We've all seen those ghastly pictures on the front of many gossip magazines: you're not sure whether the celebrity is having a genuinely bad hair day, or if the designer needs to spend more time mastering the art of creating a good cut out. Yes, cut outs can pack a powerful punch - if they're created correctly.

A cut out is an image where the principle objects or subjects are removed from their original and placed onto another image. These are typically studio-shot images on white or coloured backgrounds. Often, however, a cut out image has been painstakingly removed from its original background using a professional design program.

Previously we might have relied on a competent designer to help with cut outs, using complicated clipping paths and touch ups. Now, thanks to Microsoft Office 2010, Background Removal is a new feature available in Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook that makes this process quick and easy for anyone to use.

Unlike similar tools, the Office Background Removal function doesn't just select color ranges or trim to a border you draw. Background Removal uses new capabilities and algorithms to achieve better results automatically with very little effort or fine tuning from the user.

By selecting the Remove Background button in Picture Tools, you can access a whole new world of image control. Background Removal will work out what portion of your picture is the foreground (the portion to keep), and what is the background (the portion to remove). First, the area known as the marquee selection area will be calculated and the marquee and portions of the image are overlaid with magenta. Everything marked with magenta is what Background Removal has selected and marked as the background.

Once the marquee area has been highlighted, it's easy to adjust the shape and size of the highlighted selection. The marquee is sized just the same as any shape or image, by grabbing the handles and resizing or dragging the entire shape to a new location.

Using a technique that isolates foreground objects from the background, which isn't based on colour choices or contrast values, Background Removal is able to extract even similarly-coloured objects from the background.

Clicking off your image will close Background Removal and gives you the chance to review your work. You can then access Background Removal again and continue editing, or even save and exit and continue editing later.

When you start Background Removal, in addition to showing the marquee and what areas will be included and removed, the Ribbon also switches to a new contextual tab that features some new tools to help you fine-tune the result.

Once you've got a picture without the background, you can access your options for integrating those pictures into your document. In PowerPoint, you could use Brightness & Contrast to brighten, add a shadow, or insert another background. Adding a small amount of Soft Edges, which is available in the Picture Effects command in the Picture Tools tab, enhances the way your picture blends into the background.

You can also use any of the Artistic Effects and other photo editing tools once you have carried out the background removal. Obviously more complicated images will take more marks to remove the background, but most of the time just using the marquee will work. If you are using Word, for example, you could apply tight text wrapping around the image to create a really professional result.

So, if you're fed up using images as simple, solid rectangles placed in an uninspiring fashion in the middle of text, think about using a cut out. If your images look weak, limp and lifeless, why not try Background Removal? Cut outs are sure to give your images the Mo-Jo factor, even if it does nothing for your hair do.