You can’t make an image itself transparent in PowerPoint, but there’s a workaround.
Update! In PowerPoint 365 (the subscription version), you can now make an image transparent. See the end of this blog post.
Why would you want to make an image transparent?
- For a soft look
- To overlap images
- To let text show through
You might have other reasons — if so leave a comment!
It’s a matter of choice
Normally, I would create a slide like this one…
But if I wanted a softer look, to emphasize that the woman is thinking (which is a soft type of activity), I might use a semi-transparent image…
This also allows me to put the text on top of the image instead of wrapping it.
How to create a semi-transparent image
The workaround is to insert a shape, fill it with the image, and then set the transparency of the shape. Here are the steps:
- Insert the image onto a slide. If you want to crop it, do that now.
- Copy the image to the Clipboard.
- Insert a rectangle and drag it on top of the image so that it’s the same size as the image. If the rectangle has different proportions, your image will be distorted.
- Right-click the rectangle and choose Format Shape.
- If necessary, click the Fill icon and expand the Fill section. Choose Picture or Texture Fill.
- Click the Clipboard button to fill the shape with the picture that you copied to the Clipboard.
- Drag the Transparency slider until you get the result you want.
- If you want to remove the Outline, expand the Line section and choose No Line.
- Drag the shape away from the original image and delete the image.
Here are some ways to use semi-transparent images that you might find appealing…
You can use a transparency gradient to gradually fade out the edge of an image. I explain how in my blog post, “Use transparency gradients.” In some cases, you can fade out an image by simply putting a semi-transparent rectangle in front of it.
In PowerPoint 365 (the subscription version), you can now make an image transparent. Here are the steps:
- Select the image
- Click the Picture Tools Format tab.
- In the Adjust group, click the Transparency down arrow and choose one of the preset options or click Picture Transparency Options.
- If you click Picture Transparency Options, the Format Picture task pane opens where you can drag the Transparency slider or type in any transparency percentage.
What do you think of these looks? Can you think of ways to use semi-transparent photos in your presentations? Please leave a comment and also share using the social media icons.
Thanks for sharing. I can see many places where this technique would be useful. The contrast between soft images and full images is in itself a form of emphasis or highlighting.
This is a nice workaround for making pictures transparent. We’ve created a one-step shortcut (to do all the 9 steps in one shot) in in our PowerPointLabs add-in
I already use PowerPoint for image editing because it makes removing backgrounds and other things sooo much simpler than even high-end software sometimes.
This is great to know – unfortunately, my company will not be going with the subscription version of MS Office.
Do you know if there’s an inexpensive way to get a personal license?
Many thanks for all you do and share!
Angela, thanks for your kind comments. You can get Office 365 for as little as $6.99/month or $69/year. That’s the “Personal” version and it’s good on 1 computer. And for $9.99/month, you can get it for up to 5 computers, which is a great deal if you want it for a family or multiple devices. Here’s the link: https://products.office.com/en-us/compare-all-microsoft-office-products?tab=1&OCID=AID737190_SEM_PFavzOi5&lnkd=Google_O365SMB_NI&gclid=Cj0KCQjwi8fdBRCVARIsAEkDvnKA6RVQwZbReZZqMqFdsh8bpIE-OZDLN7fiisr-LYu63_Jlcyu7s38aAlLQEALw_wcB
Once I faded a grey & while image over its counterpart (in colour). As the grey shaded image slowy dissapeared the coloured one slowly started to appear.
Using a an image with transparency would add some richness to this transition. Looking forward to try it.
BTW Ellen I have heard of a zooming feature unique to PPT Office 365 allowing to zoom and zoom and zoom more until very small things come into view. Is that true?
Daniel at ComboProjects
My office has Office 365, but I do not see the Transparency option. Do you have any idea why that might be?
Your IT administrator may have set it up to delay updates. Some companies delay them 4-6 months. Do you have someone there you could ask?
[…] this case, the background is a dark gray and the image is 65% transparent. This blog post, Create a soft look with semi-transparent images in PowerPoint, will show you how to do […]