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Integrated sessions: Mastering your use of PowerPoint

"I do not think it makes sense to refer to PowerPoint as a method. Instead... PowerPoint is a medium that can be used effectively — that is, with effective design methods — or ineffectively, that is with ineffective design methods"

Richard Mayer, Editor of Multimedia Learning

Here we introduce you to the basic technical know-how you will need to create an effective presentation. This compliments our presentations pages which give you a lot of information about what makes a good presentation, from it structure and design to its delivery.

Other help with using PowerPoint 

The MS Office Training Centre homepage

Techniques for using MS PowerPoint effectively

The document above covers all the techniques given here, but if you prefer an online guide, or just want to check how to do something then these step-by-step sections will give you all the basic skills you need to create an effective academic presentation. If you want more advanced skills, we suggest you use the Office 365 Training Centre link above.

Choosing a colour scheme

If you choose and stick to a colour scheme, it forces you to use a limited palette for your presentation and creates a cohesive look even if you change other elements.

  • On the Design ribbon, click on the More button (more button) in the Variants section.
  • Choose Colors.
  • Select a scheme you like or think will be appropriate to your presentation.

It will not look like very much has happened. However, when you next come to choose a colour for an element within your presentation, you will see that the colour palette will have changed.


Choosing a default font

Choosing a default font will keep a consistency throughout your presentation whilst allowing you to have a slightly more interesting look than the standard Calibri.

  • On the Design ribbon, click on the More button (more button) in the Variants section.
  • Choose Fonts.
  • Select from the list of fonts given.

All the fonts in this list are suitable for the main text in your presentation (they are not too fancy and hard to read). You can also Custom Fonts... from the bottom of the list and select a different font if you wish.

Choosing a background

Backgrounds should be plain colours, slight textures or slight gradients. Do not choose anything too busy as it will interfere with the clarity of your slide content. If you choose a plain colour, it should be pale or dark, nothing in between. For many presentations it is perfectly acceptable to keep the background white.

  • On the Design ribbon, choose Format Background (Format background button). This is also available by right clicking on the background of the slide.

The Format Background pane will appear on the right of the screen.

  • Select the type of background you require.
  • If Solid fill, select the colour by clicking on the Color button (Colour button).
  • If Gradient fill, we recommend a simple two colour gradient:
    • Remove the middle two colour stops by selecting them and clicking the Remove button (remove stop button).   gradient stops
    • Now select each of the end stops in turn and choose your colour using the Color button (colour button).

Choose two similar colours so that text will be equally readable in all areas of the slide.

  • If Texture fill, avoid the ones that come with the program. If you have already found and saved some texture files you can select them here by clicking on File… Alternatively, choose the Online option and search for something like “blue texture” or “grey texture”.
  • You can change the intensity of all background colours/gradients/textures by using the Transparency slider. For a gradient you must set it for each colour stop.
  • If you want the majority of slides in your presentation to use the same background settings, click the Apply to All button at the bottom of the pane.

Format background pane

graphical representation of the instructions given here

Adding text to every slide (in the footer)

Often, a tutor will require you to display your module number and student number on every slide (some prefer it only on the title slide so do check). You can add it to every slide easily in the footer.

  • From the Insert ribbon, choose Header & Footer.
  • Check the small box alongside the Footer option.

This allows you to type in the Footer box.

  • Enter the text you want to appear on every slide in the Footer box.

If you want to put this information more prominently on your title slide, you may wish to check the Don’t show on title slide option so that it is not repeated.

  • Click Apply to All.

Header and Footer button


Adding text to footer

Viewing the Slide Master

Some settings, for example the position of the footer, the colour of the default text need to be changed for all slides. That is where the Slide Master is used.

  • On the View ribbon, select Slide Master.

Selecting the Slide Master

This shows the layout masters for each of the available slide layouts.

  • Choose Colors.

This is very important if you want to affect ALL slides.

Changing the default text colour

  • Click into the title area of the displayed slide master.
  • Right click and use the small floating toolbar to change the text colour to a suitable one for your slide background.

Text colour button on floating toolbar

  • Do the same for the first and second level text.

You should never need to use more than second level text (and even this only rarely).

Changing the position of the footer

If you want to move your footer to the left or right of the slide, you should do this here on the Slide Master so that you don’t have to keep doing it on each new slide.

  • Delete the two small text boxes to the left and right of the footer as these are not needed (click on the dotted border of each box and press the Delete key on your keyboard).
  • Drag on the border of the footer box (on the dotted line) to position the box to the left or right side of your slide (the box rather than the text within it).
  • Click into the footer box and use Ctrl+L or Ctrl+R to align the text to the left or right of the box as appropriate.

Closing the Slide Master view

  • On the Slide Master ribbon, click the large red Close Master View cross - red cross.

You should be returned to your original slide with the text colour/sizes/fonts showing the changes made in the Slide Master.

Use slide layouts as the basis for your slide structure

How the initial placeholders for text and graphics are arranged on your slides is determined by your slide layout. Many students only used the default layouts of "Title slide" and "Title and Content" shown here:

    Title slide layoutTitle and content layout

There are several others that you may find useful as starting points for your slides. For example, working with the Title Only layout is a great way to make you really think about what makes the best evidence for the main body of your slide rather than just using another list of bullet points.

Choosing a new layout when you create a new slide

The New Slide button has two parts. If you click on the top part, you will get the default slide layout of Title and Content. To choose a different layout:

  • On the Home ribbon, click on the bottom part of the New Slide button (on the text rather than the icon).
  • Select the layout you require from the list that appears.

The new slide will be created using your chosen layout. This will also be the default slide layout the next time you click on the top part of the New Slide button.


Choosing a new layout for an existing slide

  • On the Home ribbon, click the Layout button (in the Slides group near the New Slide button.
  • Select the layout you require from the list that appears.

The layout will be changed for the current slide. This will be the default slide layout the next time you click on the top part of the New Slide button.


selecting a new slide + layout Layout button

Layout options for creating new slide

Text boxes

Unlike MS Word, all text in PowerPoint is held in text boxes. This gives you complete flexibility over where you position the text and much more. Most slide layouts include existing text boxes, you can also create your own anywhere on a slide.

Entering text into an existing text box (placeholder)

Text boxes that are part of a slide layout are called placeholders - they usually say something like "Click to add title/text".

  • Simply click where it suggests and type.

Creating a text box

Text boxes can be inserted from the Insert ribbon, or from the Drawing palette on the Home ribbon:

  • Display the Home or Insert ribbon.
  • Click on the Text Box button/icon.
  • Move (don't drag) to where you want to position your text box (it doesn't have to be exact).
  • Drag as if drawing your box from corner to corner and release to draw the text box.
  • Type the text into the box.
  • The initial text size is usually too small - change to a minimum of 24 point.

Moving and resizing the text boxes

Although the text box position and size is decided by the template and slide layout you are using, you are completely free to change this on individual slides.

Moving a text box

  • Click into the box so that you can see its border and handles.
  • Drag on the border of the box between the handles (avoid the handles themselves).

The four-headed arrow will indicate you are moving the box.

Resizing/reshaping a text box

  • Click into the box so that you can see its border and handles.
  • Drag on any of the handles around the border to resize or reshape the box.

The two-headed arrow will indicate you are reshaping the box.

move icon Moving the box


resize icons Reshaping the box

Rotating text boxes

Free rotation

  • Click on the border of the text box.

The circular rotate handle should be visible at the top of the box.

  • Drag left or right on the rotate handle.

90o rotation

  • On the Drawing tools menu, click on the Arrange button.

That brings up the options opposite.

  • Use the Rotate entry to get more options:

Rotate options

  • Select the option you require.

rotating textbox



Formatting the text

All the text with a box

  • Click into the text box so that you can see the borders around the box.
  • Click on the border of the text box.

The flashing cursor will disappear from inside the box.

  • Change any of the text settings (font, size, colour etc) using the options on the Home ribbon.

Specific words or phrases

  • Drag over the specific words or phrases you want to format.
  • Change any of the text settings (font, size, colour etc) using the options on the Home ribbon.
  • Alternatively, right click on the selected text and use the options in the small floating toolbar that appears above the menu.

selected text box

Whole text box selected. All text will be changed.



Specific text selected. Only selected text will be changed.

Using images

Please note these instructions do not take into account licensing restrictions – you only use images that you have the legal right to use. See our page on How to get Images and Photos legally for help with this.

Inserting images

You have three main ways to insert images into PowerPoint:

  1. From file – for if you already have the image saved somewhere on your computer.
  2. From Online Pictures available within PowerPoint.
  3. Cutting and pasting from images found on the internet.

Inserting an image from file

  • On the Insert ribbon, choose Pictures.

This will open a standard file navigation dialog box.

  • Navigate to the picture file you want and select it.
  • Click Insert.

Your image will be inserted in the centre of the slide.

Choosing Pictures button

Inserting Online Pictures within PowerPoint

  • On the Insert ribbon, choose Online Pictures.

This opens up a dialog box containing a Bing Image Search box.

Bing search box

  • In the Search Bing box, type your search term and press Enter.

Your results will be returned.

  • In order to reference the image, you will need to go to the page it comes from to copy the URL. You can do this by clicking on the link at the bottom of each image (this appears when you hover over the image).
  • Once you have copied the URL, return to PowerPoint (your Insert Pictures box should still be open).
  • Click on the image to select it (the small box in the top left of the image will be checked).
  • Click Insert.

Your image will be placed in the middle of your slide.

  • Paste the URL into the Notes section underneath your slide so that you have it for your references later (you can use the link to go to find the details you need for your on-slide citation too).

Choosing Online Pictures

Using Google Image Search

  • Go to
  • Enter your search term in the search box and press Enter.
  • Hover over an image you like to check its dimensions.

Larger images (at least 1000 pixels in the first value) should be big enough to fill whole slides, other images should be at least 600 pixels in one dimension or they will be too small to use as anything other than icons).

  • Once you find a suitable image, click on it to open the full image preview.
  • Right-click on the large image and choose to Copy it (not Copy Link).
  • Go to PowerPoint and Paste it onto your slide.
  • Again, you will need to know the URL of the image for your references; go back to your browser and use the Visitbutton to go to the website it comes from and copy the URL.
  • Paste this into the Notes section underneath your slide for future use.

Image size shown when hover over image

Moving and resizing images

Moving images

  • With the image selected (you will be able to see handles around its edges) drag in the middle of the image (you should see a four headed arrow which indicates you are moving the image).

Do not drag on the handles – this will reshape/resize the image rather than move it.

Move mouse pointer

Resizing images

  • Make sure your image is selected (you can see the handles) and drag on any of the corner handles.
  • You need to drag diagonally – inwards to make smaller and outwards to make larger.

A two headed arrow will indicate you are resizing rather than moving.

Avoid the middle handles on each edge as dragging on these will distort the image leading to an unprofessional look.

Resize mouse pointer

Adding effects to images

There are several preset image effects that can enhance the look of your images.

  • Double-click on an image to select it and display the Format ribbon.
  • In the Picture Styles gallery, select the image style you require from the options available:

Image effects gallery


Original image

Original image

Some picture styles

Some picture styles

  • If you wish to be more specific about the amount of shadow, reflection, soft edge etc. Then you can use the Picture Effects drop-drop down list to be select from more options.

SmartArt graphics - ready-made diagrams

One way to make your slides more visual is to turn basic lists into SmartArt graphics. These are a group of preset diagrams that come with PowerPoint. You just need to fill in the text. Even a simple list looks more appealing as a SmartArt graphic - but their real strength comes in showing how information connects - relationships, processes, heirarchies etc.

Inserting the SmartArt

  • From the Insert menu, select SmartArt.

Note that the icon for this is also available in the centre of a new Title and Content slide when you create it.

SmartArt button

  • Choose the type of SmartArt you require and click OK.

They are categorised to help you (down the left), and you can always change it later.

SmartArt gallery

Adding your own text and images to the SmartArt graphic

  • A box should have appeared on the left of the SmartArt where you can add your text. Either type directly in here or cut and paste text from a bullet list if you already had one in your presentation.

If this box does not appear, you can bring it up by clicking the   symbol at the edge of the graphic.

  • Alternatively, you can type directly into the SmartArt shapes.
  • Whenever you see a  symbol it is indicating you need to click on the symbol to upload an image.

Formatting the graphic

The SmartArt graphic has its own tools – with its own Design and Format ribbons.

Changing the SmartArt layout

Once you have your own text in the graphic, you can still switch the layout and see how it looks in different styles.

  • On the SmartArt Tools, Design ribbon, use the layout gallery to choose a different layout for your graphic. For example, these both use the same text:

Example of SmartArt     Example of SmartArt 2


With images added they could look like:

Example of SmartArt 3    or   Example of SmartArt 4


Changing the SmartArt style

  • On the SmartArt Tools, Design ribbon, use the SmartArt styles gallery to choose a different style of box:

Box styles

It is not recommended that you use the 3D styles as these can be more difficult to read.

Changing the SmartArt colours

  • Change to some preset colour schemes using the Change Colors tool on the Design ribbon.
  • Alternatively, click into a specific shape and use Shape Fill tool on the Format ribbon to change the fill colours.

SmartArt with different colours

Change Colours options

Create your own images

PowerPoint’s drawing tools can be used to create your own diagrams and infographics. The drawing tools can all be accessed via the Drawing section of the Home ribbon. You can also find them using the Shapes button on the Insert ribbon.


Drawing section of Home ribbon      Shapes button

Inserting shapes

  • Select the shape you want to draw.

There are many more available than can initially be seen – use the More button (More button) to see the rest.

  • Move your mouse pointer to where you want the top-left of the shape to be.

Do not try to drag the shape from the ribbon to your slide. Just select, then move.

  • Drag diagonally down and right to draw your shape.

Note: if you hold the Shift key as you drag it will constrain to a regular shape (e.g. circle/square rather than oval/rectangle). If you hold the Ctrl key down it will draw from the centre out. You can do both too.

  • If necessary, edit the size and position as you would for an image (see the Working with images tab).

Editing the shape's fill (basic options)

  • With the shape selected, use the Shape Fill button (in the Drawing section of Home ribbon) to choose a different colour as you can see here.

Note that you can also fill with pictures, gradients or textures using the same option.


  • If you want to match the colour to something already on your slide (including areas of photographs), you can use the Eyedropper tool and click on the colour.

Pictures can be from file, searched for online or from the clip board (something you have copied).

Editing the shape’s outline (basic options)

  • With the shape selected, use the Shape Outline button (below the Fill button) and choose from the options shown here.

This includes colour, weight and dash style. Lines (rather than shapes) can also have arrow heads of various styles and sizes.