Crop around an image in PowerPoint 2003

Sometimes, you want to crop around an image with a complex shape. Most people do this in Adobe® Photoshop® or another image-editing program, but you can do it in PowerPoint if you don’t have or know another program.

If you have PowerPoint for the Mac, the Picture toolbar has two lasso buttons that you can use. These are similar to the lasso tools found in image-editing programs and I wish that PowerPoint for the PC had them. But if you’re on a PC, there’s another option. Unfortunately, this technique doesn’t work in PowerPoint 2007, because the image becomes distorted. Even in 2003, you need to crop your image first, so that the part you want to keep reaches the edges of the photo’s borders. Otherwise, PowerPoint stretches (or squishes) the image.

Let’s say you’d like to crop around this photo, to remove the background.

a photo for cropping

a photo for cropping

Follow these steps:

    1. Insert the image that you want to use. It needs to be a separate file, rather than pasted from the Clipboard.
    2. Crop the image so that the part you want to keep is centered. This is very important; otherwise, the end result will be shifted or skewed.
    3. Increase the zoom to at least 100%, more for a complex outline. Make sure that the entire image is on the screen. (Closing an open task bar helps.)
    4. From the Drawing toolbar, choose AutoShapes> Lines> Freeform.
    5. Click anywhere along the edge where you want to crop and drag around the image (with the mouse button held down). For straight lines, you can release the mouse button and click at the end of the line. When you’re back to the start point, release the mouse button and the freeform should complete itself.
cutting along the edges

cutting along the edges

Note: It doesn’t have to be perfect; you can edit it later. Also, I must admit that using a mouse is somewhat awkward and I used instead a Wacom tablet with a stylus. This is the ideal tool for the job.

    1. Right-click the freeform and choose Format AutoShape . Change the fill to No Fill, but leave the outline alone. For this tutorial, I made the outline thicker, so you could see it clearly.
outline created

outline created

    1. Now you’ll see some places that need to be adjusted. For example, on the right side of the image, the line is too far away from the collar and shoulder.
    2. Select the freeform and on the Drawing toolbar, choose Draw>Edit Points. You now see lots of dots around the outline.
    3. To adjust a point, click it and drag it to the desired location. You can also right-click a point that you don’t want and choose Delete Point. Continue until your freeform closely follows the outline of the image.
more detailed cropping

more detailed cropping

  1. Delete the image.
  2. Double-click the freeform. On the Colors and Lines tab, click the Fill Color drop-down list and choose Fill Effects. Click the Picture tab and then click the Select Picture button. Choose the picture you chose before and click Insert. Click OK twice.
  3. The picture now fills the freeform. Because the freeform is the shape of the image (minus the background that you don’t want), the result is to crop the picture!
  4. Format the freeform again and set the outline to No Outline.
image minus the original background

image minus the original background

7 comments to Crop around an image in PowerPoint 2003

  • Vincent

    Thank you very much for this helpful info. It really unlocks many creative possibilities :)

  • Thanks a lot. Helped me a lot in producing nice Play Money for my son… – Regards M.R.P.

  • Brian Long

    Ellen,
    I was really excited when I found this as I have always wanted to be able to do this. However, I am following your steps (I have 2007 if it matters) but when I insert the picture back into the free form shape it is now squished to try to fit into the shape I have made. For instance, if I am trying to crop out back 2 of 3 people, I get the entire group of 3 crammed into the shape of the one I outlined? Any ideas what I may be doing wrong here? Thanks.

  • I should have made it clearer, but do you see how the person in the image I used in the post hit all sides of the photo? Try cropping the photo first, so that you don’t have extra space anywhere. Also, as I did mention, I didn’t get good results in 2007. I highly recommend 2010, which has its own background remover — it will make you very happy!

  • Dominique

    Hello,

    I have PowerPoint 2010 and I could not find the last steps
    Double-click the freeform. On the Colors and Lines tab, click the Fill Color drop-down list and choose Fill Effects. Click the Picture tab and then click the Select Picture button. Choose the picture you chose before and click Insert. Click OK twice.
    The picture now fills the freeform. Because the freeform is the shape of the image (minus the background that you don’t want), the result is to crop the picture!
    Format the freeform again and set the outline to No Outline.

    Any idea how to proceed?
    Thanks,
    Dom

  • Dominique,
    In PowerPoint 2010, I recommend using the Remove Background feature. This tip is really just a workaround for earlier versions.
    But you can fill a freeform with an image in PowerPoint 2007 or 2010. Select it and click the Format tab. Choose Shape Fill> Picture.

  • abigail

    Super useful! Thank you for the very clear instructions!!

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