Remove the background of a picture

In Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, you can remove a background from a picture to accent or highlight the subject of the picture or to remove distracting detail.

Note:  Background removal is not available for Vector graphic files, such as Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), Adobe Illustrator Graphics (AI), Windows Metafile Format (WMF), and Vector Drawing File (DRW).

Purple flower with green leaf background

Original picture

Flower with background removed

Same picture with the background removed

You can use the automatic background removal or you can draw lines to indicate which areas of the picture background to keep and which to remove.

Flower with leaves in the background

Original picture showing background removal lines

  1. Click the picture that you want to remove the background from.

  2. Under Picture Tools, on the Format tab, in the Adjust group, click Remove Background.

    Remove Background button found in the Adjust group on the Picture Tools Format tab

    If you do not see Remove Background or the Picture Tools tab, make sure that you have selected a picture. You might have to double-click the picture to select it and open the Format tab.

  3. Click one of the handles on the marquee lines and then drag the line so that it contains the portion of the picture that you wish to keep, and excludes most of the areas you wish to remove.

    Flower with leaves in the background

    Picture showing background removal marquee lines and handles

    In many cases, you can get the result you want without any additional work, by experimenting with the position and size of the marquee lines.

  4. If necessary, under Picture Tools, on the Background Removal tab, do one or both of the following:

    Background Removal group

    Background Removal tab

    • If parts of the picture that you want to keep were removed, click Mark Areas to Keep and use the drawing pencil Pencil used to draw tables to mark the areas on the picture that you want to keep.

    • To remove more parts of the picture, click Mark Areas to Remove and use the drawing pencil Pencil used to draw tables to mark those areas.

      Tip:  If you change your mind about an area you have marked to keep or remove, click Delete Mark and then click the line.

  5. When you are done, click Keep Changes or Discard All Changes in the Close group.

You can apply an artistic effect, such as Pencil Sketch or Cement, or add picture effects such as shadows, reflections or glows, to the picture remaining after you have removed the background. For example, if keep only one flower in a picture and apply a shadow, the shadow will appear only for only the flower you kept when you removed the background.

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Important: Compressing a picture to reduce the size of the file changes the amount of detail retained in the source picture. This means that after compression, the picture can look different from before it was compressed. Because of this, you should compress the picture and save the file, before removing the background. You can redo the compression even after you save the file as long as you have not closed the program that you are working in, if the compression plus the background removal is not the look you want.

  1. Click the picture that you want to remove the background from.

  2. Under Picture Tools, on the Format tab, in the Adjust group, click Background Removal.

    Background removal in Adjust group

    If you do not see Background Removal or the Picture Tools tab, make sure that you have selected a picture. You may have to double-click the picture to select it and open the Format tab.

  3. Click one of the handles on the marquee lines and then drag the line so that it contains the portion of the picture that you wish to keep and excludes most of the areas you wish to remove.

    Flower with leaves in the background

    Picture showing background removal lines and handles

    In many cases, you can get the result you want without any additional work by experimenting with the position and size of the marquee lines.

  4. If necessary, do one or both of the following:

    • To indicate which parts of the picture you do not want automatically removed, click Mark Areas to Keep.

    • To indicate which parts of the picture you do want removed in addition to those automatically marked, click Mark Areas to Remove.

      Tip: If you change your mind about an area you have marked with a line, either to keep or to remove it, click Delete Mark and then click the line to change it.

      Background Removal group

      Background Removal tab

  5. Click Keep Changes in the Close group.

    Note: To cancel the automatic background removal click, Discard All Changes in the Close group.

You can add effects such as shadows, reflections, and glows, to a picture from which you have removed the background. These effects will apply only to the visible picture. For example, if you apply a shadow to the picture, only the part of the picture you kept when you removed the background will cast a shadow.

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