In my last post, I described the basic steps to create an infographic in Excel: put a cut out image in front of a bar chart. However, I did not explain how to create the all-important cut out image. In this post, I will explain how to create any cut out image.

Infographic Post Part 2 Cut Out

True confession…I was dreading writing this post because I did not know the best way. I anticipated needing to do some research…maybe even download a few free apps and experiment with them. Up to this point, I used Photoshop to create my infographic images. Photoshop costs $99 and is a cumbersome program. I did not want to recommend that people buy Photoshop just to create infographics!

I am pleased to announce that I discovered the best way and it uses a program you already have: PowerPoint!

Infographic Post Part 2 PowerPoint

Steps to create a cut out image with PowerPoint:
1. Find a 2D image (or construct your own!).
2. Use the “Background Removal” tools in PowerPoint to cut out the image.

So we will cover the two steps. I think you will be surprised how easy this is and amazed at the potential.

Step 1. Find a 2D image. We will start by finding an image. Go to Google image search and type in “<insert search term> icon”. I am going to look for a 2D thermometer because I want to create one of those fundraising thermometer infographics. I will search for “thermometer icon”.

Infographic Post Part 2 Search

I like this one:

Infographic Post Part 2 Find

I clicked on the one I liked and clicked “View image”. This takes you to a page that only has the image. Right click on the image and choose “Copy image”. Next, paste the image into PowerPoint.

Infographic Post Part 2 Paste

You are ready for step 2. If you don’t want to read about how to create your own icon, you can skip down to step 2.

Alternative Step 1: Create your own icon. If you need a specific icon that you cannot find on the web, you can create your own in PowerPoint. Just use the drawing tools to create a 2D icon.

Infographic Post Part 2 Drawing Tools

I used the drawing tools to create a house. This is nothing more than rectangles, triangles and circles. I am sure I could have found this online, but just wanted to give you a quick example. You could get really complex with this if you wanted.

Infographic Post Part 2 House Icon

Next, I will select all of these objects and group them together. The group tool is under “Arrange” in the drawing section on the Home tab. After they are grouped, you can right click on the icon and select “Save as picture…”

Infographic Post Part 2 House Save as

Find the file you created and copy it back into PowerPoint. Now you are ready for step 2.

Step 2. Cut out the image. We are going to use the “background removal” tool to cut out the icon. Our goal is to leave the background and remove the icon so our data can shine through. 🙂

Select the image and go to the “Format” tab. Then click on the “Remove Background” button.

Infographic Post Part 2 Remove Background

Note: if your icon does not have a background, than you will need to add one. Some icons you find on the web already have the background cut out. Follow these steps to add it back: drag a white rectangle on the canvas and move it behind the icon, group the icon with the white rectangle, and right click on the group and select “save as picture”. Drag this new image file back into PowerPoint.

A new toolbar will appear with the following options:

Infographic Post Part 2 Background Removal

PowerPoint will try to automatically select the background for you, but since we are wanting to keep the background, this will likely not be correct. What you want to do is clear what you want to keep with the “Mark Areas to Keep” tool and color pink the areas you want to remove with the “Mark Areas to Remove” tool.

Infographic Post Part 2 Auto SelectInfographic Post Part 2 Manual Select

Once you have the image the way you want, select “Keep Changes”.

Here is what I have now.  I put a rectangle behind it so you can see the cut out.

Infographic Post Part 2 Icon Finished

Now I will copy and paste this into Excel and create my infographic: (for the steps I completed in Excel, see Part 1)

Infographic Post Part 2 Final

Download Excel 2010 Example

Download Excel 2013 Example

I forgot to mention in my last post that this infographic technique works with Excel Services, which is the web browser version of Excel. Not all features in desktop Excel work in the web browser version of Excel, such as Smart Art or macros/VBA. But this infographic technique works in Excel Services. 🙂

I am amazed by the possibilities! We can find or create any image, connect to an ocean of data and model it to interactively shine through our image. We can also share our infographics with the enterprise through Excel in the web browser. Dashboard away!

In my next post in this series, I will create a more complex example of an infographic to show you even more possibilities.

I would love to hear your feedback on how this works for you.