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AutoShape Magic


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Date Created: January 15th 2006
Last Updated: January 15th 2006

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The Format Painter
PowerPoint’s fills and lines

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The Format Painter

You just formatted an AutoShape with the fill and line you want, and the text inside the AutoShape is formatted using a particular font style and color. Now you need to apply the same formatting to 25 more shapes within the presentation. What do you do?

You could format each AutoShape the same way and have no time for lunch. Or you could use the Format Painter and also have time for dessert and coffee.

Follow these steps to use the Format Painter:

  1. Select the AutoShape whose attributes you want to copy.

  2. Copy the attributes:

    • If you want to apply the attributes to one AutoShape, click the Format Painter icon.

    • If you want to apply the attributes to several AutoShapes, double-click the Format Painter icon so that it remains selected (“sticky”).

  3. Click the AutoShape(s) where you want the attributes copied.

  4. If you double-clicked the Format Painter to make it sticky, get rid of the stickiness. You can

    • Click the Format Painter button again.

    • Click any other icon.

    • Press Esc to get rid of the stickiness.

Tip: Here are some guidelines for using the Format Painter:

  • The Format Painter can be used to copy attributes to other AutoShapes on the same slide, the same presentation, or across other presentations.

  • The Format Painter works beyond AutoShapes. You can use the Format Painter to copy characteristics of placeholders, tables, and charts.


Working with Fills and Lines

PowerPoint’s ability to present richly colored and textured elements is based on the OfficeArt fill and line technology. OfficeArt is a shared graphic component used across the Microsoft Office suite.

Remember: Apart from AutoShapes, PowerPoint’s fills and lines work the same way across other slide elements, such as WordArt, backgrounds, and charts. In fact, they even work the same way in other Microsoft Office programs because they’re all based on OfficeArt technology. So you can use all the tricks you learn here in Word and Excel!

Warning: Although fills and lines can be used for almost all PowerPoint elements in the same way, there are subtle differences. For example, backgrounds can’t have a transparent fill, and pictures can only be formatted for lines.

PowerPoint’s fills

PowerPoint provides five types of fills:

  • Solid Colors
  • Gradients
  • Patterns
  • Textures
  • Pictures

Color Plate 5-1 shows how versatile the fills can be.

Remember: By default, any AutoShape you draw has a solid fill. You can change the fill either through the icons on the Drawing toolbar or through the Format AutoShape dialog box.

I suggest you use the Drawing toolbar because

  • It’s quicker.

  • The fill and line color icons on the Drawing toolbar remember the last settings you used for solid fills and lines.

If you want to repeat a fill or line color again, you just click the icon.

Default fills and Color Schemes

Whenever you create a new shape, PowerPoint uses a default fill color. This color is determined by the default fill color specified in PowerPoint’s Color Schemes option for the active open presentation. Color Schemes are covered in Chapter 3 — however, you can follow the rest of this chapter even without reading that section now.

The advantage or disadvantage (whichever way you look at it) of using a default color from a Color Scheme is that when you change the Color Scheme, all your fill colors change, too. If you don’t want your fill colors to change, don’t use a color from the Color Scheme swatches in the Fill Color toolbar.

The Fill Color toolbar

To access the Fill Color toolbar:

  1. Click the downward-pointing arrow next to the Fill Color icon in the Drawing toolbar to open a flyout menu.

  2. Drag this menu off the Drawing toolbar to create a floating Fill Color toolbar within PowerPoint, as you can see in Figure 5-18.

Figure 5-18: The Fill Color toolbar.

Changing default fills and lines

You can override Color Schemes and change the default fill and line colors for AutoShapes in any presentation:

  1. Draw any AutoShape or select an existing AutoShape.

  2. Format the fills and lines as required.

  3. Double-click the AutoShape to summon the Format AutoShape dialog box.

  4. In the Colors and Lines tab, check the option that says “Default for new objects.”

Solid fills

Follow these steps to change or apply a solid fill:

  1. Select the AutoShape.

    • On the Fill Color toolbar (see Figure 5-18), choose from

    • Eight Color Scheme swatches

    • Eight recently used color swatches

    • An absolute color value by clicking More Fill Colors

      Clicking the More Fill Colors option opens the standard Windows color picker dialog box, where you can choose or mix any RGB color — that means you have almost 16 million color choices. The PowerPoint color picker has two tabs, Standard and Custom, as shown in Figures 5-19 and 5-20.

    • The Standard tab (see Figure 5-19) offers 127 colors, black, white, and 14 shades of gray. You can also change the transparency value of the color, so that whatever is behind your AutoShape shows through.

    • In the Custom tab (see Figure 5-20), you can click a color from a spectrum and then adjust the color’s luminosity with the slider on the right. You can also enter specific HSL or RGB values to create a specific fill color.

      For the skinny on RGB and HSL, refer to the relevant sidebars in Chapter 3. And check out the Color Plates for Chapter 3 as well.

Figure 5-19: The Standard tab gives you color choices.

Figure 5-20: The Custom tab lets you mix your own RGB and HSL colors.

Gradient fills

To change or apply a gradient fill, select the AutoShape and choose Fill Effects from the Fill Color toolbar (refer to Figure 5-18). Click the Gradient tab in the Fill Effects dialog box and you see the dialog box shown in Figure 5-21.

Figure 5-21: The Gradient tab of the Fill Effects dialog box is chock-full of options.

You can create gradients from three color systems:

  • One Color gradients allow you to use a graduated fill that merges between one color and either black (dark) or white (light).

  • Two Color gradients allow you to merge shades between any two colors.

  • Preset gradients are part of PowerPoint’s fill engine. Some of these gradients use more than two colors. You can’t alter or edit any presets.

In addition to choosing colors, you can choose the direction of the gradient. In all, you can choose from 11 gradient directions. Reverse the gradient colors and you end up with 22 gradient styles.

You can also choose a transparency level for each gradient (supported only in PowerPoint 2002 and 2003).

On the CD: Creating gradients can take so much time. The CD attached to this book contains over 1,000 gradient swatches for you to copy and use. All gradient swatches are contained in a PowerPoint presentation. Follow these steps to use these swatches:

  1. Copy any swatch you like and paste it in your active presentation.

  2. With the copied swatch selected, click once on the Format Painter icon on the standard toolbar.

  3. Click an AutoShape to apply that gradient to the AutoShape.

  4. Delete the copied swatch.

Changing the gradient direction

You can change the gradient direction in the Fill Effects dialog box. This normally involves five to six clicks. You probably don’t want to experiment with all 22 styles if they need five clicks each!

On the CD: AutoShape Magic comes to the rescue again! It allows you to play with 11 gradient directions with only one click.

If you want to play with the other 11 directions, just click the Reverse Colors icon!

Design guidelines

Follow these guidelines for gradient fills:

  • Experiment with gradients between hues of the same color. I often use a medium to dark blue gradient as a fill — this works great if I need to place some white text inside the AutoShape.

    Make sure that any gradient fill you use works well with either black or white text.

  • If you don’t need to place any text in the AutoShape, you can use gradients composed of light and dark colors.

  • If you need to focus attention on a single AutoShape in a slide that contains many elements, use a gradient fill with a contrasting color. For example, in a slide filled with blue gradient elements, I would use a red-to-black gradient to focus on a single AutoShape.

  • Experiment with using white as one of the gradient colors. This works especially well if you’re creating a presentation with a white background.

Texture fills

In PowerPoint parlance, textures tile across to form a fill. It goes without saying that such textures need to be seamless. PowerPoint includes 24 textures, and you can import more by using the Other Texture button.

Seamless textures wrap all over the slide to create an uninterrupted pattern when tiled. If your texture isn’t seamless, or if you don’t want to tile it, you can always use picture fills (discussed later in this chapter).

Here’s how you change or apply a texture fill:

  1. Select the AutoShape.

  2. On the Fill Color toolbar (see Figure 5-18), choose Fill Effects and open the Texture tab in the Fill Effects dialog box (see Figure 5-22).

  3. Choose from one of the existing textures or click the Other Texture button and choose a texture saved on your hard drive.

Figure 5-22: The Texture tab of the Fill Effects dialog box.

On the CD: The CD that accompanies this book contains more than 100 seamless textures ready for you to use as fills in your presentations. To use these textures, click the Other Texture button and navigate to the folder on the CD that contains these textures. You can also copy the entire folder to your hard drive.

Because textures are small files that tile seamlessly across an AutoShape, using textures will not balloon up your PowerPoint file size.

Tip: Follow these guidelines for texture fills:

  • Don’t use textures as fills for AutoShapes that also contain text.

  • If you want to design your own seamless textures, use an application like Corel Painter that has specific features suitable for their creation.

  • You can find tons of seamless textures available on the Internet. Check out www.ppted.com/001100/back for a collection of over 800 seamless textures.

  • Create design elements with small, texture-filled AutoShapes. Often, you can enliven a drab presentation by inserting such shapes in the corners or sides of the slide area. You can also use seamless textures as fills for charts.

Pattern fills

Patterns are two-color designs comprising lines, dots, dashes, and checks. In all, PowerPoint includes 48 patterns, such as Plaid, Weave, Shingle, and Zig Zag.

Here’s how you change or apply a pattern fill:

  1. Select the AutoShape.

  2. On the Fill Color toolbar (see Figure 5-18), choose Fill Effects and open the Pattern tab in the Fill Effects dialog box (see Figure 5-23).

  3. Choose from one of the existing patterns.

  4. Choose the foreground and background colors for the pattern from the drop-down lists.

  5. Click OK.

  6. Tip: Follow these guidelines for pattern fills:

    • Patterns work well for presentations that need to be printed as handouts, especially for black-and-white prints.

    • If you need to print black-and-white slides with pattern fills, use white as the background color and black as the foreground. The reverse doesn’t print too well.

    • To reverse pattern colors, you can use the Reverse Colors option on the AutoShape Magic toolbar. You’ll find a copy of the add-in on the CD with this book.

Here’s how you change or apply a picture fill:

  1. Select the AutoShape.

  2. On the Fill Color toolbar (see Figure 5-18), choose Fill Effects and open the Picture tab in the Fill Effects dialog box (see Figure 5-24).

  3. Click the Select Picture button and select a picture saved on your hard drive.

    On the CD: The CD with this book contains several royalty-free pictures for you to use. You can access the pictures from the CD, or you can copy all the picture folders to your hard drive and access them from there.

  4. Select the Lock Picture Aspect Ratio check box if you don’t want your picture proportions to change.

    Technical Stuff: This option is available only in PowerPoint 2002 and 2003.

  5. Deselect the Rotate Fill Effect with Shape check box if you want to keep your picture right-side-up when you rotate the AutoShape — by default this option is selected.

    Technical Stuff: This option is available only in PowerPoint 2002 and 2003.

  6. Click OK.

Figure 5-24: The Picture tab of the Fill Effects dialog box.

Tip: Follow these guidelines for picture fills:

  • Although you can insert pictures directly inside PowerPoint, there are inherent advantages in using a rectangular AutoShape filled with a picture. Such pictures can rotate with the AutoShape, and changing the picture is as easy as changing the fill. You can’t make a picture transparent, but an AutoShape with a picture fill can be made transparent.

  • Picture fills can increase the PowerPoint file size. Use PowerPoint’s compression feature to bring your file size in order. You can find more information about compression in Chapter 8.

PowerPoint’s lines

PowerPoint provides an amazing diversity of options for creating and editing lines (outlines), as shown in Figure 5-25.

Figure 5-25: Options for line styles are nearly limitless.

Unlike fills, line styles don’t require a closed area like a rectangle, circle, or background. They can be used in shapes that don’t close.

Line attributes

On PowerPoint’s Draw toolbar, you’ll find four icons that can be used to format lines:

  • The Line Color icon opens a flyout menu similar to the Fill Color icon. This menu can be dragged off the Draw toolbar to spawn the Line Color floating toolbar (see Figure 5-26).

  • The Line Style icon opens a flyout menu with different line styles. These include thin and thick lines and double-ruled lines (see Figure 5-27).

  • The Dash Style icon opens a flyout menu with different dash styles (see Figure 5-28).

  • The Arrow Style icon opens a flyout menu with different arrow styles for lines (see Figure 5-29).

Figure 5-26: Line Color flyout.

Figure 5-27: Line Style flyout.

Figure 5-28: Dash Style flyout.

Figure 5-29: Arrow Style flyout.

Applying a line style

Follow these steps to apply or edit a line style:

  1. Select the element (shape, drawing, line).

  2. Choose a color for the line from the Line Color flyout (see Figure 5-26) on the Draw toolbar.

  3. Choose a line style from the Line Style flyout (see Figure 5-27) on the Draw toolbar. Choose More Lines if you want to tweak beyond the presets available.

  4. Choose a dash style (if required) from the Dash Style flyout (see Figure 5-28) on the Draw toolbar.

  5. Choose an arrow style (if required) from Arrow Style flyout (see Figure 5-29) on the Draw toolbar. You can choose the More Arrows option if you want larger or smaller arrowheads.

Tip: Follow these guidelines for lines:

  • Just because PowerPoint includes a line by default on every AutoShape you draw is no reason to live with it. Let’s face it — sometimes lines just get in the way. If that’s the case with some of your presentation visuals, set the line attribute on the Colors and Lines tab of the Format AutoShape dialog box to No Line.

  • Taking this further, you can achieve a great effect by adding a shadow to an AutoShape that has no line. To add a shadow, click the Shadow icon in the Drawing toolbar.

  • Sometimes, you can achieve a nice effect by using the same color for both line and fill. You might want to darken the line color just a little bit.

  • Explore patterned lines. They make great frames for images — you can discover them in the next section.

Patterned lines

What’s a patterned line? Every element in PowerPoint has a fill and line attribute — patterned lines are just another line attribute.

Figure 5-30 shows some samples of patterned lines. Color Plate 5-2 shows more patterned lines.

Figure 5-30: Give your lines some pizzazz by adding patterns.

Follow these steps to apply or edit a patterned line:

  1. Draw an AutoShape on the slide and choose Format|AutoShape. This presents you with the Format AutoShape tabbed dialog box. By default, the Colors and Lines tab is active.

  2. Click the Line Color drop-down list and choose Patterned Lines. The resultant Patterned Lines dialog box that you see in Figure 5-31 gives you 48 patterns to choose from.

    Figure 5-31: Creating patterned lines.

  3. Select a pattern and choose two colors that provide a nice contrast and then click OK. This returns you to the Format AutoShape dialog box.

  4. Choose a thick line weight. I normally choose a thickness between 15 and 40 points, depending on the size of the shape. If you choose anything thinner than that, the patterned lines really won’t show the patterns!

  5. Click OK.

    On the CD: You’ll find samples of patterned lines on the CD that’s included with this book.

Follow these guidelines for patterned lines:

  • Patterned lines can help persons with color-vision deficiency differentiate between objects.

  • Patterned lines look good only if you use lines with at least 15-point thickness.

  • Patterned lines are ideally suited for creating quick frames for pictures inserted in PowerPoint.


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