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Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac

Make changes to the appearance of shape lines in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac. You can change line color, weight, dash type, arrow-ends, add gradients, and remove line attributes altogether.

Shape fills in PowerPoint indicate 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 Mac.

For all practical purposes, shape outline attributes in PowerPoint 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. 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.


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, because 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, because arrowheads only show in 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 for Mac. 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.

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

  5. Figure 3: Drawing Tools Format tab of the Ribbon
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

  8. Figure 4: Shape Outline drop-down gallery
  9. 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 line:
  10. A. No Outline

  11. 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 completely disappear! See our No Shape Outline in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac tutorial to learn more.
  12. B. Theme Colors

  13. 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.
  14. C. Standard Colors

  15. 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 following options, although it's a good design idea to use Theme colors as far as possible.
  16. D. Recent Colors

  17. 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!
  18. E. More Outline Colors

  19. This option is to summon the Colors dialog box as shown in Figure 5.

  20. Figure 5: Colors dialog box
  21. In this Colors dialog box, you can chose any color from the wheel. Thereafter adjust the selected color's luminosity as well as opacity with the sliders at the bottom. You can also select the color from within or outside PowerPoint interface. Once you are happy with the color attained, click OK to close the dialog box and apply the color to the outline.
  22. F. Weight

  23. With this option you can change the thickness attribute of the outline from a hairline width to a chunky, thick line. Learn more in our Formatting Outlines for Shapes (Weight/Thickness) in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac tutorial.
  24. G. Dashes

  25. These are different dash types. Learn more in our Formatting Outlines for Shapes (Dash) in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac tutorial.
  26. H. Arrows

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

    I. Gradients

  27. PowerPoint 2016 also allows you to add gradients to shape outlines. This option does not show in Shape Outline gallery you saw in Figure 4. Learn more in our Gradient Outlines in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac tutorial.
  28. Once you apply the outline color to the selected shape or line, as shown in Figure 6, do remember to save your presentation.

  29. Figure 6: Line shape applied with new color

See Also:

Shape Lines: Formatting Lines for Shapes (Glossary Page)

Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows
Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows
Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac
Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows
Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2007 for Windows
Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2003 and 2002 for Windows