Aspect Ratios: Should You Switch to 16:9 Slides?

One of the big changes in the latest version of PowerPoint is that the default aspect ratio (ratio of width to height) for slides is 16:9. In all previous versions, the default aspect ratio was 4:3. Why the change? Because widescreen formats are becoming more popular for projectors and TVs used in presentations.

So should you change your slides to this new format? Here are some tips for knowing when to make the change.

This topic was prompted by a question from a fellow professional speaker and marketing expert Steve Slaunwhite. He was preparing for a set of upcoming presentations and asked me what aspect ratio he should use for his slides. His question made me think about what the best approach would be. After some thought, here’s what I suggested to him.

First, ask the organizer of the event or the venue you will be speaking in what aspect ratio the projector or screen will be using. At the upcoming Presentation Summit conference, the organizer, Rick Altman, has already let us know that all the screens will be using the 16:9 aspect ratio. In those cases, the decision is easy: Use the aspect ratio that matches the projector or screen.

What if the organizer doesn’t know or you don’t know what projector the room will have? This happens quite often if you are doing presentations at client sites or even in different rooms/buildings in your own organization. As many facilities switch over to the newer 16:9 standard, we’re in a period where we will have both ratios in use in many facilities.

I have run into this at client sites where one projector is in 4:3 ratio and another is a 16:9 projector and it depends on which one the facilities team puts in your room that day. What do I suggest in that case?

My suggestion is to stick with the 4:3 ratio until you have over 50% of your presentations being done on 16:9 projectors or screens. Why do I say this? Because it will be easier for the audience. Let me explain.

When a 4:3 ratio slide is shown on a 16:9 projector, there are black bars on each side of the slide because the slide does not fill the entire width of the screen. While this is not ideal, the slide is still full height and the text on it is the tallest it can be. When a 16:9 ratio slide is shown on a 4:3 projector, there are black bars on the top and bottom of the slide because the slide does not fill the entire height of the screen. This makes the text on the slide smaller than planned.

I think that having a more readable slide is better, so my suggestion is to use a 4:3 ratio slide so that, even if the slide is shown on a 16:9 projector, the text on the slide is as readable as it can be and the graphics are as large as they can be (for a research based approach to determining how big a font you should use on your slides, use these tables).

When the majority of your presentation rooms and equipment are in the 16:9 format, make the switch in your slides. By the way, when you do make the switch between ratios of your slides, use the latest version of PowerPoint to do so. The previous versions horribly distort the graphics and text, leaving you with hours of re-formatting.

What am I using? I still use 4:3 ratio slides for the reason I stated above. It is still quite rare, outside of conferences, for me to run into a 16:9 projector in a presentation, especially in corporate meeting rooms. As older equipment gets replaced, this will change, but for now, I am sticking with the 4:3 ratio.

About the Author:

Dave Paradi runs the Think Outside the Slide website, is a consultant on high-stakes presentations, the author of seven books and a PowerPoint Most Valuable Professional (MVP.) For more information, visit

The Best PowerPoint Trick You Don’t Know About

PowerPoint has some amazing drawing tools that let you create all kinds of illustrations. But sometimes it can be frustrating when you group text with an object to create an image because when you go to make it bigger or smaller the text remains the same size.

That’s because you’re just resizing the text block, not the text itself. Bummer, right? Well, guess what—it’s possible to transform text into scalable graphics using the “paste as picture” command.

Before you think I’m just writing about some random PowerPoint command that you’ll never use, let me give you some examples of how useful this command can be. Many years ago I worked at a company that created a lot of manuals for clients, and our desktop publishing software of choice was PowerPoint (yes).

To personalize the manuals, we’d draw pictures of reports with the clients’ names on them then paste them as pictures and use them as spot illustrations. Another way we’d use this command was to create little calendars with the session dates highlighted.

Here’s what they look like (I can practically draw these in my sleep now):

Foley custom_report_lg

Report drawn in PowerPoint

Foley calendar_lg

Calendar drawn in PowerPoint

We’d create these graphics larger than what we needed, then we’d cut and “paste as picture” so that we could make them tiny and put them where we wanted in our documents.

You can also use the “paste as picture” command to resize charts and graphs if it turns out that you’ve made them too big or if you want to use them as illustrations.

All you need to do to access the “paste as picture” command is to right click anywhere on a slide after you’ve either cut or copied something. The window looks like this:

Foley turkey_pap

Paste as Picture command

The yellow arrow is pointing at the little clipboard icon on the right after Paste Options; that’s the “paste as picture” command.

It’s important to note that when you paste something as a picture the text becomes uneditable, so be sure to save your source graphics just in case you need to make changes. As if that ever happens.

Here’s a short video that shows this command in action and gives you some ideas on where you can use it:

About the Author:

Laura Foley is a graphic designer and creative thinker who enables her clients to communicate effectively with their presentations. She specializes in Cheating Death by PowerPoint, transforming PowerPoint decks into dynamic marketing tools through training, consulting, and presentation design. Laura has helped people in organizations in a wide variety of fields, from high-tech to consumer products to higher education. For more information, visit

What Do We Remember from PowerPoint Presentations?

During 2012, Dr. Carmen Simon, co-founder of Rexi Media, carried out a major research study on memory – specifically, on how many slides people actually remember from a typical PowerPoint presentation. The study was based on significant changes in information processing and delivery that have taken place in the past decade:

  • An exponential increase in the amount of information delivered, and the time spent consuming it.
  • A sense of being overwhelmed by the quantity of information available, while still craving more.
  • The ubiquitous use of PowerPoint, or PowerPoint styles (landscape slides, templates, bullet points) to deliver information.
  • Presentations that all look the same, making it very difficult for messages to stand out.

Over 1,500 participants were invited to view a short, online PowerPoint presentation of 20 slides. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the 26 conditions, which included different versions of the presentation. After 48 hours, they were asked to recall anything they could remember about the presentation.

There were several key findings:

  • Participants remembered on average 4 slides out of the 20.
  • Neutral images helped recall when compared with text only, but not to any great extent.
  • Participants remembered content according to a pattern, not just random slides.
  • Significant changes every fifth slide tended to aid recall.

What does this tell us? How can we use this information to improve our presentations? Carmen Simon suggests that there a number of important clues:

The Magic Number Four. Studies suggest that people can only hold about 4 or 5 items at a time in short term memory. The important thing is therefore to make sure that we point them at the right things to remember.

People remember the unusual. If everything in a presentation is equally intense (color, graphics, in your face etc), or equally bland (text, indentations and bullet points), we have no control over what, if anything, people will remember.

Concrete visual language aids recall. The most remembered slides in the study were those about what colors to wear or not to wear when presenting online (don’t wear red, don’t wear black, white or stripes, but pastel colors are good). In these cases, pictures might help, but most people can picture the text anyway without much help.

color coordinate Simon

Color coordinate your slides

Grouping your slides, “chunk” your presentation
. Sometimes this can be done by the color of the text or the background, or maybe by the use of a different set of images. Well thought-out connections between different parts of a presentation are more important than just pushing more content.

People crave novelty. If you want a presentation to attract attention, find out what your audience would consider to be novel. People are more likely to remember what they find new and surprising, rather than what they find familiar. Where information differs from what we would expect, we sit up and take notice.

Repitition aids recall Simon

Repetition aids recall


Repetition and alliteration helps. The most memorable slides in the research all used the word “wear.” Using the same word, or finding three or four words that begin with the same letter to stress your key points will probably make the ideas stick in the mind.

People remember negative advice (what not to wear) better than neutral or positive content. However, at the same time, it played on their vanity – do this, or don’t do this in order to “look good.” Another frequently remembered slide suggested presenters should not lean back in their chairs as it made them appear short and fat. In a society that craves positive images, ego enhancing content attracts extra attention, and aids recall.

Ego boosting content Simon

Ego-boosting content

For more information about this topic, download a fully referenced paper  on the Rexi Media research.

About the Author:

Rexi Media, a presentation skills consulting company based in San Francisco, works with over thirty specialists in the field of advanced presentation techinques.


How to Create Your Own Custom Shapes in PowerPoint

PowerPoint 2010 has a new feature that’s very hard to find, but that people are praising over and over. It’s called Custom Shapes, and it’s a set of four tools that you can use to create your very own shapes. Why do you need Custom Shapes?
  • To make your slides unique.
  • For the flexibility to communicate your message in the way that works best for you and your audience.
  • For a professional, designer (custom-made) look.

Usually, Microsoft highlights new features, but the Custom Shapes tools aren’t even on the ribbon! As a result, many people don’t know about them. First, I’ll tell you how to add them to your Quick Access toolbar, which is at the top-left corner of your PowerPoint window.

At the right of the Quick Access toolbar, click the down arrow and choose More Commands.

In the PowerPoint Options dialog box, you’ll see a Choose Commands From drop-down list at the top. Choose Commands Not in the Ribbon to make the Custom Shape commands easier to find.

Scroll down the list of commands until you get to “Shapes.” You’ll see 4  commands–Shape Combine, Shape Intersect, Shape Subtract, and Shape Union. Select Shape Combine and click Add. Do the same with the other 3 commands that start with “Shape.”


Click OK to close the PowerPoint Options dialog box. The commands are now on the Quick Access toolbar.

What can you do with these tools? Almost anything! Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Union adds two shapes together
  2. Subtract subtracts them; select the one you want to keep first
  3. Intersect keeps just the intersection between the two if they overlap
  4. Combine cuts out the intersection between multiple shapes but also makes the result a freeform so you can edit points

In this post, I’ll show you a simple example using the Shape Union command.

How to use Union to create a simple custom shape

Let’s say that you want to create a SmartArt diagram, but can’t find the shape you want. You want a space for a small, circular photo at the left, some text in the middle, and an arrow at the right. Here’s what you sketched on a napkin:

Here are the steps to create this shape:

  1. Insert a circle. (Remember, you can press Shift as you drag the circle on the slide to make sure it’s a perfect circle, not an oval.)
  2. Insert a rectangle to the right of the circle. Resize and move it so that it looks like the above image. You’ll see the outline around each shape, but don’t worry about that now.
  3. Insert an isosceles triangle. To get the shape you want, you need to rotate it to the right. Press Shift and drag the little green rotation circle to the right. Then resize and move the triangle so that it matches up to the right side of the rectangle.

Your shapes should look like this:

1. Select all 3 shapes and click Shape Union on the Quick Access toolbar. (The command button isn’t active unless you select at least 2 shapes.)

Your new, custom shape looks like this:

Go ahead and add a photo (I added another circle on top and filled it with the photo) and text. You can add text to it, just like any shape that comes with PowerPoint!

Here’s the final result:


Now go forth and create your own custom shapes!

About the Author:

Ellen Finkelstein can train you or the presenters in your organization to create high-impact, engaging, professional presentations for training, sales, business, or education. For more information, visit her website at

20 Top PowerPoint Design Tips

In order to create an amazing PowerPoint presentation, you have to learn the process of effective presentation design. After four years of blogging, I’ve written a number of posts designed to help presenters create better, visually engaging and effective PowerPoint presentations. As all blogs posts do, some resonated better than others and often provided great discussion in the comments.

Instead of forcing you to sift through my site, page after page, I have aggregated 20 of my best blog posts, including the five most viewed post written in 2011, to help you become a better PowerPoint presentation designer. Post types include specific presentation design techniques, book reviews, tips, methods, and more.

So without further adieu, here are the best PowerPoint presentation design posts from Presentation Advisors to make you a better presentation designer in 2012.

The 5 Most Viewed Posts in 2011:

  1. 20 Steps to Become a Presentation Design Hero – There’s no set path to become a presentation designer, but here are a few steps I’ve taken to get where I am today.
  2. 5 Tips to Perfect Your Slideshare Presentation – SlideShare has been a godsend for sharing PowerPoint presentations, PDFs and more. But just because Slideshare is a good platform, does not mean your presentation will be seen without some extra work. Follow these tips to make sure it looks great.
  3. Alternatives to PowerPoint – I write a lot about PowerPoint design, but it’s not the end-all-be-all to effective presentations. Here are a few options if you’d like to take a different route.
  4. 5 Reasons Your Last Presentation Bombed – Yes, presenting isn’t all rainbows and smiles. Some of them don’t go as planned, and others flat out bomb (whether you realize it or not). It happens to the best of us, even me. Here’s a few reasons why that may have happened.
  5. If No Bullets in My PowerPoint, Then What? –  If you read a lot of presentation blogs, you’ve heard numerous authors (including myself) preach about the necessary demise of bullet points in PowerPoint. However, one common complaint of readers (rightfully so) was that there were few specific alternatives. Here are over a dozen.Here are the rest of my top blog posts:
  1. 5 Ways to Start Your Presentation Off Strong – You’ve got seconds to grab your audience’s attention, and only a few minutes to keep it. Technology has made it even worse where you’re competing with audience members dual-tasking on their computers or smartphones. Learn how to grab their attention quickly in this post.
  2. 100 Presentation Tips – Here are 100+ presentation tips for preparation, design and delivery to make your next presentation your best, as well as a few extra submitted by readers. There’s a link to download the list as a PDF as well, which you’re welcome to pass along.
  3. PowerPoint Design Methods – There’s much discussion about the best PowerPoint design method.  How many slides should be used?  What font size?  How fast should I transition through them?  I’ve insisted that there is no right PowerPoint method. This post includes a few popular PowerPoint presentation design methods and theories that have worked well for some established presenters.
  4. The Best Presentation Design Tool – Here I reveal my most useful tool to aid in finding effective presentation imagery. Best of all, it’s free.
  5. A New Spin on the Old Agenda Slide – I had just recently sat in on a presentation that used, like many others, a bullet-point agenda slide with black text on a white background.  I decided to show how, with just a few steps, an agenda slide could be improved [before and after images included].  I credit the inspiration to Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen method and an agenda slide I saw during a live presentation of his I attended.
  6. Breaking Down Steve Jobs’ WWDC Keynote Presentation – We all mourned the passing of Steve Jobs on October 5th, 2011. We’re all lucky to have lived while he changed the technology landscape again and again. In June of 2010, Steve Jobs took the stage for another magical keynote experience (not just a presentation). I decided to break it down for you all of you, highlighting his approach to the WWDC 2010 keynote presentation and what elements create the masterpieces we are used to seeing.
  7. PowerPoint Before and After – Various Slide Types – Often it’s useful to see not only the finished product, but the original product as well. In this post I show you some of my personal slide redesigns, including before and after shots with my commentary on the process of designing each slide.
  8. 5 Ways to WOW at Your Next Presentation – We’re all trying to find a way to rise above the rest – to separate ourselves from the crowd. There seems to be a common path that most presenters take, and the trail is painfully worn down. Use some of these tips to give your audience something they don’t expect at your next presentation.
  9. What’s Wrong with PowerPoint Templates? – Templates and me have a love-hate relationship.  I love to hate them…especially those found within PowerPoint (there are a few nice ones on Keynote).  It’s not necessarily the visual design, it’s the tired, played-out road that the templates bring most presenters down.  I wanted to write a post that not only highlighted some of the pitfalls of using a template, but also the advantages of going “freestyle.”  Some good comments as well.
  10. The Effective Use of White Space in Advertising – I’m a huge fan of utilizing white space (or blank space and isn’t necessarily white).  I wrote this post to highlight some great uses of white space in popular ads, as well as how it can be applied to presentation design.
  11. Book Review – Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina – One of my favorite books of 2009 was Brain Rules.  This book not only breaks down the mysteries of the brain using language that we all can understand, but many of the rules apply to presentation design (namely catching and keeping your audience’s attention).  In the post I highlighted three of those rules that you can apply to your presentation tomorrow.
  12. Reducing the Amount of Text on your PowerPoint Slides – When clients come to me, they often have a presentation completed, however it’s full of bullet points and absent any vibrant imagery. Here I walk you through the process of how I remove the text and add appropriate imagery, while still conveying the main idea of the slide.
  13. Book Review – The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs – Steve Jobs was one of the greatest presenters working the keynote stage. Carmine Gallo breaks down his presentation style and teaches you how to be great in front of any audience.
  14. 5 Bits of PowerPoint Advice that will Land You in Presentation Prison -Bad presentation design tips are a dime a dozen, and I’ve heard all the excuses.  Here are 5 bits of presentation advice that you should avoid at all costs.
  15. Perception and PowerPoint Design – Your audience may perceive you in many different ways.  Some may find you interesting, while others may be fighting to keep their eyelids open. Are your PowerPoint presentations leading the audience to perceive you in the wrong way?  
    About the Author:

    Jon Thomas is the founder of Presentation Advisors, a presentation design and training firm based in southern Connecticut. For more on his company’s services, visit his website at

Occupy PowerPoint!

By Rick Altman

Living just 20 miles from Oakland, the city described as having the eyes of the nation upon it, I know all about protests. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the ‘60s, when anti-Vietnam War demonstrations were the rule of the day, I understand the power of group emotion.

And given that “Death by PowerPoint” is a part of everyone’s vocabulary today, it comes as no surprise that community leaders have reached the following determination:

It’s time to occupy the software.

Three of the most active members of the user community have been busy creating a strategy for occupation. Steffen Ginsler, Richar Brett-Slider, and Eskimo Winsdorf have been pooling their expertise into a broad-based strategy to eliminate the abuses in our professional society once and for all.

An accomplished VBA developer, Ginsler has created a script that installs itself without the user’s knowledge and eliminates all layouts that contain bulleted text. “It is kind of like a friendly Trojan horse,” says the soft-spoken Ginsler. “It doesn’t do any real damage to your computer, but it prevents you from bringing harm to others — namely, the people in your audience.”

Winsdorf is not quite as reserved as her friend Steffen. “Hey, what do you expect us to do when all these people are acting like idiots?” she asks, without waiting for an answer. “It’s ridiculous that there are no safeguards to insure against crappy design and sloppy standards. It’s time we took matters into our own hands!”

And Eskimo has done just that with a proprietary and patent-pending JavaScript version of a PowerPoint template that prohibits all changes from the formatting set forth in the slide masters. If you try to reformat text, move a placeholder, or cover up critical design elements, you’ll receive an immediate error message. “I wanted the script to automatically format the hard drive, but the others wouldn’t go for that. Wimps…”

In the most interesting position is Brett-Slider, a former member of the PowerPoint development team. He persuaded his successors to modify the Animation engine with password protection on the following choices: Boomerang, Spiral, Zoom, and Bounce. If users attempt to apply any of them on a slide, the system intervenes and requires a written explanation of the usage.

The explanation is sent to a panel of presentation designers, led by Nancy Latte and Garth Sandals, for review. Within 24 hours, the panel issues a ruling on the appropriateness of its usage. Based on that ruling, the Animation task pane will either provide a password for entry or the animation choices in question will be permanently removed from the program.

“Some of my colleagues thought this might have been drastic,” said Richar in his characteristic baritone. (Richar’s brother couldn’t pronounce the “d” in “Richard” when he was young; Richar dropped the letter from his name in his brother’s honor.) “I assured them that it would be a great career move — everyone talks about bad PowerPoint but nobody does anything about it. This would be their big chance.”

Areas of the program yet to be occupied include sound effects attached to slide transitions, color schemes involving red text and green backgrounds, and clip-art characters not wearing underpants. “We have occupation campaigns in place for all of these offenses,” warns Winsdorf. “We’re going to put an end to Death by PowerPoint, even if it kills us.”

There it is, in one crystalized sentence: Occupy PowerPoint will keep you from killing yourself…or else it will kill you. If only the other Occupy movements could have such a clearly-articulated charter.

About the Author:

Rick Altman has been hired by hundreds of companies, listened to by tens of thousands of professionals, and read by millions of people, all of whom seek better results with their presentation content and delivery. He runs the acclaimed Presentation Summit conference, formerly known as PowerPoint Live, and is  author of the book, Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck & How You Can Make Them Better.  For more information, visit his website

How to Create a Slide Master (or Two) in PowerPoint

By Ellen Finkelstein

I’ve discovered that many presenters don’t know how to use PowerPoint’s slide master. As a result, they create all sorts of workarounds like putting full-slide images on every slide (which makes for a HUGE file). This especially becomes difficult when they want more than one background. Let’s go through the process of creating a presentation with two backgrounds.

Before I start, I want to refer you to another tip of mine, “Create a better PowerPoint template.” That’s because I’ll use that template (actually a PowerPoint 2007/2010 theme) as the starting point. But you can start with the default template or theme if you want.

1. If you’ve saved a “better” theme or template, apply it. In PowerPoint 2003,  click Design on the Formatting toolbar to open the Slide Design task pane. You may need to click Design Templates. Then choose your template.

In PowerPoint 2007/2010, you would probably save a theme. To apply it, click the Design tab and select it from the Themes gallery.

2. Choose a color scheme or theme colors. “Try design variations” explains how.

3. Press Shift and click the Normal View icon at the lower-left (2003) or lower-right (2007/2010) corner of the screen to go into Slide Master view.

4. In 2003, start by formatting the Title Master if you want it to be different from the Slide Master. Then move on to the Slide Master. If you’re using 2007 or 2010, click the larger layout thumbnail – it looks like the Title & Content layout if you want your changes to apply to all layouts. Otherwise, apply changes to the layouts individually.

5. Make the changes you want to the background. You can right-click and choose Format Background or insert content on the Slide Master.

6. To create a second slide master in PowerPoint 2003, choose Insert>New Slide Master. If you don’t get a Title Master, with the new Slide Master selected in the left pane, choose Insert>New Title Master.

To create a second slide master in PowerPoint 2007/2010, from the Slide Master tab (which appears only when you are in Slide Master view), in the Edit Master group, choose Insert Slide Master. You’ll see a new, full set of layouts in the left pane.

7. I like to get rid of clutter, so I recommend deleting layouts that you won’t use in PowerPoint 2007/2010. Right-click a layout and choose Delete Layout. You can choose a new color scheme/theme colors for the second Slide Master if you want.

8. Repeat the process of designing your template or theme for the second Slide Master.

If you like the result, you might want to save it for future use with these steps:

Return to Normal view by clicking the Normal View icon.

–In PowerPoint 2003, choose File> Save As. From the Save as Type drop-down list, choose Design Template (*.pot). Usually, this puts you in the “official” Templates folder automatically. Then name the template and click Save.

–In PowerPoint 2007 & 2010, click the Design tab and expand the Themes Gallery. At the bottom, click Save Current Theme. Again, you should be in the “official” Document Themes folder. Name the theme and click Save.

See Step 1 for instructions on using your new template or theme for future presentations. To access both Slide Masters:

–In PowerPoint 2003, open the Slide Design task pane, where you can choose either of the Slide Masters for any slide. Select the slide, click the down arrow next to the Slide Master that you want, and choose Apply to Selected Slides.

–In PowerPoint 2007 & 2010, you’ll see both Slide Masters in the Design Gallery, so you can easily choose which one you want for any individual slide. Select the slide, right-click the theme in the Design Gallery, and choose Apply to Selected Slides.

About the Author:

Ellen Finkelstein is a noted presentations skill consultant and author of How to Do Everything with PowerPoint 2007 (and 2003), 101 Tips Every PowerPoint User Should Know, 101 Advanced Techniques Every PowerPoint User Should Know and PowerPoint for Teachers: Dynamic Presentations and Interactive Classroom Projects.  Her web site,, offers the free PowerPoint Tips Newsletter, a PowerPoint Tips Blog and many ideas that help PowerPoint users create more effective presentations.

How to Remove Backgrounds in PowerPoint 2010

By Geetesh Bajaj

Among PowerPoint 2010’s newest and most magical abilities is the Remove Background option that lets you remove the background from an inserted picture. This can be a great feature if you want to remove a sky, a wall, a backdrop or something else in a photograph so that the slide background shows through within the removed parts of the picture.

Follow these steps to learn how the Remove Background option works:

1. Before you start, we assume you already have a picture on your slide. It helps if the parts of the picture you want to remove are fairly different in color than the rest of the picture, although as you get more proficient with PowerPoint’s Remove Background option, you’ll be able to work with more complicated compositions.

Look at our sample picture, as shown in Figure 1 — you will notice that the color of the sky is  distinctly different than the rest of the picture.




Figure 1: Picture with a fairly distinct background and foreground areas

2. Select the picture to display the Picture Tools Format tab (highlighted in red in Figure 2) of the Ribbon. Activate this tab by clicking on it — locate the Adjust group which includes different options to remove the background from a selected picture. Now click the Remove Background button (highlighted in blue in Figure 2).

Figure 2: Remove Background button within Picture Tools Format tab of the Ribbon

Note:  The Picture Tools Format tab is a contextual tab. Contextual tabs are special tabs in the Ribbon that are not visible all the time — they only make an appearance when you are working with a particular slide object which can be edited using special options.

Once you click the Remove Background button, PowerPoint makes a guess and shows the areas that it ascertains you want to remove (see Figure 3). In addition, note these behaviors:

a. You will see a selection box, indicated by the eight handles shown in Figure 3. Four of the eight handles in the selection box are corner handles. The other four are side handles. You use these handles to resize the selection box.

b. You have the new Background Removal tab on the Ribbon, highlighted in green in Figure 3 — we will explain the options in this tab later within this tutorial.

c. The active slide within the Slides Pane will show a preview of the picture with the background areas removed, as shown highlighted in blue in Figure 3. Don’t worry — nothing is removed as yet — this is just a preview.

Figure 3: Background Removal tab on the Ribbon

Figure 4 shows a zoomed in part of the picture — you can see that a major portion of the picture has been covered with a pink overlay. This pink overlay indicates the background areas to be removed. Only those areas that still show the original colors of the picture will be retained. Unfortunately, in this example you see that the man loses his head and both his palms as a part of the background removal.

Figure 4:
Pink overlaid areas indicate the background selected for removal

At this stage, you have two options. The simpler option is to drag the handles of the selection box to help PowerPoint decide the areas of the picture you want to remove or retain:

d. You remove more areas by resizing the selection box smaller. Click on any of the handles and drag inside the picture area — wait for a while for PowerPoint to add more pink areas to your picture.

e.You retain areas by making the selection box larger. Click and drag any of the handles outwards — again wait for a while thereafter for PowerPoint to reduce the pink areas within your picture.

For simple pictures, this is all you need to do. If you are happy with the results, go ahead and click the Keep Changes button within the Background Removal tab of the Ribbon. Alternatively, you can click anywhere on the slide outside the picture area to remove all pink overlaid background areas of the selected picture.

3.The second, and more involved option is to manually fine-tune the selection using the options within the Refine group of the Background Removal tab that you can see in Figure 5.

Figure 5:
Refine options within the Background Removal tab

These options are explained below:

1.Mark Areas to Keep: Click this button and draw lines by dragging within the areas that you want retained in the picture. Lines you draw will be indicated with a plus label (see Figure 6). You can always undo your last few markings by pressing the Ctrl+Z key.

2.Mark Areas to Remove: Click this button and draw lines by dragging to mark the areas you want to remove from the picture. Lines you draw will be indicated with a minus label (see Figure 6). You can always undo your last few markings by pressing the Ctrl+Z key.

Figure 6: Plus and minus labeled lines indicate the areas to be retained and removed respectively

3. Delete Mark: If you need to remove any of the plus or minus lines, click the Delete Mark button, and click on the line to remove it completely.

You will see how the Refine options influence the selection — all areas to be removed have a pink overlay that is updated dynamically.

4. Now, you can either abandon your selections, or remove the background:

a.If you want to start all over again or abandon the Background Removal process, click the Discard Changes button within the Close group in the Background Removal tab.

b.If you want to go ahead with the Background Removal, click the Keep Changes button in the Background Removal tab of the Ribbon. Alternatively, you can click anywhere on the slide outside the picture area to remove all pink areas of the selected picture.

In the example above in Figure 7, you can see the picture with only the sky area removed. In the picture below it, you can see the same picture with everything removed except the man. Compare it with Figure 1 above and see the difference.


Figure 7: Two variations of the same picture showing the different areas removed

Tip: The Remove Background works with pictures, as explained in this tutorial. In addition, this feature also works with any picture that is a fill for a shape.

About the Author:

Geetesh Bajaj has been designing and training with PowerPoint for 15 years and is a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional.) He heads Indezine (  a presentation design studio and content development organization based in Hyderabad, India. The site attracts more than a million page views each month and has thousands of free PowerPoint templates and other goodies for visitors to download. He also runs another PowerPoint- related site ( that provides designer PowerPoint templates.

Geetesh also is the author of the best-selling book Cutting Edge PowerPoint for Dummies and three subsequent books on PowerPoint 2007 for Windows and one on PowerPoint 2008 for Mac.

Pin It on Pinterest