Removing the Background from an Image in Excel

Since John Walkenbach shut down his J-Walk blog back in 2011, I’ve been reading his Google Plus page where I get a daily regimen of the silly, odd, and absurd things he finds on the internet. It’s usually good for a few good chuckles. But today I actually learned something new about Excel.

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John mentioned that Excel can remove the background from an imported image. I didn’t know that! I’m guessing most of Excel’s non-artistic nerd community missed this too.

Apparently, this feature works in Excel 2010 and Excel 2013 (not sure about 2007).

Here’s the deal:

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Let’s say I import a picture like this one into Excel, and I want to crop out everything except the picture of John playing the banjo on the right.

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I can click on the picture while it’s in Excel, and choose the Remove Background command on the far left of the Format tab.

This immediately puts a purple box around my picture.

I start by adjusting the handles to the area that I want to keep. Excel does a pretty good job getting close to removing everything but John. But you can see that it missed his feet, part of his head, and part of the banjo (they’re still in purple).

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So this is where I can use a few commands on the Background Removal tab.

Mark Areas to Keep: Allows me to tag the areas to keep in my picture

Mark Areas to Remove: Allows me to tag the areas to crop out

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The idea is to select Mark Areas to Keep and draw a line through the areas that I want to keep. Then I select Mark Areas to Remove and draw a line through all the areas that I want removed.

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Once I’m ready, I can click the Keep Changes command. My reward is this fine picture of Zen Walkenbach playing banjo on one foot.

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He looked uncomfortable, so I gave him something to sit on.

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Thanks for the tip John!

8 thoughts on “Removing the Background from an Image in Excel

  1. ross

    It’s not in 2007 or lower Mike, although there are other approaches. I whish they had just put in a normal magic wand type tool, because although this works well most of the time, some times it’s not very good, and you’re a bit stuck!

    More of an issue in power point

  2. Sally

    Came here via Chandoo to your “Enhancing Dashboard Interfaces with Shape Layering Tricks”, then stumbled across this post.
    Have had a play and it works like magic – thanks for sharing.

  3. remove background

    Sometimes we did not like the background of an image. There are various tools available through which we can easily remove the white background or many types of background from the image. In excel or in any other format we can remove the background. Various tools are available for that. This link surely helps you a lot in many ways.

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