Have you noticed the great infographics and slideshows in our newest lessons? Here at GCFLearnFree.org, we have a lot of tools we use to make the images you see on our site. Many of the images are created with traditional graphic design programs, like Photoshop and Illustrator. However, we also use a program that you may already use for other purposes: Microsoft PowerPoint.
PowerPoint is a surprisingly powerful tool, and its simple features and user-friendly interface make it perfect for people without much graphic design experience. (We’ll use PowerPoint 2010 for this post, but these same skills can be applied in PowerPoint 2007 or PowerPoint 2013). Here’s a brief overview of three ways we use PowerPoint at GCFLearnFree.org:
1. Laying Out Infographics
It can be hard to believe, but most of the large, detailed infographics on our site were created with PowerPoint. To create your own infographics, start by changing the slide size. You can do this by selecting the Design tab on the Ribbon, then clicking Page Setup. Infographics can come in a wide variety of sizes, so experiment with the slide size until it’s right for the graphic you’re trying to create.
Once you’ve set up your slide, you can add images, shapes, text, and other objects. As you add more of these objects, you might find that your infographic is getting a little cluttered. Fortunately, PowerPoint has some tools that can help you keep everything neat. These include Align, which lines up objects, and Distribute, which puts even spaces between objects. (To see an example of an infographic with aligned, evenly distributed shapes, check out this flowchart in our Blog Basics topic. You can learn more about both of these features in our lesson on Arranging Objects.)
When your infographic is finally done, you’ll need to save it as an image. That way, you’ll be able to share it with other people or put it on your website or blog. To save a PowerPoint slide as an image, click Save As. In the dialog box that appears, click the Save as type: drop-down menu and select PNG Portable Network Format. Finally, click Save.
2. Modifying Clip Art
If you’ve ever created a presentation with PowerPoint, you’ve probably used clip art. Did you know that much of the clip art that comes with PowerPoint can be modified and customized?
A large number of PowerPoint’s simple illustrated graphics are actually made of many small shapes. These shapes can be recolored, rearranged, and even removed. This makes it easy to drastically change the clip art. You can even combine existing clip art to create your own designs!
To modify clip art, you’ll need to ungroup it. You may have to do this more than once to be able to edit all of the shapes. (Instructions on grouping and ungrouping objects can be found in our Arranging Objects lesson.) You can then format and rearrange the individual shapes however you want. When you’re done, you’ll have a unique image you can use in a presentation, infographic, or anywhere you want!
3. Creating Original Designs with Shapes
In addition to the basic shape editing tools covered in our lesson on WordArt and Shapes, PowerPoint also includes a few more advanced tools that really let you turn shapes into art. These include:
- Edit points, which allows you to transform a shape by dragging, stretching, and rearranging its corners and edges
- Union, which lets you combine two shapes into one seamless shape
- Subtract, which lets you “cut out” portions of a shape by subtracting one shape from another
These are just a few of the special shape-editing tools in PowerPoint; you can find out about more in this article on the official PowerPoint blog. Also, note that many of these tools are hidden by default, so to use them, you’ll have to customize the Ribbon to include them. You can learn how to do that in our lesson on Getting Started with PowerPoint 2010.
Once you get the hang of using shapes, you can use them to create almost anything. For example, take a look at this image I created for a staff training at our office. Can you identify some of the basic shapes I used? I hope this post has given you some ideas for new ways to use PowerPoint.