September 24, 2014

I’ve been creating graphics for years. But the jobs I had and the resources provided to me didn’t include Photoshop. So, while I am adept at Photoshop, I’m a wizard at PowerPoint. I’ve commonly referred to PowerPoint as the poor man’s Photoshop.  And that’s why I create almost all my graphics in PowerPoint.

For me, it’s faster, easier, and I’m just more comfortable with it. Obviously, I can’t produce all the same things that someone with Photoshop can produce. And, yes, recently a number of new tools (Canva and PicMonkey for example) have come onto the market, designed to make graphics easy to build. And, yes, I love these tools. I think it’s freaking awesome that there are tools and templates to help everyone create stunning graphics.

But, no matter what, I somehow always end up back in PowerPoint.

All of my blog post images – PowerPoint. All of the ads and promos on my blog and social media pages – PowerPoint. All of the headers, background images, etc. for my social media accounts – PowerPoint. I even create infographics, charts, and other graphics in PowerPoint.

And recently, I’ve had numerous people ask me how I use PowerPoint to create my graphics. In fact, it was requested that I do a blog post on this exact topic. So here you go!

Here are the basics and some slightly advanced tricks to help you create better graphics in PowerPoint.

I have to note though, that PowerPoint has significantly improved its tools and features in recent versions. I’m currently using PPT 2013. The 2010 version has most of the same features but older versions will be missing a lot of the new tools. But, even if you’re using an older version, the general practice and builds in PowerPoint will all work the same.

Get the Perfect Graphic Size

Here’s one of the primary reasons I love using PowerPoint – you can get the perfect sized image or graphic in one easy step! Go to the Design tab in PPT and select the “Slide Size”. Then choose the “Custom Slide Size” option. Here you can create a slide of any size and dimensions.

When creating social media or blogging graphics, use the ratio of 100 pixels = 1 inch. So, if I wanted to create an ideal Instagram sized image (640 x 640 pixels), I would set my slide size to 6.4″ x 6.4″. It’s really that easy and the slide size will translate perfectly when converted to an image for upload.

It also makes it easy to set your content within the slide. If you know you have to exclude the left 200 pixels, then start your content 2 inches from the left side of the slide.

Customize Your Background

Another reason I love PowerPoint is that the graphic background options are pretty much limitless! You can use one of the PPT slide designs (newer versions have much better design options!). But you can also change these pre-formatted designs to match your branding. You can edit the colors really easily by choosing the “Colors” drop down menu from the Design tab. Hover over the different color options to see a preview of the slide design change. So, if you love one design, but your colors are blue instead of green, find a blue color scheme that matches your branding.

But you aren’t restricted to the pre-formatted backgrounds! You can create your own 

You can change the color, gradient, picture, or pattern fill of the slide. Select “Format Background” to choose the option and adjust the colors, gradients, pictures, etc. to your desired design format.

If you want to use an image as the background, you can also just insert the image, crop it and size it to fit the slide dimensions, and there you go!

Create Different Styles on Each Slide

If you want to create various graphics within one PowerPoint presentation, you can actually ensure they all look different and maintain the style you created for each. When you change styles, or backgrounds, or other features, right-click the option and select “Apply to Selected Slides”. This will change your current slide’s format, but leave all other slides as they were.

Editing Images

Here’s where the quick fix tips come in that allow you to cheaply Photoshop your images.

You can easily crop images to remove content or select only the portion of the image you want. You can also crop to a shape to create a star, circle, rounded square, or other shape out of your images.

Removing a background from your image is possible in PowerPoint. Let’s say you have a logo or product image on a white background. Select the image, go to the Picture Format tab and click on the “Color” option. In the drop down menu you’ll see the option to “Set Transparent Color”. Select this option and a funky looking cursor will appear (big black tip on it). Click on the background color you wish you remove and all colors in that spectrum will be removed from the image.

This only really works when you have a simple background color (like all white with no shadows). If you have multiple colors, shading, or other objects in the background this tool won’t work.

This is where I love the newer version of PowerPoint which has the “Remove Background” option. Under the Picture Tools Format tab, select the “Remove Background” option and PPT will put a purple mask over your image. It makes an educated guess on what you want to keep or remove. Everything in purple is going to be removed.

You can then select the various aspects to remove or keep. Expand the box to fit the full area to keep. Then you can use the tool bar options “Mark areas to keep” and “Mark areas to remove” to further perfect the selections. Clicking on an area once will usually select a small area in the same color range. Clicking and dragging the pencil around the area will select the large area in the color range. Select “Save Changes” when done and your image is now isolated from the background! It takes just seconds and is almost as effective as Photoshop.

You can also enhance your image with color tone, saturation, and other aspects from the Picture Tools Format tab. Use the “Corrections” and “Color” buttons to access the drop down menus and options. Just hover over the thumbnail option to see how it will look on your image.

Another sneaky trick if you want to watermark your image or make it look faded, go to the Artistic Effects option and select the Crisscross Etching effect. When the Format Picture options open up, change the settings for the Crisscross Etching – they default to transparency at 75% and pressure at 30%. Reduce the pressure to 0% (the effect of the crisscross which you don’t want to see) and then shift the transparency to the level of opacity you desire to reduce the saturation of the original image, making it look more like a watermark.

Adding Text Boxes, Shapes, and Borders

Of course, chances are you need to add text or shapes or borders to increase the effect of your graphic. PowerPoint makes this really easy to do.

Under the “Insert” tab, select the shape to insert or choose to add a text box. Click and drag the shape to the size you want or simply click on the slide to insert a text box. (Tip: all shapes are actually text boxes and you can type right in them.) Edit the shape for color fill, outline, and other features to get your desired results.

You can also edit the transparency of a shape by selecting the “More Colors” option from the “Shape Color” drop down menu. In the pop-up screen, select the transparency level for the shape.

Sometimes, you’ll find that the text space in a shape isn’t sufficient or doesn’t allow you to create the effect you want. In these situations, I format the shape first. Then I insert as many text boxes as needed to create my text. These are then dragged to fit over top of the original shape.

Inserting borders is also really easy. From the Shapes selections, choose the round or square shape that has the double line. Insert the shape by clicking and dragging. You’ll see the center of the shape is empty and the shape has a natural “frame” to it. If you click and drag the little yellow diamond on the shape, you can shrink or enlarge the width of the frame. You can change the color, effects, and other aspects easily to create the desired design.

Creating 3D Effects

Of course, boring 2D graphics aren’t much fun. So you can enhance your graphics by adding 3D aspects to your text, shapes, border, images, and more.

From either the Drawing Tools, Text Tools, or Picture Tools tabs, choose the respective “Effects” option (Shape Effects, Text Effects, etc.). Here you can choose to add a bevel, shadow, or 3D orientation to your content. I frequently add a bevel effect to borders and add shadows for depth. Play around with these options to get your desired results.

Rearranging Layers 

In a fashion much like Photoshop, PowerPoint is all designed in layers. Every new item you add (shape, text box, image, etc.) is a new “layer” on the slide. Unlike Photoshop though, you don’t have to choose the layer to work on. Just click the item you want! There are times, however, where the item you want is behind another layer and you can’t get to it. In this case, you can drag the top item away to get to the other layer or you can choose to rearrange the front layer by moving it backwards.

To do this, select the item, and from the Format tab choose “Move Backwards” (or Move Forward” to bring something to the front of the slide). You can also click the arrow next to Move Backwards and choose “Move to Back” which pushes the item all the way to the back of the stack without going layer through layer.

Use layers to your advantage! Add multiple images, text boxes, shapes, and content to create depth and detail that you won’t find in other graphics.

Rearranging Items

If you want to move multiple items around your slide but keep their initial relationship to each other, hold your “Shift” key and then click all of the items to move. They will all be selected and now you can drag them around the slide to relocate them to a better orientation.

If you want an item centered or aligned on the slide, select the “Align” option from the Format tab and choose to “Align Center” or other option for alignment on the slide. This ensures your item is perfectly aligned.

You will also see alignment lines appear on the screen when you move items around. Dotted lines will align with other items on the screen to ensure you have items in the same alignment. Dotted lines will also appear to symbolize when an item is centered vertically or horizontally on the slide or in relation to another item.

Sometimes you will find that clicking and dragging an item moves it too much or too far. Instead, use your cursor buttons on your keyboard (up, down, left, right) to move the item in small increments (note that this works best in PowerPoint 2013).

Finding Inspiration

One of the reasons that PicMonkey and Canva are so popular is that they’ve already created the design template for you. You don’t have to create it, you just add your image or text.

In PowerPoint, you have to create your own designs and finding the right design isn’t always easy. This is where you need to find some inspiration to create your designs.

Google is always good for this!  Find other graphics or templates that you like. Then combine their features and attributes to create your own ideal, custom design.

Are there font styles you like best? Do you want to combine fonts (something fancy with something modern)? What colors do you like or are related to your branding? Do you like text overlays in shaded shapes or do you like the text right on top of an image? Do you like sharp lines or rounded shapes? Do you like color blocking or similar color palettes?

Once you know what you like, create a template (or two or three) that you can then edit as needed. For example, all of my blog post notices are a template I created. I change the image and edit the text but the formats, shapes, text effects, and more are all saved so I don’t have to recreate them every time.


Ok, I know this is a lot of information. And it doesn’t even cover everything you can do in PowerPoint. But this should help you get started and make it easier for you to create graphics in PowerPoint.

Do you have any tricks that you use in PowerPoint? Feel free to add them to the comments so that others can learn from your tips too! 

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. Wow! I had no idea such a wide variety of options existed in PowerPoint! I have not used it, but this definitely might be something to explore (especially if I want to create a PowerPoint presentation to share). Right now I do use both Canva and PicMonkey (which I love), but I really appreciate the heads up on what PowerPoint could do for me! I will be saving this article for future reference!

    1. Thanks Kim! I’m so glad you found this so helpful 🙂
      I seriously love PPT for all its capacities! And, yes, all of these tips are directly applicable just to creating good PPT slide presentations. I hope you find this useful next time you’re creating within PPT.

  2. Love this idea, especially the advice to make templates. Simple but elegant way to have visual appeal without spending a tin of time doing it from scratch every time. Now I just need to troll for ideas, ha ha!

    1. lol Shelley! That’s sometimes the best part 😉
      But so glad you found this helpful! I hope you have fun “trolling” and creating great new templates!

  3. i am SO printing this out and keeping on my board for quick reference! I regularly use Canva and PicMonkey but love a lot of the options in PPT. I think I tend to get bored with the same stuff and am always looking for additional resources! Thanks girly!

    1. Awesome! Thanks Melissa 🙂 I’m so glad you found it so helpful! You do have complete design freedom when using PPT.

  4. Very timely article, Jenn. I am doing social media work for one of my clients and I have been looking for ways to do it. I am certified in this , so this is right up my alley. I have shared this with my client and she was very happy to see that we can use this method

    John Hardy

    1. Thanks John! I’m so glad you found this helpful. It’s always nice to be able to work within our comfort zone and provide the best results for our clients 🙂

  5. Glad to know I’m not the only one. I always thought I was weird because I was using PowerPoint and not Photoshop. I also use PicMonkey and Canva occasionally, but I always end up in PowerPoint. I didn’t know about it before, but now I will have to use the info about the Graphic size. Thanks 🙂

    1. So glad to hear you’re a PPT user too, Nathan! I hope the sizing helps you create even better graphics 🙂

  6. Intresting.. I was trying to learn GIMP as the basic PhotoFilter was not sufficient to create good banner. But this is totally different way. I also considered PPT some day back but then I overlooked. Now I can reuse the hidden gem wasting my hard disk space. Thanks.

    1. I tried GIMP too and have used it occasionally but definitely didn’t really take to it.
      Glad to hear you can put PPT to good use 🙂

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