Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Pictures in AutoShapes.

Pictures inside Shapes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 2, 2019)

Excel allows you to format the appearance of the shapes you place in a worksheet. If you display the Format Shape dialog box, you can change all sorts of colors, lines, fills, fonts, and other attributes of the shape. One really nifty formatting feature is to place a picture within a shape. Follow these steps if you are using Excel 2007 or Excel 2010:

  1. Create your shape as you normally would.
  2. Right-click the shape. Excel displays a Context menu.
  3. Choose Format Shape from the Context menu. Excel displays the Format Shape dialog box. (If Format Shape was not one of the options from the Context menu, then you didn't right-click the shape itself in step 2. Make sure that you right-click one of the lines that make up the shape.)
  4. Make sure Fill is selected at the left of the dialog box.
  5. Click the Picture or Texture Fill radio button. The options in the dialog box change to reflect your choice, and the name of the dialog box changes from Format Shape to Format Picture. (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The Format Picture dialog box.

  7. Use the controls in the dialog box to select a picture you want in the shape.
  8. Click Close.

When using Excel 2013 or a later version, you should, instead, follow these steps:

  1. Create your shape as you normally would.
  2. Right-click the shape. Excel displays a Context menu.
  3. Choose Format Shape from the Context menu. Excel displays the Format Shape task pane at the right side of your worksheet. (If Format Shape was not one of the options from the Context menu, then you didn't right-click the shape itself in step 2. Make sure that you right-click one of the lines that make up the shape.)
  4. Expand the Fill option by clicking the small triangle to the left of the option.
  5. Click the Picture or Texture Fill radio button. The options in the task pane change to reflect your choice and the name of the task pane changes from Format Shape to Format Picture. (See Figure 2.)
  6. Figure 2. The Format Picture task pane.

  7. Use the buttons under the Insert Picture From heading (File, Clipboard, and Online) to choose where Excel should look for the picture you want to use.
  8. Use the controls Excel offers you to locate and select the picture you want to use in the shape.
  9. Close the Format Picture task pane.

The picture you selected in step 6 (Excel 2007 and Excel 2010) or step 7 (later versions of Excel) should now appear in the background of the shape. In most cases the shape looks like a "mask" over the picture, which is a nice effect. You should also use this technique sparingly, as each picture you place in a shape can greatly increase the size of your workbook.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (10740) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Pictures in AutoShapes.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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