For great PowerPoint design, get your images out of the “box”

Many of you who've worked with Spoken Impact or have reviewed our PowerPoint samples know that our approach to designing visuals goes beyond bullet points of text on a slide with a picture squeezed in somewhere.

Sometimes the hardest part of designing a great presentation is coming up with creative ideas. So this article will share with you a simple design "how to" to help you take your slides to the next level.

Often people will put images on a slide just as they found them. Without thought to how much the image can be enhanced by cropping it, adding a shadow or putting the image in a different shape (other than a rectangle or square!)

Let's use this slide as an example:

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First we went to Microsoft's free image library and found two images that relate to our content (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/clipart/default.aspx) Right now the images are just placed on the slide without much thought to how they fit.

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Now we could stop here and just make the images fit on the page with our text. But we're going to do something a bit more interesting, like fit the images in circles. Now there are a couple of things we'll need to do to make them work in circles. Next we're going to draw our circles on the slide with the oval drawing tool , just to get a feel for the layout. See below:

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Now we're going to crop the pictures we found so that the proportions are right for fitting inside a circle (it's logical, right? If we left the images as they are - as rectangles - they wouldn't fit inside circles without being distorted. It's all about proportions when you're filling a shape. ) Here's what the cropping tool looks like, it's located on your picture toolbar in PowerPoint: crop

Using the cropping tool, eliminate parts of the picture that make the proportions wrong for fitting inside a circle (in this case we trimmed some of the top and bottom of both pictures to make them more square.)

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Once the pictures are cropped, we need to save a new version of them. If you right click on a picture in PowerPoint, you will get an option "Save as Picture." Choose that option and choose a folder to keep the new picture in. You can save the picture as a jpeg file. Do the same for the other picture. Be sure you save them in a folder where you will remember where to find them!

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Now it's time to put those pictures in the circle shape. Double click the circle and a window like the one shown below will pop up. Click the drop down arrow next to the fill color and go down to the bottom and select "Fill Effects."

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Next go over to the tab on the far right and choose "Picture."

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Then click on "Select Picture" and browse to the folder where you saved the cropped version of your photo. When you locate that picture in the folder, click on it, click on Insert, then click OK twice.

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Your circles should now look like these.

Finally, we'll jazz up the slide a little more by adding some shapes behind the pictures, so the final slide looks like this:

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If you're wondering how we made shapes like this, here's how. They're simply shapes drawn on the slide (a rectangle and a flow chart shape), grouped together and given a similar fill:

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The finishing touch is to create two of these groups with different fills, stacking them on top of each other, placing them behind your circle photos and adding the dotted white line on the left.

All of these effects are created in PowerPoint, but make the slide look much more sophisticated. We challenge you to try something similar with your next presentation.

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