PowerPoint is all about making information interesting — and visuals have to do a lot of the heavy lifting. So incorporating graphics is one of the most important aspects of presentation development.
Creating a great graphic is the result of two obvious steps, plus one that people often forget . . .
1. Make it or find it
2. Insert it AND
3. Polish it!
Step 1 is outside the scope of this tutorial. But choosing the right images is crucial to success, so here are a few reminders:
- Every image should connect with the slide topic and add to the presentation. Don’t decorate!
- Avoid the ordinary—make information graphics interesting, and use pictures that get attention.
- Save time by using PowerPoint drawing tools to make illustrations on the spot.
Some useful tips for image selection/creation are included in previous posts (particularly Three Surprising Ways to Use PowerPoint and Dynamic Duo: PowerPoint and SnagIt). And if you want to go further into the art of information visualization, check out this recent TutorialBlog post by Michael Alexander.
Step 2 is pretty straightforward. First, decide where to place the graphic on the slide. (4 Tips for Great Composition & Slide Presentation might be helpful here.) Then just go to the Insert tab, choose Picture and locate your image in the dialog box. Set the view to Thumbnails for extra easiness.
Step 3 utilizes PowerPoint’s built-in Picture Tools to polish up the look of the graphic. There are lots of possibilities, but here are three of my favorites:
- Add a border and/or an effect. Select the graphic, click on Picture Tools, and choose from the Picture Border or Picture Effects menu. Some graphics do well with both, but many are better with one or the other. Fancier effects are a bit much for the typical presentation, but almost every image looks better with a drop shadow. And the Soft Edges effect comes in handy when you want an image to blend into the background rather than standing out.
- Create a shape. One of the two coolest little-known features in PowerPoint’s set of Picture Tools is the ability to cut a graphic to fit one of many pre-defined shapes. Select the graphic, choose Picture Shapes, pick out a shape, and it will work just like a cookie cutter.
- Recolor the graphic. The other coolest tool is Recolor Picture. Open it and browse the color filters that belong to the current theme. If none of those works, go to More Variations for a whole spectrum of options. There is also a sepia filter, as well as a pure black-and-white that can produce interesting effects.
One caution about effects, shapes, etc. Less is more! Use sparingly and—above all—consistently. As a rule, either every image should have a drop shadow (for example), or none should. Fancy shapes are for occasional emphasis or to create a special look that adds meaning to the presentation content. And the best use for recoloring is typically to make an image fit the theme palette better, or to give an image a more appropriate look.
The rule (as always) is to make graphics serve the design and content of the presentation, not overpower it.