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Formatting Lines (and Shape Outlines) in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows

Learn how to change the color, and make other changes to lines (and shape outlines) in PowerPoint 2016.


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Product/Version: Microsoft PowerPoint 2016
OS: Windows 7 and higher






We have already showed you how to use fills for shapes in PowerPoint 2016. A fill is something that is contained within the confines of the shape. Similarly, shapes have another attribute known as the "line" or the "outline". A line is the perimeter surrounding a closed shape or the line itself within an open shape -- we will explore more about lines later in this tutorial. In subsequent tutorials, we will show how you can work with shape outlines in PowerPoint 2016.

For all practical purposes, shape outline attributes in PowerPoint 2016 include:

In this tutorial, we'll explore the basics and thereafter provide links to specific, individual tutorials so that you can get acquainted with more advanced stuff.

Let us start by exploring what an outline is -- first of all we are talking about shape outlines here, and not presentation outlines which has already been covered. Now a shape outline is either of these two:

  • In a closed shape: The perimeter areas of closed shapes, such as rectangles, circles, etc. (shown on the left in Figure 1, below).
  • In an open shape: The line itself for regular line shapes such as straight lines, curves, scribbles, or any other shape that is not closed (shown on the right in Figure 1, below).

This establishes that formatting of outline options doesn't require a closed area. Figure 1 shows a thick line around both a closed shape, and an open shape.

Samples of lines (outlines) in closed and open shapes
Figure 1: Samples of lines (outlines) in closed and open shapes

As far as formatting any outline is concerned, it really doesn't matter if the selected shape is open or closed -- the process to do that is the same. However, there's one exception to the rule: you cannot add arrowheads to outlines around closed shapes -- that works only with open shapes. Learn more about Formatting Arrows (Arrowheads) in PowerPoint 2016.

Whenever a new shape is inserted in a PowerPoint slide, you can see that it is filled with a solid color and an outline by default. Follow these steps to learn about outline format options, such as the color, weight, dash, etc.:

  1. Launch PowerPoint 2016. You will see the Presentation Gallery -- here, select the Blank Presentation to open a blank presentation with a new slide. You can change the Slide Layout to Blank by selecting the Home tab | Layout | Blank option.
  2. Within the Home or Insert tab of the Ribbon, click the Shapes button to access the Shapes drop-down gallery that you can see in Figure 2. Select the Line shape (refer to Figure 2 again) or any other shape if you are using closed shape, and then either drag and draw, or click once on the blank slide to place an instance of the shape.

    Line shape within the Shapes drop-down gallery
    Figure 2: Line shape within the Shapes drop-down gallery
  3. Select the shape so that the Ribbon area now shows the Drawing Tools Format tab, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 3. Activate this Ribbon tab by clicking on it.

    Drawing Tools Format tab of the Ribbon
    Figure 3: Drawing Tools Format tab of the Ribbon

    Note: The Drawing Tools Format tab is a Contextual tab. These tabs are special tabs in the Ribbon that are not visible all the time -- they only make an appearance when you are working with a particular slide object which can be edited using special options.
  4. From the Drawing Tools Format tab, click the right-side portion of the Shape Outline button (highlighted in red within Figure 4). This brings up the Shape Outline drop-down gallery, as shown in Figure 4.

    Shape Outline drop-down gallery
    Figure 4: Shape Outline drop-down gallery

    The options within the Shape Outline drop-down gallery are explained below, as marked in Figure 4, above. You'll need to choose any one of these options for the fill:

    1. Theme Colors: Here you can select any of the colors which are from the active Theme of the presentation. You can also select any of the 5 tints or shades for any Theme color. Learn more about Themes here.

    2. Standard Colors: Here you can choose from any of the ten standard colors -- these ten standard colors are just choices of colors that PowerPoint believes to be widely used. You don't have to limit yourself to either the Theme colors or Standard colors, as you'll learn in the next options, although it's a good design idea to use Theme colors as far as possible.

    3. Recent Colors: Here you can find the colors most recently used. If you have just launched PowerPoint and created a new presentation, the Recent Colors option may be entirely absent since you haven't selected any color recently!

    4. No Outline: Choose this option to remove the shape outline altogether from the selected shape. If you have selected a line (open shape), then choosing the No Outline option will make the line to completely disappear! See our No Shape Outline in PowerPoint 2016 tutorial to learn more.

    5. More Outline Colors: This option is to summon the Colors dialog box as shown in Figure 5. This dialog box has two tabs: Standard and Custom -- first select the Standard tab (again, refer to Figure 5).

      Standard tab within the Colors dialog box
      Figure 5: Standard tab within the Colors dialog box

      The Standard tab offers 127 colors in a honeycomb style palette, 14 gray shades, black and white. You can even change the transparency value of the selected color in the Transparency slider below. If you want more color choices, then select the Custom tab of the same dialog box, as shown in Figure 6.

      Custom tab within the Colors dialog box
      Figure 6: Custom tab within the Colors dialog box

      Within the Custom tab, you can chose any color from the spectrum and later adjust the selected color's luminosity using the slider on the right. You can even enter specific values of RGB and HSL to create a specific color -- all these combinations provide 16 million color choices!

      Again, you can even change the transparency value of the selected color in the Transparency slider below.

      Choose any color and click OK to apply it.

    6. Eyedropper: This is the new option in PowerPoint 2013, the Eyedropper option enables you to pick an exact color from anywhere, even from somewhere outside PowerPoint.

    7. Weight: With this option you can change the thickness attribute of the outline from a hairline width to a chunky, thick line. Learn more about Formatting Outlines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows -- Weight.

    8. Dashes: These are different dash types. Learn more about Formatting Outlines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows -- Dash.

    9. Arrows: This option allows you to add arrowheads to one end or both ends of the shape outline. Learn more about Formatting Arrows (Arrowheads) in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows.

    10. Gradients (this option does not show in Shape Outline gallery you saw in Figure 4): PowerPoint 2016 also allows you to add gradients to shape outlines. Learn more about Gradient Outlines in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows.
  1. Once you apply the outline formatting to a selected shape or line, remember to save your presentation.

See Also:

Formatting Lines (and Shape Outlines) in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows
Formatting Lines (and Shape Outlines) in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac
Formatting Outlines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows
Formatting Outlines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2007 for Windows
Formatting Lines (Outlines) for AutoShapes in PowerPoint 2002 and 2003 for Windows

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