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Word 2010: Remove the background from an image

February 14, 2011

Here’s a cool new feature of Word 2010 I’ve just discovered! You can remove the background of an image, leaving only the pertinent parts.

Here’s one of the sample images in Windows inserted into a Word 2010 document:

And here’s the same image after I used the Remove Background tool to take out the background:

So, how did I do it and what are the things to watch out for?

  1. Insert the image into your Word 2010 document (Insert tab > Picture).
  2. Once it’s in, select it to open the Picture Tools toolbar > Format tab.
  3. Click the Remove Background button (at the far left on the Picture Tools > Format tab).
  4. Your image opens with a ‘best guess’ from Word as to what it is you want to keep (the area marked with the white box).
  5. Drag the handles on the white lines to mark the boundaries of the object(s) you want to keep. The objects that will remain are shown in their normal colors. In the example below, I’ve dragged the handles a little and you can see that the turtle and some of the fish will be included.
  6. But what if you don’t want the fish? Then you have to drag the white lines so they just touch the turtle and the fish turn pink. It can be a fine line between including something in the background and not, so you may need to experiment a bit. You can always reset the picture and try again if you don’t get what you want the first time.
  7. When you have finished, click the Keep Changes button to return to the document — your image’s background should be gone.
  8. If you messed up, don’t despair– just click the Reset Picture button and start again.

Other things you can do with the Remove Background picture effects feature:

  • Click the Mark Areas to Keep button, then draw point-to-point lines to outline the part of the image you want to keep. When you’ve finished, click Keep Changes.
  • Click the Mark Areas to Remove button, then draw point-to-point lines to outline the part of the image you want to delete. When you’ve finished, click Keep Changes.

If you make a mistake, click Delete Mark to remove the most recent line you drew, or Discard All Changes to remove all lines.

I’m continually pleasantly surprised by the extra graphics editing capabilities Microsoft is incorporating into Word. Yes, I know Word is fundamentally a text editor, but for people who don’t want to spend big bucks on graphics software OR spend the time learning how to use it, these new features are quick, simple and easy to use — and they come free with Word. For the user who only occasionally needs to work with graphics, Word just keeps getting better and better.

See also:

[Links last checked August 2012]

9 comments

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  2. [...] Word 2010: Remove the background from an image [...]


  3. Is there anyway to change the tolerance level?


  4. Not that I can see. For that, you’d have to use some sort of graphics editing software.

    –Rhonda


  5. Thanks Rhonda. I believe you’re right. I have access some editing software but run into new problems. I appreciate your help!


  6. Help..How do I eliminate PICTURE TOOLS toolbar. I don’t need or want to use pictures but I can’t get it off?????


  7. Hi Millicent

    By default, the Picture Tools toolbar doesn’t show in Word 2007 and Word 2010. You only ever see it if you have an image in your document AND you have clicked on that image. Then it displays, but ONLY under those circumstances. So most of the time you never see it.

    In Word 2010, you can modify some of the ribbon options (File > Options > Customize Toolbar, then select Tool Tabs from the drop-down list on the top right), including the Picture Tools.

    However, I wouldn’t advise that you do this.

    –Rhonda


  8. If someone else has removed the “Remove Background” button from the Format ribbon, how can you add it back?


  9. Hi Bob

    Go to File > Options > Customize Ribbon. The Background Removal checkbox is the last one in the list on the right — check it, then click OK.

    –Rhonda



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