Making Images Transparent in PowerPoint

Transparent 02

I have always longed for a way to import an image into PowerPoint and simply make it transparent, but until now, have had to open up Photoshop in order to achieve what I thought would be a simple effect.

Recently, whilst developing a slide with several images overlaying other objects I discovered a way of making the images transparent in PowerPoint.

Here is how to do it…

Rather than importing your images directly onto a slide in PowerPoint, you need to insert the image into a PowerPoint shape.

  •  Create a PowerPoint shape on your slide, then right click on it and select Format Picture, this will open the format picture window.
  •  Click on Fill tab on left, then select picture or texture fill as an option.
  •  Now click on the Insert From:  file… option. Navigate to the image you would like to place into the shape and double click.
  •  Your image will now have been placed into the PowerPoint shape, in the Format picture window there is a Transparency option (near the bottom) you can use this to set the transparency of the image anywhere between 0-100%.

Format shape

There is an animation option in PowerPoint allowing you to turn your image transparent, but to achieve this, your image has to be on the screen in its original format before-hand; there is also no smooth action when using this animation, the image simply switches from its original state into transparent in the blink of an eye. (Why Microsoft thought this was the best way to carry out the animation is beyond me, surely a fade to transparent option would be much more useful?)

I really don’t know what Microsoft didn’t allow you to change the transparency of all images placed onto slides, but the work around above works perfectly.

Below is a video demonstration of  how to achieve the transparency effect:

Latest comments

Dave on 10th January 2014 at 5:31 pm said

Just wanted to drop a line of thanks! This was causing me to lose hair!

Karl Parry on 17th January 2014 at 1:27 pm said

Thanks Dave – glad we could help with the hair pulling!

janka on 11th March 2014 at 11:53 am said

Doesn’t work with animated gifs.
Sometimes the dumbness of Microsoft really pisses me off. They add useless things like 1 color transparency, but can’t add simple picture transparency. What a bunch of a-holes!!!

Mat on 3rd April 2014 at 4:47 pm said

Thanks so much. What a simple solution. So glad you thought of it and shared!

Danny A on 30th April 2014 at 10:24 pm said

You guys are the best! I’ve scoured the web in disbelief that there was no good way to do a proper watermark in Powerpoint. Yours is the only site that I found with a solution. Many thanks for sharing.

Vincent Thompson on 1st May 2014 at 10:53 am said

Janka – Why are you trying to make a gif transparent? I think you may be asking a little too much of Microsoft on that one. Can’t you make the gif transparent in the program you’re creating it in?

Mat – You’re very welcome. You’d think that with such a simple workaround Microsoft could have just built the function in the first place.

Danny – we aim to please! Do let us know if there are any other issues you encounter in PowerPoint, happy to help whenever possible.

Bob Serrano on 8th May 2014 at 8:08 pm said

Been using both Macs and PCs since 1995. The transparency slider has been on the Mac version since 2008 without having to embed an image into a shape. You would by 2014, Microsoft would have brought it to par with the Mac version? Guess not. Time to switch?

janka on 14th May 2014 at 10:47 am said

Vincent – I needed to add a slight “old TV distortion” effect.. and I didn’t make it, I got it from the net.

Not sure if asking for a basic transparency is too much, ESPECIALLY when they implemented one color transparency, which is a lot more complicated and is not needed most of the time.

Also, you can adjust the transparency of shadows and reflections, glow and other effects you apply to a picture, but not to the picture itself. It’s just ridiculous.

Richard on 28th May 2014 at 9:07 am said

Vincent – this is a super helpful tip, thanks so much! I’ve been looking for a way to do this easily for ages

Vincent Thompson on 28th May 2014 at 1:34 pm said

Bob – You’re right, you would think they could have built in this functionality by now. I’d love to be able to fade down parts of an image in a similar way to creating a gradient.

Janka – I feel your pain, perhaps the effect could be created and then animated in PowerPoint with transparency applied.
You can apply transparency to an image by the way (its what this whole article is based on), perhaps worth another read?

Richard – Glad we could help.

janka on 11th June 2014 at 7:05 am said

Gif is also an image. And this article just describes a work-around, which sometimes doesn’t work.
All I’m saying is that we wouldn’t have to look for work-arounds if MS would implement this BASIC feature (which is present in OpenOffice/LibreOffice and other free office alternatives, but isn’t there even in the newest Office versions).

Duane on 23rd June 2014 at 3:16 pm said

Older versions of Powerpoint used to have this function (2007 – 2008). I was frustrated recently when I was trying to make a picture transparent with the newer version and couldn’t find the feature. I ended up copying a transparent picture from an old version. But this doesn’t help with new material.

Thanks Vincent for showing this work around. Maybe Microsoft can consider bringing back that old feature we all seem to like so much.

TG on 26th June 2014 at 9:37 am said

omg thank you SO much. brilliant!

Vincent Thompson on 26th June 2014 at 10:41 am said

Duane – its true, older versions of PowerPoint did have the functionality, its so strange that Microsoft take things away for no good reason. Perhaps we should start a campaign, I know there are quite a few basic functions the team at BrightCarbon would like to see implemented.

TG – glad to be of service, happy PowerPointing!

Susanta on 11th July 2014 at 8:25 am said

Thank you for this Very useful information and tips. I just wonder why this process didn’t came in my mind. Anyway thanks once again.

Rahul on 17th July 2014 at 8:22 am said

Very useful Vincent… many thanks 🙂

Hersh on 6th August 2014 at 7:38 pm said

I found this article most helpful. Thank you.

Karl Parry on 14th August 2014 at 9:12 am said

No problem Hersh, glad we could help!

Ian on 3rd October 2014 at 10:17 am said

Brilliant, thank-you so much for this tip, it had been driving me crazy not being able to set transparency on pictures in Powerpoint and with no photoshop to work with I had absolutly no solution until I read this post, thank-you again you are a real star!!!!!

Vincent Thompson on 7th October 2014 at 11:55 am said

Ian, we aim to please. Glad the post came in handy for you.
Happy PowerPointing!

Zian Merchant on 27th October 2014 at 11:44 am said

Thank you SO much for this! It has been annoying many of us for a while now. This has been the simplest way so far.


Dhruv Chadha on 27th October 2014 at 4:59 pm said

This making the image transparent solution is great. It worked for me and was quick. Thank you Vincent!

Carrie on 6th November 2014 at 4:40 pm said

This is fantastic!!! Thank you!

Farzan on 10th November 2014 at 1:40 pm said

Thank you very much , that was exactly what i needed … very nice 🙂

Ashley on 3rd March 2015 at 3:29 pm said

This was really, really useful. I knew there HAD to be a way since you can make background images transparent. Really baffling how Microsoft has made this so hard.

Noor on 15th August 2015 at 7:14 am said

very helpful. thanks

mark m on 6th October 2015 at 7:03 pm said

Wow, this tip has changed my life! lol joking aside thanks for this post it has helped me out a lot i just could not figure it out.

Tim Rose on 18th November 2015 at 12:37 pm said

Great tip… thanks!

naila on 5th January 2016 at 5:33 pm said

my artistic effect is not working how to remove this bug plz help me

Kate on 7th January 2016 at 6:36 am said

OMG I’ve spent hours trying to work this out! you are brilliant! (By the way, I used it in Word not Powerpoint, but same function)

Leonardo on 25th February 2016 at 12:56 am said

Wow… This IS useful! Finally!!! I just wanted to take a minute and thank you for this. I was suffering!

Andrew on 21st April 2016 at 10:42 am said

Fantastic, been trying to do this all morning. Thank you

Farhan Naeem on 9th May 2016 at 7:39 am said

Thank you So much!! This Helps a lot.. 🙂

Pedrito on 10th May 2016 at 8:58 pm said

I want to overlay one transparent picture on another solid. Your advice works fine till the very end: when I stop sizing the overlaid image, it reverts to solid and blanks out the transparent first image. A workaround is to take a screenshot while holding the mouse button down for the resize – what have I done wrong?

Vincent Thompson on 11th May 2016 at 10:08 am said

Pedrito – the transparent image should still show the solid one behind.
What I think may be happening is that the transparent image is sat behind the solid one, that’d explain why it isn’t showing through.

In order to bring it back in front, right click on the transparent image and select bring to front option.
Hope this helps.

Marlin on 16th May 2016 at 5:06 am said

great tip, thank you very much 🙂

Vincent Jacobs on 9th March 2017 at 10:07 pm said

Thanks for the video, but I think we can all agree that having to shape-fill a picture is a work-around. We need to inform Microsoft that not having the ability to directly change the transparency of a picture is a mistake and that this ability needs to be added as an office patch ASAP.

Kevin Nachtrab on 11th May 2017 at 2:28 pm said

The workaround is really useful BUT when I print the slides, the transparency of some (but not all) pictures is lost. This is a real problem if you have put text in over a transparent picture. Any work around with that if I use this solution?

Vincent Thompson on 15th May 2017 at 1:20 pm said

Hi Kevin

How frustrating, never fear, we have the answer:

Once you’ve carried out the process above, right click on the image and cut it from the slide. Then right click again and paste it in as a picture. This will pop your transparent image onto the slide again, but this time it will be a PNG file, meaning the printer will understand and be able to print it.

hope that sorts it out for you.

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