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Gradient Outlines in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows

Learn how to apply gradient style to outlines in PowerPoint 2010.

Author: Geetesh Bajaj

Product/Version: Microsoft PowerPoint 2010
OS: Microsoft Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8

Date Created: February 8th 2011
Last Updated: February 8th 2011

You have already learned about the different options for Formatting Shape Outlines in PowerPoint 2010. In addition, you have explored how you can change the weight, dash styles and arrowheads for these shape outlines. In this tutorial, you will learn about an attribute that's rarely associated with shape outlines but can provide a surprisingly different look, especially when applied to lines that are thicker in weight. This attribute Gradient, is not accessible from the Shape Outline gallery in the Ribbon but directly from the Format Shape dialog box that we will explore later in this page. Meanwhile, Figure 1 shows you some sample gradient lines.

Sample gradient lines
Figure 1: Sample gradient lines

To see a sample presentation containing gradient lines in PowerPoint, scroll down to the bottom of this page.

Follow these steps to apply gradient to outlines:

  1. Select the shape that you want to apply gradient outline to. Alternatively, if you just want to follow this tutorial step-by-step, launch PowerPoint. Most of the time, PowerPoint will open with a new slide in a presentation -- PowerPoint 2010 users can change the slide layout to Blank by selecting Home tab | Layout | Blank.

  2. Within the Home or Insert tab of the Ribbon, click the Shapes button to access the Shapes gallery that you can see in Figure 2. Select the Rectangle (or any other shape), and then either drag and draw, or click once on the blank slide to place an instance of the shape. (We used a Rectangle shape with no fill as you can see later in Figure 3).

    Shapes gallery in PowerPoint
    Figure 2: Shapes gallery

  3. To make the gradient line stand out, change the weight of the line to anything higher than 10 pt. -- 20 pt. is even better!

  4. Right click the shape, which opens the context menu shown in Figure 3. Choose the Format Shape option from that menu (refer to Figure 3 again).

    Format Shape option
    Figure 3: Format Shape option

  5. This opens the Format Shape dialog box, as shown in Figure 4. In the Format Shape dialog box, select the Line Color tab and select the Gradient Line radio button if it is not already selected.

    Gradient Line option within Line Color tab
    Figure 4: Gradient Line option within Line Color tab

    The options within Format Shape dialog box are explained below, as marked in Figure 4:

    1. Preset Colors: Clicking the downward pointing arrow next to this option brings up several ready to use default gradients (see Figure 5). These can be either applied straightaway, or used as a base to edit and create your own gradients using the other options available in this dialog box.

      Preset colors
      Figure 5: Preset colors

      Figure 6 shows some shapes that have their outlines applied with a preset gradient.

      Outlines applied with preset gradients
      Figure 6: Outlines applied with preset gradients

    2. Type: There are four gradient types available -- these are Linear, Radial, Rectangular, and Path (see Figure 7).

      Gradient Type dropdown list
      Figure 7: Gradient Type drop-down list

      1. Linear gradient types are either horizontal or vertical gradients although they can be diagonal to any degree -- use the Angle option explained later on this page to change the degree. Figure 8 shows some samples of the same linear gradient outlines rotated to different angle values. We normally don't use gradients that are so gaudy -- but since our previews are so small, we thought this sort of gradient will bring out the differences in gradient types well!

        Shapes with linear gradient outlines rotated to different angle values
        Figure 8: Shapes with linear gradient outlines rotated to different angle values

      2. Radial gradient types start with one color from a center position, and then merge into other colors towards the edge of the shape they fill. You can change the position of the center from which the gradient radiates to either the center, or any of the four corners as you can see in Figure 9. If your radial gradient has many stops with contrasting colors, the gradient might end up looking like concentric lines rather than smooth gradients -- that's exactly what has happened in Figure 9 -- but use a simpler two color gradient, and you'll see more subtle results.

        Shapes with radial gradients lines centered from different positions
        Figure 9: Shapes with radial gradient outlines centered from different positions

      3. Rectangular gradient types are the same as radial gradients in all ways, but they spread out from a center position in a rectangular (or square) form rather than a circular form. Compare Figures 9 and 10 and you'll understand what we are explaining! Again, you can change the position of the center from which the gradient merges to either the center, or any of the four corners as you can see in Figure 10.

        Shapes with rectangular gradient outlines centered from different positions
        Figure 10: Shapes with rectangular gradient outlines centered from different positions

      4. Path gradient types again are similar to radial or rectangular gradient types -- but they follow a path -- so a circular shape shows a circular gradient, a curved arrow shows a curved gradient, and so forth -- see Figure 11. Not surprisingly, a path gradient or a radial gradient within a circle may look the same, as you can see in the bottom-left shape in Figure 11.

        Shapes with path gradients lines
        Figure 11: Shapes with path gradient out lines

    3. Direction: With this option, you can set the direction of the applied gradient to any of the available directions (see Figure 12).

      Linear gradients provide 8 directions (see Figure 12), radial and rectangular gradients provide 5 directions, and path gradients provide no direction editing options.

      Direction options
      Figure 12: Direction options

    4. Angle: Sets the angle of the gradient -- this option is only available for linear gradients.

    5. Gradient Stops: This option provides you with a comprehensive gradient editor, almost as capable as a mini-application within PowerPoint -- a separate article is available on Gradient Editing with Stops.

  6. Once you have applied the gradient style to your selected outline shape, click the Close button to dismiss the Format Shape dialog box. In Figure 13 you can see the gradient style applied to the Rectangle shape outline that was selected earlier.

    Gradient style applied to the Rectangle shape outline
    Figure 13: Gradient style applied to the Rectangle shape outline

  7. Don't forget to save your presentation often.

Tip: If you use a gradient line on a shape that has no fill, you will attain a simple look that will make the actual shape area transparent thus resting the entire focus to the gradient line. To change the fill of a shape to none, look at our No Fill in PowerPoint 2010 tutorial.

Related Link: My book Cutting Edge PowerPoint 2007 For Dummies covers many aspects of PowerPoint 2007. A free chapter excerpt PowerPointing with the Best of Them is available on this site.

Sample presentation for Gradient Outlines in PowerPoint

Click above to view on SlideShare

Click above to view on YouTube

See Also:

Gradient Outlines in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows
Gradient Outlines in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows
Gradient Lines in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac
Gradient Outlines in PowerPoint 2007 for Windows


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