Move over, Photoshop—Excel can handle your photo editing


At a glance

When you think of Excel, you think of numbers. Excel is primarily a data analysis program, so not many Excel users consider the use of graphics or photos in their spreadsheets. In older versions, Excel offers only limited photo-editing capabilities, but Excel is now giving us numbers folks the chance to be creative without using expensive design software. We’ll show you how Excel 2010 and 2013 may offer the graphic manipulation you need, such as special effects and even eliminating a background to isolate one object in your graphic.

To edit graphics using new Excel features, we’ll:

  • Insert a graphic in our spreadsheet.
  • Remove the background from the graphic so that only one element of the graphic remains.
  • Add a special creative effect to the graphic.

Excel has a bad reputation for presenting information in a boring, dry way because the data often includes loads of numbers. Each version offers newer ways to increase the appeal of your spreadsheets, such as charts, icons, and data bars. And these visuals have several positive uses in Excel spreadsheets. As shown in Figure A, you can add photos, logos, or other graphics to a spreadsheet to make it more interesting or increase branding.

Even with new and better visual elements to use in a spreadsheet, most Excel users avoid using photos or other graphics because Excel’s inherent ability to edit graphics has always left a lot to be desired. But now Excel has upped the ante. You can take a raw image and make drastic changes to get what you need, as shown in Figure B.

We’ll show you how to get some of the same results you might achieve with hard-to-learn and expensive design software right from Excel tools.

Grab a graphic or photo

Let’s get started by inserting a graphic or photo in our spreadsheet. When you’re thinking about what graphics can enhance your spreadsheet, think about the following options:

  • A company logo or business photo
  • A photo related to your data (such as a sea turtle for our aquarium feeding schedule)
  • A graphic that highlights an important part of your data

Once you’ve decided on the right graphic for your spreadsheet, it’s time to insert it.

A: The sea turtle graphics make an otherwise ho-hum feeding schedule more eye-catching for aquarium employees.

Note: Don’t forget that you can use the same photo-editing tools and techniques on Microsoft Clip Art as well. Just click on the Clip Art button in the Illustrations group of the Insert tab to add Clip Art instead of the Picture button.

B: We transformed a sample stock photo into something original by removing the background and adding a special effect—without leaving Excel.

To insert a graphic:

  1. Go to the Insert tab and, in the Illustrations group, click on the Picture button.
  2. In the Insert Picture dialog box, navigate to the graphic on your hard drive, select it, and click the Insert button, as shown in Figure C.
  3. Click and drag the image’s corner editing handles to resize the image as needed. You can also move the image by clicking and dragging it.

Remove the photo’s background

Our sample image is fine, but we’d like to isolate only the turtle. Before Excel 2010, you couldn’t do this task without looking to other software. But Excel’snew Remove Background tool makes it painless.

C: Don’t worry about making p[...]

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