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Home > Exploring Excel

How to Add Background Images in Excel

"How can I place a background image and still use the cells that the image covers?" -- Sally M.


You can do this, but possibly not in the way you would like.

Ideally, you could define a background for a cell or a range of cells. But Excel allows you only to define a background image for an entire worksheet or for a chart.

However, depending on what you're trying to do, you also can fake this effect.

...In Excel 2003 and before, choose Format, Sheet, Background, then select the image in the Sheet Background dialog.

...In Excel 2007 and above, you get to the Sheet Background dialog by choosing Page Layout, Page Setup, Background.

When you set up the background image, Excel repeats it throughout the worksheet. You can see the effect here:

Above, you can use your spreadsheet just as you normally do. You can see where I've entered Sales information in two ranges and that my active cell is cell C11. To make the text more readable, I assigned a white background pattern to the range D6:D9.)

You also can fake this effect as shown here:

Here, the picture is a normal picture placed on top of the cells. The Sales information is in two Camera objects. These are live pictures of a range of cells where the Sales data was actually entered. To make the text more readable I assigned a white background pattern to one of the Camera objects.

To create the Camera object, select the cells with the Sales information and then copy the range. Select a cell to paste the image. Here, for example, you might choose cell A15. Then...

...In Excel 2003, hold down your Shift key and choose Edit, Paste Picture Link. (You won't see this choice if your Shift key isn't down.)

...In Excel 2007, choose Home, Clipboard, Paste, As Picture, Paste Picture Link.

To assign the white background color, right-click the Camera object and choose Format Picture, or press Ctrl+1. In the Colors and Lines tab of the Format Picture dialog, choose the Fill color you want.

The Camera object (also known as a picture link) is a live version of the data in the range. That is, if the data changes in your spreadsheet, the data will change in the picture.

Once you've pasted the picture you can move it around on top of your bitmap.

The Camera object gives you power to do a lot of things you might not have thought possible in Excel. My e-book, Dashboard Reporting With Excel, devotes a whole chapter to this interesting tool. To see more examples of the Camera tool in action, follow the link to information about my dashboard book.

All the best,



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