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Background Removal Tool in Office 2010

In Office 2010 there’s Background Removal tool which suggests you can neatly remove the background of images with just one click. It’s really more than that. It’s a powerful editing tool that lets you grab segments of a photo.

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by Office for Mere Mortals

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In Word 2007 you could set a transparency color which was OK for images of uniform color. For example you could expose only a corporate logo without the colored background. For photos it wasn’t so good.

In Office 2010 there’s Background Removal tool which suggests you can neatly remove the background of images with just one click. It’s really more than that. It’s a powerful editing tool that lets you grab segments of a photo.

It’s not as good as similar features in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements however it’s enough for many jobs.

This tool is available only for documents in Office 2010 format. It is not available for documents opened in compatibility mode in Word 2010. To workaround that edit the document in ‘non-compatibility mode’ (i.e. .docx etc.) then save the result to another format at the end.

To work with this tool, first insert an image in a document by clicking on Insert | Picture and select the required image to insert.

Flower image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

Click on the image to view the Picture Tools. In the Format ribbon you can find “Remove Background” link.

Background removal tool image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

When you click on this tool, the background that will be removed will appear in purple shade in the image.

Background removal area image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

Also more options related to refining the removal of background further are displayed under “Background Removal” menu. If you wish to remove the background marked by the purple shade then click on [enter] button. You will get the image with the background removed.

Background removed image image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

Refine background Removal

If you wish to edit the area of the background to be removed then click on the image and select Picture Tools | Format | Remove Background.

Edit background image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

You can resize the blue marker around the image by dragging at the corners or moving it and placing it at required area of the image. After making the changes you can click on [enter] for the changes to take effect.

Areas to Keep

In the selected area for background removal you can further select specific areas to keep or remove from the background. For this click on the image and select “Remove Background” tab from the picture format tools. In the “Background Removal” menu options if you want to retain certain areas of the background from the selected area then click on Background Removal | Refine | Mark Areas to Keep.

Areas to keep image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

Using the "pencil" pointer, mark the area in the image to retain. You will observe that, from the area marked to keep the purple shade will disappear. To revert back press [ctrl Z]. Notice from the below screenshot that the areas that you mark to keep has a “+” symbol enclosed in a circle. This indicates that such areas have been additionally added to be part of the image to be retained.

Keep changes image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

Click on Background Removal | Close | Keep Changes to retain the modifications and close the “Background Removal” menu.

Save changes image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

Areas to Remove

Likewise to remove certain portions of the background that is not shaded, click on Background Removal | Refine | Mark Areas to Remove. Using the pencil pointer mark the area to remove. As you draw the line on the image to remove you will notice those areas covered by purple shade. To revert back press [ctrl Z]. Notice from the below screenshot that the areas that you mark to remove has a “-” symbol enclosed in a circle indicating that such areas will be removed from the image. Click on Background Removal | Close | Keep Changes to retain the modifications and close the “Background Removal” menu.

Areas to remove image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

Delete Marked Area

After marking the areas to keep or remove if you want to delete some of the markers then click on Background Removal | Refine | Delete Mark. Now on the image click on the “+” or “-“symbol based on the marker that you want to delete. Once you click on the symbol that particular marker will be removed and the background restored.

To completely discard all the changes and close the “Background Removal” menu, click on Background Removal | Close | Discard Changes. This will return the image back to its original self. Even the purple shade indicating the background to be removed will disappear.

Discard changes image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

Another example

Just to make the point that ‘Background Removal’ can be used to edit out any part of an image (not just a background). Check out this image from the Ulaanbaatar Opera House, Mongolia and the amazing Throat or Overtone Singers. It’s a lot harder to work with than the simple example used above.

Mongolia concert with Throat singers - small image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

We’re just interested in the guy on the right. By default, Word 2010 picks out the orchestra.

Word 2010 - Background Removal - default selection image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

If you adjust the selection box, Word will change what it thinks is the foreground and background.

Word 2010 - Background Removal - changed selection box image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

Now you have to do some finer editing to select what you want and remove anything else.

Tip: Changing the document zoom will help you see those details

Word 2010 - Background Removal - with add and delete points image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

The ‘Mark Areas to Remove’ lets you draw a line to place a boundary between an area you want and one you don’t. See the dotted line with the ‘minus’ symbol on bottom right along the edge of the singers costume. Word had trouble automatically discerning the costume from background but once the line was inserted it was easy to select wanted elements to the left of the line.

Here’s the final result with some more parts of the image selected or removed.

Word 2010 - Background Removal - final result cropped image from Background Removal Tool in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

The image has been cropped to reduce the size. The result isn’t perfect by any means, but pretty good for a few minutes work inside a document.

Article posted: Friday, 23 July 2010

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