Creating stand-out graphics in PowerPoint
I recently wrote about the Background Removal tool in Office 2010 and how it can be used to cut out an object or person from a photograph. There’s a variation on the use of this tool that can be used in Word, Excel or Outlook, but it’s particularly useful in PowerPoint, where you can combine it with a simple fade transition.
The aim isn’t to remove the background completely, but to make it recede so that one object or person stands out more prominently. For this example I’ll use a stock photo of a girls’ soccer team that’s in the Office clip-art collection. We want to highlight the girl at the front, but don’t want to remove her from her team-mates.
On a new slide in PowerPoint, click the Clip-Art icon in the content placeholder, or on an existing slide click Insert | Images | Clip Art. Search the clip-art for “Team” and restrict the results to photos using the “Results should be” dropdown. Click the picture of the girls’ soccer team, around seventh on the list to insert it, or drag it to where you want it on the slide. After inserting the image, we’re going to copy it and apply an artistic effect to one copy.
Copy the slide by clicking Home | Slides | New Slide | Duplicate Selected Slides. Now, in the second slide click on the image to select it and copy it to the Clipboard Ctrl-C. We’ll use that copy later. Click Image Tools | Format | Adjust | Artistic Effects to pick the effect you want to use for the background of the image. Blur, Line Drawing or Photocopy work well. Paste the unaltered image you copied to the Clipboard into the slide by pressing Ctrl-V. On this copy, we’ll remove everything except the front-most girl in the picture.
Click Image Tools | Format | Adjust | Background Removal. Handles will appear around what the application thinks is the foreground object, and all the background will be coloured with a purple wash – drag the handles to ensure they tightly surround the girl at the front then click the Mark Areas to Keep tool and click or drag in any purple areas that shouldn’t be. You may also have to use the Mark Areas to Remove tool for background that isn’t marked purple. When you’re happy all the background is marked purple and the foreground girl is visible, click Keep Changes. All the purple areas become transparent and you’re left with only the front-most girl.
Now you can slide the picture of the single girl over the blurred group picture. Holding down the Alt key lets you position the image without it snapping to the grid. If the edges of the non-blurred image are too hard, you can apply the soft edge effect to blur them. Click Image Tools | Picture Styles | Picture Effects | Soft Edges | 2.5pt. To complete the effect, select the second slide and click Transitions | Transition to this Slide | Fade and in the Duration box in the Timing group, select 1.5 seconds.
Now when you go to Slideshow your first slide will be shown and, at a click, it will fade to the second, making the background appear to blur then leaving the girl at the front in focus. You can change the first slide to advance to the second after a set delay rather than after a click. Select the first slide and click Transitions | Timing | After, and set the delay to the duration you want to see the unblurred slide.
Of course, you can use your own images in place of the Clip Art, and you can use this same effect (without the transitions) in Word, Excel or Outlook. However, in Word or Outlook it’s best to put the images into a Drawing Canvas – Insert | Illustrations | Shapes | New Drawing Canvas – so the two images act as one in terms of positioning and word-wrap, and don’t become detached from each other while you edit your document or when sending an email.
A variation of this effect can be achieved by leaving the background image unchanged but adding a glow to the foreground one. With the background removed, the glow follows the outline of the foreground object, and with a Shape, Split or Clock transition the glow can appear to be drawn around the object.