Using PowerPoint to Create Powerful Digital Graphics

Date: May 31, 2020

Words: 1,750

Read Time: 4-6 Minutes



Table of Contents

Section 1: Why Adobe’s Creative Cloud is Great, But Might Not Be What You Need

Section 2: Why Use Microsoft PowerPoint?

Section 3: 5 Tips for Creating Visually Stunning Graphics & Images In PowerPoint

– Tip 1: Using Pexels To Download Free, High-Quality Images

– Tip 2: Creating a Larger Version of the Graphic Than What You’ll Ultimately Need

– Tip 3: Leveraging the “Format Picture” Toolbars

– Tip 4: Cropping & Editing Images In Angles & Diagonals

– Tip 5: Adding Shadows, Borders, & Text

Section 4: Saving the Image & Wrapping Up


Why Adobe’s Creative Cloud is Great, But Might Not Be What You Need

If you’re a graphic designer or someone who is familiar with digital media, you likely already know that the Adobe Creative Cloud (i.e. Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, etc.) is the most popular and widely used suite of design tools in the world. In fact, Adobe ended the 2019 calendar year with approximately 20 million subscribers for their Creative Cloud programs. And as today’s society grows even more reliant on digital services for business and entertainment, the need for professional designers and enthusiasts alike to learn Adobe’s suite of tools continues to rise.

But are Adobe’s programs the only option available for creating high quality digital media?

The answer is no.

The Adobe Creative Cloud At-A-Glance

This graphic highlights the six most commonly used Adobe Creative cloud programs of 2020, including Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign
This graphic highlights the six most commonly used Adobe programs as of June 2020

Although the Creative Cloud is undeniably the premier digital editing package of today, there are several downsides associated with its use. For one, it’s very expensive to purchase and maintain. As of 2020, a standard subscription will likely cost you between $400-700 annually. Even purchasing individual programs will cost between $20-40 monthly. For independent enthusiasts and freelancers, these price points might not be worth the capabilities.

Looking beyond cost, there are also complications associated with the navigation panel and user interface. For those who aren’t familiar with graphic design, it can take months (or years) to learn the best methods for leveraging each program’s tools. And even once you do learn them, the large amount of memory space and CPU needed to run each program often causes basic operating systems to freeze or run much slower than usual.

Because of the above issues, hobbyists or non-professional designers might want to consider using a different suite of programs to manage their digital media projects. And thankfully, the Adobe Cloud is not the only option that users have when looking to create enhanced graphics or images.

Enter Microsoft Powerpoint.

Why Use Microsoft PowerPoint?

While almost everyone is familiar with the Microsoft Office package and its PowerPoint application, few understand just how powerful PPT can be as a design tool. Because the navigation menu is much simpler than Adobe and the costs of purchasing Microsoft Office are so low, PowerPoint (PPT) is a great starter tool. And given that today’s average computer user will already have some form of Microsoft installed already (1.2 billion people used Microsoft products in 2019), it’s an easy option to leverage if you aren’t a full-time designer and just need a reliable platform to create or edit digital graphics.

Realizing the Power of Microsoft PPT

Microsoft Powerpoint is capable of creating enhanced graphics and images that rival the Adobe Creative Cloud.
Microsoft PPT is capable of developing enhanced graphics and images for use outside of simple presentations

In the below guide, we’ll show you a number of features you can use within the PowerPoint application to create stunningly crisp and beautiful visuals.

Let’s get started!

5 Tips for Creating Visually Stunning Graphics & Images In PowerPoint

Tip 1: Use Pexels To Download Free, High-Quality Images

Before we even enter PowerPoint, it’s worth noting that it can be incredibly difficult to find quality images and photos to use in your projects without overpaying. Today, the top designers will commonly spend $10-50 per image using an iStock or Adobe Stock account. And while these costs might be reasonable for corporate-level designers, it’s just as easy to use free media download sites like Pexels.com, which give you access to a vast library of photos and videos.

Using Pexels to Download Free Images

Pexels is a great tool for designers that want to keep their photography budget as low as possible without sacrificing quality

Although the selection of images available on Pexels is smaller than what is offered by iStock or Adobe Stock, there are still tens of thousands of images available. These photos are uploaded with the highest quality and are instantly available for download to your computer. It’s also worth noting that Pexels maintains a vast selection of high-quality video snippets as well, which come in handy for designers that need background visuals or b-roll footage for their projects.

For users that need a few standard images to edit or that simply want to create their project for the lowest possible cost, using a site like Pexels is a fast, cheap, and effective way to get started. Just make sure to support the photographers that are kind enough to upload their images for free! You can do so by following them on social media, liking their photos, or donating to their Pexels accounts.

Tip 2: Create a Larger Version of Your Graphic in PPT Than What You’ll Ultimately Need

A 2nd tip for creating great PPT visuals is that you should always format your PowerPoint graphics to be 50-100% larger than the size of the image you’ll ultimately use. This is because PowerPoint doesn’t have the image rendering capacity of a program like Adobe. This means that images saved via PowerPoint will look slightly more blurry than images saved via Adobe with the same dimensions.

Luckily, there’s a workaround.

By creating a larger version of the graphic that you’ll need in PPT, you can maximize the pixilation of the image so that when the final version is rendered in a smaller size, the quality is optimal.

Create Larger Graphics Than What You’ll Use

Always create a larger version of the image than what you’ll ultimately use, and keep the same dimensions

As users seek to replicate this piece of advice, remember to keep the same dimensions for your graphic in PPT as you’ll want for the final version. For instance, an image that will be rendered on your website at 200×200 pixels should be created in PowerPoint at a size 400×400 pixels to ensure the highest quality.

Tip 3: Leveraging the “Format Picture” Toolbars.

Ok, so now you have your preferred image downloaded in PowerPoint and you’ve resized it to the proper dimensions. What’s next?

At this point, you’re ready to edit the image to suit the style and design of the project that you’re working on. This ultimately means editing the color, shade, shadow, and gradient of the picture, as well as adding any additional layers.

Right-Click On An Image & Select “Format Picture”

Right-click on an image in PPT and click “format picture” at the bottom of the pop-up menu to access the customizer toolset

As you execute this step, note that there are a number of unique tools available to edit images in PPT. There are also “cheats” you can use to perfect the design, such as adding transparent shapes on top of your image in order to change the shading. However, most formatting and editing can be accomplished using the “Format Image” tool, which is accessible by right-clicking on your image and selecting the “format picture” option at the bottom of the pop-up menu.

Clicking the “Format Image” option takes you to a sidebar (shown above) that lets you edit the size, position, shape, and color of your image. Per the above, you can see I’ve used the edit tool to transform my image from full color into a black/white portrait. I did this by selecting “Picture” at the top of the menu, then selecting the far left coloration option under the “Preset” panel for Picture Color.

Tip 4: Cropping & Editing Images In Angles & Diagonals.  

One of the biggest drawbacks of using PowerPoint is that it doesn’t allow for custom or “freeform” cropping of images. You can crop only in straight lines vertically and horizontally, which makes editing curved images (such as circles) difficult. Although there’s no perfect fix, one option that works is to add PowerPoint shapes as overlays to the image you are editing.

Add Shapes as Design Elements Over Your Image

Add custom shapes overtop your image as customizable design elements

Using shapes as design elements is helpful because you can edit these shapes to be the any color or size. Above, you can see I added one white triangle in the top-left corner to crop the image diagonally, and another red triangle in the bottom-right corner simply as a design element. To do so, I simply clicked “add shape” on the “Insert” menu of PowerPoint, chose two triangles, and made one red and one white. You can drag the orange circle on each triangle to change the angles – in this case, I wanted to right triangles. Finally, I made the “fill” and “outline” of each triangle the same color, and then positioned them directly in-line with the top-left and bottom-right corners of the image.

In addition to adding shapes as design elements, you can also use PowerPoint’s pre-formatted designs to edit your images (accessible via the “format image” toolbar that we highlighted in the last section). Using this feature enables you to access a range of gradients, colors, and textures to lay over your image. However, if none of these options gives you the desired effect, using shapes as “overlays” to your image is a recommended next step. Using shape layers in PPT is actually how we created the team bio images on our website!

Tip 5: Adding Shadows, Borders, & Text

So, at this stage, let’s suppose you have your image formatted in the preferred fashion except for the final design elements and textual additions. How can you make sure these final features are optimized for maximum effect?

A few suggestions:

  • Use the bare minimum amount of text. The average human’s attention span is just 8.7 seconds, so don’t expect someone to read a manifesto. Instead, try to use less than 10 words in your design (for ads, supporting images, or banners) and work to optimize the design and color of the copy so that certain keywords or phrases stand out. Refer to the below “Newsletter” idea as an example. 
  • Leverage shapes & shadows as add-on elements. If you want to add borders to images on only 1-2 sides, add shapes and place them over your image for added effect. You can add shadows to these shapes to make certain elements stand out more prominently against the image backdrop. Refer to the below example where I’ve added three triangles (one white and two red) on top of the image. The two red triangles have shadows for pronunciation. I’ve also added an additional blue square across the entire size of the image with 50% transparency (as shown below) to alter the coloration. Finally, this example also showcases text with a shadow and alternating color scheme for added emphasis.

Add Shadows & Copy to Your PPT Image

Adding text and shadows to your image creates an added effect that resonates with viewers
  • Insert links to shapes for “actionable” takeaways – if you’ll be using your graphic on a website or in a formal document and want to insert a “call-to-action”, place a small button-shaped layer over the image with “click here” or “connect” copy written within it. Right-click the shape in PPT and select “add link” to create a feature that, when saved, will act as a button to direct people to a web page or file download. If your graphics are part of a presentation, website, or ebook, this is an easy way to create further engagement with your audience. As an example, check out our newsletter button below!

Sample Portfolio: PowerPoint Graphics

Saving the Image & Wrapping Up.

Once you’ve completed the above steps, it’s time to save your graphic in your preferred format and upload it to it’s final landing space. If you’re saving the graphic as an image, it’s usually easiest to convert it to a PNG or JPEG image. Simply right-click on the image, select “save as picture”, name the file, and save it to your preferred location. When doing so, remember to save all the layers of your graphic as a single group (select all the layers, then in the PPT top menu, go to home – format – arrange – group). Forgetting to group these layers together means that any “add-on” layers, such as shapes, will not be saved along with the image.

Although there are other steps you can take to optimize your PPT graphics, this is perhaps the easiest and most cost effective way to create graphics and visuals. But if you take the time, you can also get to a point to where you’re creating visuals that are comparable to what professionals are developing with Adobe. And, it can be done for less money and with a simpler platform.

If you have any questions about the content discussed here, shoot us a message by clicking the “ask a question” button below. Otherwise, we hope you find the above suggestions useful and come back soon for more content!