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How to Edit and Use Images in PowerPoint

Written by Amy Singh, Communication Consultant at presentation design agency BrightCarbon

At BrightCarbon, making compelling visual presentations is our forte, and most people agree that you can’t have a beautiful presentation without great images. However, just inserting stock imagery into your slides doesn’t always get you exactly what you want in terms of audience engagement. To make really compelling slides, it also helps to be able to have flexibility with your imagery so that you can use images to do more than just sit on a slide.

By knowing how to manipulate images within PowerPoint, you can achieve really eye-catching results that increase your audience engagement. By using techniques like blurring images in the backgrounds of your slides, you can focus the audience’s attention on certain aspects of your slides, and allow them to follow along with the exact story you are telling. This increases their overall understanding of the content you’re presenting and ensures that your presentation will be much more effective.

Since now you’re convinced of the importance of using images in your presentations, let’s get into some easy ways you can manipulate images in PowerPoint.


Removing image background

One of the most common requests I hear from people using stock imagery is that they have an image with a background, but they need to make the background transparent. Sometimes the image has a solid color fill or white fill background, and other times the background of the image is filled with busy objects and people. Surprisingly enough, no matter how complex of a background you are working with, there is a tool in PowerPoint that can easily remove the background from your images, aptly named ‘Remove background.’ To use, click on your image and then simply navigate to the ‘Format’ tab on the ribbon and click the icon farthest to the left.  When you click the icon, you’ll notice that your image changes to a hot pink color. The areas in hot pink are the ones that will be deleted, and the areas that remain in color will be preserved. To adjust these areas, just use the ‘Mark areas to keep’ and ‘Mark areas to remove’ functions to place marks across areas you want deleted or saved. Once you click ‘Keep changes’, your image will change to reflect these alterations. If you aren’t happy with how your new image looks, just click ‘Remove background’ again and you can pick up where you left off until you’re content with the new image.


Image blur

A really nice image effect is to have a blurred image in the background of your slides. This allows you to do things like have text in the foreground, or to have the blurred background image fade out and sharpen on a click to bring it into focus. To accomplish the second technique, start by duplicating your background image. One version of the image will remain as is, and for the second, navigate to the ‘Format’ tab on the ribbon and select ‘Artistic effects’ to determine how much Gaussian blur you’d like to add to your image. Make sure the two versions of the image are lined up at the top and left, and then apply a ‘Fade in on-click’ animation to the un-blurred image. Now, your blurred image will seem to be suddenly coming into focus on a click, which is an easy visual way to catch your audience’s attention and a nice way to introduce any slide.



Image reflection

PowerPoint also gives you some options for creating more ‘realistic’ images. For example, by using simple tools you can create detailed reflections on shapes or images very easily. This can help you create more realistic scenarios (for example, a ball on a basketball court) and make your slides look more dynamic. This technique also comes in handy if you have a presentation featuring a certain product, and you’d like to have a cut-out of that product appear more realistic. To achieve this effect, go to ‘Format’, ‘Picture effects’ and then select ‘Reflection’. Once you get there, you can control how far the reflection reaches, whether you’d like it to blur the further away it gets, plus many more options.



Similar to using image reflection, you can also use the ‘Picture effects’ tool to create realistic shadows. This comes in handy when you want cut-out images to sit realistically in space, or even if you just want to create some extra dimension. For example, if you have an image of a pile of papers, applying a slight shadow underneath them gives them a more realistic appearance, and for certain presentations this style can be useful. Just go to ‘Format’, ‘Picture effects’ and ‘Shadow’ and you can adjust multiple parameters in order to create a shadow effect that you’re happy with.


Image color overlay

In addition to using shadows, you can help your imagery look more consistent throughout your presentation by making sure that all your images have a similar color palette. If this isn’t already the case with the images you’ve downloaded, have no fear! You can adjust the saturation and tone of the colors in all your images within PowerPoint. To do this, click on the image you’d like to adjust and navigate to ‘Format’ and then ‘Color’, and you’ll have a range of options for adjusting the color of your imagery, including effects like giving the image a washed-out appearance or changing it to black and white. There is lots of opportunity here to be creative, and you can really impact the overall appearance of your presentation.


Image compression

As a final tip for how to better use images in PowerPoint, it’s also important to make sure your images aren’t causing your presentation to increase to a mammoth-like size. It’s easy for your presentation to become huge when you’re inserting tons of beautiful, (but huge) images on every slide. An easy way to knock out a decent chunk of megabytes is to compress your images within PowerPoint. To do this, begin by clicking on any one of the images in your presentation. You’ll only have to perform this step once, so clicking on any image is fine. Then, go to ‘Format’ and ‘Compress pictures’ and a menu will pop up on your screen. Make sure ‘Apply only to this picture’ is unchecked and ‘Delete cropped areas of pictures’ is checked, and set the resolution to ‘Print (220 ppi)’. Once you click ‘OK’ PowerPoint will apply this new resolution to all the images in your presentation, and once you save you should notice a significant decrease in file size.

If your file size is still too large after compressing images, we have a more detailed tutorial of how to reduce PowerPoint file size on our blog.

In conclusion, there’s no doubt that using images in your presentations will make your slides look better, but it’s also important to remember that you don’t have to use images you find ‘as-is’. There are a lot of ways you can improve the effectiveness of your images, and it’s very easy to do so in PowerPoint. Once you learn how to apply these tips and tricks effectively, you can create presentations that are more visual, more interesting and work better for all audiences.


If you want to learn more about using PowerPoint, including open and in-company face-to-face training, check out BrightCarbon’s Advanced PowerPoint Training and free online PowerPoint course.


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