect you want.

  1. Double-click the picture and when Picture Tools appears, click Picture Tools Format > Color.

    Color button menu opened from Picture Tools Format tab

  2. Click Set Transparent Color, and when the pointer changes, click the color you want to make transparent.

    Picture with pointer that appears after clicking Set Transparent Color

In the picture below, the leaves are composed of several colors of green and consequently only part of the leaves are made transparent, making it difficult to see the transparent effect. Repeating the process with a different color, will remove the transparency from the first color. To remove the color changes, click Reset Picture in the Adjust group.

Picture with part of the leaves made transparent

Note    When you print pictures with transparent areas the color is the same as the paper. On your screen or a web site, the transparent areas are the same color as the background.


Instead of making a picture transparent, you may want to change the brightness or contrast of it.

You can apply multiple different effects to a picture to make your picture unique. Try adding artistic effects, recoloring your picture, or changing the color intensity.

Tip    If you have an image editing app, you can use it to make your picture transparent. Then save the picture in a format that preserves transparency information (such as a Portable Network Graphics (.png) file), and insert the file into your Office document.

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Applies To: Excel 2013, Outlook 2013, Word 2013, PowerPoint 2013, Project Professional 2013, Project 2013 Standard

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