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Change a picture to a custom color in Office

Don’t miss this often overlooked Office trick, changing the color of an image or graphic in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or Outlook.

We did this in our article about inserting Prince’s ‘Love Symbol Number 2’ in Office documents.  The image is available in various formats but always black, not purple.

As usual, there’s more to color changes than most tips mention. will dig a little deeper to show you what works, and what doesn’t.

We’ll start with a standard bit of clipart.

Peter is in Egypt at the moment, so naturally he chose the ancient Eye of Horus!

The image is really two colors, black plus whites for the eye.  The rest is transparent, which is more obvious with a colored page background.  These two colors in the graphic are important as we get into the color change options of Office.

Click  on Picture | Format | Color to see many options with previews.  Today we’ll focus on the Recolor or color change options.

Look carefully at the recolor options we’ve circled.

On the bottom row is the standard ‘recolor everything’ option you’d expect. Office has taken the black elements of the image and changed them to a single color.

The top row retains the black color but with different shadings.

But the middle row only changes the ‘whites of the eye’ to different colors.

Custom Color

Don’t like Microsoft’s color scheme?  It’s not bad but it’s grossly overused because it’s the default for millions of Office users.  Look at the (misnamed) More Variations menu for more choices.

It should be called ‘More Colors’ because that the only ‘variation’ available.  The usual Office color selector is available including More Colors… to choose from a full palette.

Live Preview is available to see how the changes will look before they are applied.

The trick with our ‘two color’ example is which color is changed?  There’s no way to specify to Office which color in the original to change.  In the above example, More Variations changes the white ‘eye’ to green.

Recolor a Picture

It’s a different story with images.

We’re still in Egypt, a felucca on the River Nile

Picture | Format | Adjust | Color changes the entire image like a color overlay.

The More Variations / More Colors option is still available with more color choices.

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