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Friday, October 23, 2009

Word 2010 – Background Removal is Awesome


I’m really enjoying Office more and more as I use it.  I just came across this great little feature called Background Removal that is fun to play with and really neat to watch it work.

The idea is pretty simple: you have a picture that has some background element to it that you want to take out.  You highlight the area containing the subject you would like to keep, then the magic algorithm kicks in and subtracts out the ugly parts.  Nice.

My guess would be that they are sussing out the selected portion of the image for a number of cues: sharpness, color variation, separation of back/foreground through focus, etc.  Though this sounds easy, I once worked on a graphics library that figured out if there was “direction” visually present in an image (like prominent vertical, horizontal or diagonal lines) and know that this kind of work is tough…especially with the speed that this tool works at.

For power users, the tool is located on the Picture Tools menu for selected images.  Skip to the end of this post to see the end result.  Otherwise, here’s a step-by-step":

First, find a picture that you want to work with:


Next, view and copy the image to your clipboard:


Paste the image into Word (or any Office application) and select the image by clicking on it.  You’ll know that the image is properly selected when there are handles on it and Word’s Ribbon interface has the “Picture Tools” option added to it.  By the way, who picked hot pink for a UI color?


Select Format under the Picture Tools ribbon and click on Background Removal.


Next, play around with the bounding box to help instruct the Background Removal tool on how to better figure out what is foreground and what is background.


You can also use the “Mark to Include” tool to further tune the selection. 

Lastly, press ENTER to see your final result.


Dang.  It’s literally 4-5 seconds to do this.  Do you know how many man-years I’ve spent in Photoshop doing this?  Hehehe…it’s not perfect by any means, but for 95% of what you do this will likely work. 

My best guess would be that anyone doing presentations and trying to incorporate product or people shots while dropping the backgrounds will now look a lot more pro.  This is a significant improvement over the previous hit-and-miss method of “Choose Transparent Color”.

Nice work, Office folks!

1 comment:

  1. Good and informative tutorial about background removal. The instructions shared through this tutorial is well-explained. keep blogging and thanks.

    image background removal