Jimmie's Guide to Creating Graphics with Powerpoint

Have you always wanted to do your own graphics and illustrations for blog articles, or class books, or maybe a technical book you've always wanted to publish? Are you tired of scrounging around on the internet for graphics that you can use without worrying about copyright issues, and are rarely what you want?
 Further, have you searched for "graphics" tools or "illustration" tools and found a really bewildering set of choices, some of which are expensive subscriptions?
 If so, you might be surprised and pleased that a piece of software that has been around since the Eniac will do excellent graphics and is easy to learn. O.K., maybe not since the Eniac (the vacuum tube computer that was built in 1945). The software is Microsoft Powerpoint. If you own a copy of Microsoft Office, you already have this software available. If not, it "should" be possible to purchase it separately and as a "standalone", non-subscription purchase. Microsoft indicates that you can still buy Powerpoint, or the whole Office suite, as a one-time purchase. But do note that their site does its best to lead you to the "Office 365" subscription.

This article will give you all the information - with examples - needed to create very good graphics and illustrations with Powerpoint. All of the information about creating graphics will apply to both PC and Mac. But any "computer-related" things like "Save" will apply to PC only.
 Note: all information and screenshots are based on Powerpoint 2013.

"But how will I transfer the graphic to Word or to my HTML article?" you might ask.
Use screenshots! Screenshots used to be grainy and fuzzy. But with the newer high-resolution monitors and newer operating systems, screenshots are quite sharp. Windows operating system comes with "Snip and Sketch", which you can configure to let you specify a window area to capture.

Here's a full resolution screenshot, of a Powerpoint graphic.
Note that all the other screenshots in this article are reduced in size and resolution to allow fast "Page load" in browsers (although most are remarkably clear).


Some Initial Notes

As you probably already know, you can find Powerpoint in the famous "Start Menu", under "Microsoft Office XXX". But here's a suggestion for easily opening Powerpoint, Word, or for that matter any program/application.

Open Powerpoint

Select "Blank Presentation". If you are going to be doing graphics only, select and delete the "Click to add Text" and "Click to add Subtitle" text boxes. If, like me, you have never used Powerpoint before, you will find that you have to select by clicking/dragging a big window that is wider than the two square outlines. Then you select the "Delete" key.

Then select "Save as". I like to use the name "aaaa_powerpoint_OPEN". The "aaaa" prefix makes it show up at the top of the list in a given folder/directory. Save it to some directory that you will be using. (Otherwise it will go to "My Documents")

Hint: Do the same with Word, and possibly other programs that you use regularly.
Now, when you want to open Powerpoint, just click on "aaaa_powerpoint_OPEN" and hit the Enter key. (Or double-click, it that's your preference.)
Bonus: You can customize the slide to include gizmos or text that you expect to use regularly.

Frustration Alert 1 A note on "Window Focus":
 Do you ever notice that when you have been working on a Word document, and then you leave the Word document, and then come back to Word and you click the "Save" icon and then click close or exit, Word will present the message "Do you want to save XXX?", with the choices "Save", "Don't Save", and "Cancel"?
 "But I just did Save", you might say.
 This is because the first click (the one where you "thought" you were clicking "Save") only established "Window Focus". You have to click "Save" one more time to actually save the document. This seems to be particularly prevalent with Powerpoint. You might notice that you'll be working on a Slide, then you go to a different window - maybe to play some tunes - and then come back to Powerpoint and maybe try to select something. The first click didn't do anything but establish Window Focus. So it would be well to click once when you come back to Powerpoint, before trying to do something.

Creating Graphics

Before we show how to use "Shapes" in Powerpoint, here is some preliminary information on Grids, Selection, Move, and Copy

Frustration Alert 2 You might be tempted to open up Powerpoint and fiddle with shapes. You know you want to! But read the following sections FIRST! (Especially if you can't wait to try entering TEXT!!) Powerpoint's "Move" and "Copy" protocol is UNIQUE. It ain't what you are used to!

1 The Grid
When you are creating graphics, it's always easier to line objects up if the objects are placed on a relatively coarse grid. To get the Grid dialog, click the View tab, and then click the little bitty rectangle underneath "Ruler/Gridlines/Guides. It's actually right beneath the "Notes" button.

For most items, "Spacing" of 1/4" works fine.

For smaller items, I find 1/16" to be useful.

If something won't line up quite where you want it, try 1/24", or turn off "Snap Objects to grid"

Note that the second number in the "Spacing" line is the decimal equivalent of the first number.

The grid display does not display every grid dot. It displays dots along a 1 inch spacing. But points entered in the creation of shapes do snap to the hidden grid within the inch wide squares.
 In this image, I have turned on the Ruler, which displays on the top and left side of the slide.

P.S.: Turn off the grid before making your screenshot! As you can see here, it will show like this in the finished image!

grids grids

A note on selection:
 You can select many objects by just clicking on the object. Or you can select by clicking a point (usually to the upper left of an object) and dragging to the opposite corner - to create a "selection window" around the object. Do the same for more than one object. Just include the objects in the selection window.
 "Irritation" Note: if the first point is inside another object, and then begin to drag, you will notice that Powerpoint will automatically select the object and move it. In these cases, you can select the "Undo" arrow and then try to select your desired object(s) by clicking elsewhere. For example, it is not necessary to always click the upper left area of the object(s) first. You can click the lower right first, for example.
 If you want to select more than one object by clicking on each one, Use "SHIFT", not "CTL" to add shapes! Yes, holding the "Ctl" key works for just about any other Windows program, but not Powerpoint!

2 Move
 Select the item(s).
Hover the cursor over the object(s) until you see a crossed arrow. This will usually appear over an outline box.
 Then drag to move. Holding "SHIFT" will restrict the move to 45 and 90 degrees.
NOTE: If using "SHIFT", release the mouse BEFORE releasing "SHIFT".

 Note on Text Boxes

move move

3 Copy.
 If you select one or more objects and do "Edit. . .Copy", and then (try to) select a new location for "Edit. . .Paste", you get this. The copy is placed just below and to the right of the original. (Same if you use "CTL C" and "CTL V").
 But note that you can "Copy" (or "CTL C") and "Paste (or "CTL V") from one slide to another slide. It won't paste to the location you select, but instead the pasted object appears in the same position on the new slide as it was on the old slide.
 You can select some text or other items from a Word document and paste them in a Powerpoint slide. Don't bother to try to select a point for a desired location. The copied material will appear in the center of the slide.

Here's how to copy an object or objects.
 If you release the "CTL" key first, the result is that the object(s) is simply moved!!

copy copy

Selecting and placing "Shapes"

To insert any kind of shape, click the Insert tab and select Shape. You will get this dialog of available shapes.


4 Insert Shape - Rectangle.
 Also see number 11 below for a rectangle with rounded corners.

When you finish clicking the two points, the rectangle
will remain selected. Here is what all the various points do.

rectangle rectangle

Want to do other things to your rectangle (or any other shape)? Just right click and select "Format shape". The "Format Shape" pane will appear on the right.
 Sometimes the "format Shape" pane just comes up with the two words "Fill" and "Line". Click either or both to expand.

 NOTE: If you look up information about shapes and other graphics information on various sites, they might say "Under the "Format" tab, do so-and-so". What they do not tell you is that the "Format" tab does not show unless you have selected an object first.

All shapes are "one-shot". They do not repeat. If you want to make more than one of the same shape, then right-click the shape you want, and select "Lock Drawing Mode".
 When you are done creating multiple shapes, select the "ESC" key to stop.


5 Triangle

6 Oval/Circle

ttt ttt

7 Two-point Line
 Shown here are lines of 3 pt thickness. Also shown are some Dotted Line options.
 The line is a "one-shot". Enter two points and you get one line. Want to make several line segments that are joined? Select the "Freeform" Shape from the Shape list. (SEE 13 below).

Some notes about the Line:
 While you are entering a 2-point line, surrounding shapes and text boxes will show "connection points" if you hover near them. If you click one of these points, the line will attach to the shape.
 You will see these connection points also if you select an existing 2-point line and are moving one of the end segments. This can be really irritating if you want to move the segment "close" to one of the points but not have it connect. An example is the dotted lines in the "Wavelength/Frequency" graphic above.
 I am unable to find any information on how to turn off this "line-snap" feature!! So it will be necessary to move the whole line, extend it, and then move it back.

ttt ttt

8 Arrow
 Just click two points. Note that the second point is the arrowhead. Once placed, you can then select it and make changes. You can move either end independently by clicking and dragging.

9 Block Arrow
 This is the only way to get a hollow arrow. The regular arrow has "No fill" grayed out.
  Click and drag the yellow dots as shown to either fatten the arrow shaft or to elongate the arrowhead.

arrow arrow

10 Arc
 The arc is actually created by simply entering a point. Powerpoint creates an arc that, if it were a full circle, would fit in a 1 inch square. Clicking and dragging will create a bigger arc. (Hold the "Shift" key to cause the arc to be "circular".)
 Or, you can just click one point and create the arc, and then select the arc and then click and drag the white dot opposite the arc. You must hold the "Shift" key while dragging to maintain the "circular" shape.

More info on arc
 Once placed, you can select the arc and then click and drag one of the yellow dots to create a partial circle.

arc arc

11 Filleted Rectangle

12 Elbow connector and Elbow arrow connector
 These are specialized items. They are intended to connect to two objects, such as rectangles or circles. When you are placing the connector, nearby objects will show black connection points while you hover over the objects. You have to connect the elbow to two objects. Trying to place an elbow in "free space" will not work.
 Use the yellow dot to slide the middle part.
 Once placed, the elbow will move if you move one of the attached objects.

rectangle elbow

13 The "Freeform" Gizmo
 This is used to create "polygons" of irregular shape. It can be used to create multiple connected line segments, for example. For straight segments, just click each point. The "SHIFT" can be used to restrict the line segments to be 45 or 90 degree angles.
 For truly freeform segments, click-and-drag each point.
 Double-click the last point to terminate the freeform shape. (Or you can select the "ESC" key to terminate the shape.)

Frustration Alert 3, Perhaps you have selected multiple shapes in order to make a change on all of them at once. You right-click in order to get the context menu that has "Format Object" on it. But all you get is the "Paste Options" menu! See number 15 below for the reason.

freeform right click

15 Getting the RIGHT menu for right-click
 When one or more items are selected, and yoiu wish to right-click and get the context menu with "Group", "Format Object", "Size and Position" and the like on it, make sure the cursor is hovering over the border of one of the objects and not outside the selected object or objects. You will still get the wrong menu even if you are in the interior of one of the objects!

right click

Final tidbits

Multiple instances of a particular shape:
 Tired of placing more than one shape and having to edit things like line width each time? First of all, Powerpoint will let you set shape characteristics on multiple shapes at once.
 Or, after you place a shape, you can select it and right-click and select "Set as default". Then subsequent shapes will have the same characteristics.
Frustration Alert 4!! But don't select an arrow shape and select the "set default" choice! You will notice that when you select an arrow and right-click, the menu says "Set as default line." And it means what it says: From then on, all lines will be arrows!!! And you can't place a new line to unset this default, because it will be an arrow.
 To unset, go find a line somewhere on the slide or on another slide in the same presentation, and Select "Set as default line". Don't have a plain line in the whole presentation? Well, then you're basically screwed, bud. Actually, no. Open up a new Powerpoint on another presentation, place a line, then copy the line into a slide on the "flawed" presentation and select the line and do "Set as default line!!"

Customizing the top toolbar:
 If you will be using Powerpoint for graphics on a regular basis, you'll find it a lot more convenient to create buttons for commonly used items. For example, You can create a one-click button for "Shapes", to replace selecting Insert. . .Shapes each time. And it will certainly be more convenient to click a button for the grids commands instead of clicking the little bitty box near the "Show" category.

The very top toolbar in Office programs is called the "Quick Access Toolbar". It's the one with "Save", "Save As", and a few others.

The "main" toolbar, with all the tabs, is called "The Ribbon".

Place the cursor somewhere over the Ribbon and right-click. Select "customize Quick Access Toolbar".

You will get a dialog that looks like this.
 Under "Choose commands from:", change from "Popular Commands" to "All Commands"
 Select each command you want to add to the Quick Access Toolbar from the list on the left.
 On the right list, click one of the existing commands. Click "Add". The chosen command will appear under the selected command on the right list.
 At the top of the list on the left is "Separator". You can add this between groups of commands if you like.
 So, for instance, I added "Close" right after "Save As".
 I added a separator after "Redo", and added "Add a Table" and "Pictures" (which lets you browse for pictures on the computer to add to the slide).
 I added another separator and then all the "Shape" related commands next.
 NOTE: Under "Grid Settings. . .", I added "Snap to Shape" It is supposed to toggle on and off the irritating snap when you are trying to place a line, arrow, or the like "near" shapes. Well, It does NOT work!"
 And the last four additions are useful if you are going to be doing scientific graphics.

>toolbar toolbar

Here's what my customized "Quick Access Toolbar" looks like:


Copyright © 2023 J.A.