Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Pictures inside Shapes.

Pictures in AutoShapes

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 13, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Excel allows you to format the appearance of the AutoShapes you place in a worksheet. If you display the Format AutoShape dialog box, you can change all sorts of colors, lines, fills, fonts, and other attributes of the AutoShape. One really nifty formatting feature is to place a picture within an AutoShape. Follow these steps:

  1. Create your AutoShape as you normally would.
  2. Right-click the AutoShape. Excel displays a Context menu for the AutoShape.
  3. Choose Format AutoShape from the Context menu. Excel displays the Format AutoShape dialog box. (If Format AutoShape was not one of the options from the Context menu, then you didn't right-click the AutoShape itself in step 2. Make sure that you right-click one of the lines that make up the AutoShape.)
  4. Display the Colors and Lines tab. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Colors and Lines tab of the Format AutoShape dialog box.

  6. Click the drop-down arrow for the Color drop-down list.
  7. On the drop-down list, choose Fill Effects. Excel displays the Fill Effects dialog box.
  8. Make sure the Picture tab is displayed. (See Figure 2.)
  9. Figure 2. The Picture tab of the Fill Effects dialog box.

  10. Use the controls in the dialog box to select a picture you want in the AutoShape.
  11. Click OK as many times as necessary to close all the dialog boxes.

The picture you selected in step 8 should now appear in the background of the AutoShape. In most cases the AutoShape 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 an AutoShape can greatly increase the size of your workbook.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2391) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Pictures inside Shapes.

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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