PowerPoint 2016 provides plenty of options to format Shape Outlines, this tutorial explores 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 Outlines is not accessible from the Shape Outline gallery in the Ribbon but directly from the Format Shape Task Pane that we will explore later on this page. Meanwhile, Figure 1 shows you some sample gradient lines. As you can see, these cannot be used everywhere but they still can be added in some scenarios.
Figure 1: Sample gradient lines
Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see a sample presentation containing gradient lines in PowerPoint.
Follow these steps to apply gradients to outlines:
- Open your presentation and select the shape that you want to format.
- Alternatively, if you want to start from scratch, launch PowerPoint. You will see the Presentation Gallery, here, select the Blank Presentation option 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. Then, insert a shape and select it.
- We selected a Rectangle shape, as shown in Figure 2. Selecting the shape brings up the Drawing Tools Format tab in the Ribbon, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 2. Activate this Ribbon tab by clicking on it.
Figure 2: Drawing Tools Format tab of the Ribbon
- With the Rectangle shape still selected, optionally apply No Fill option, as you can see in Figure 3. Also, to make the gradient line stand out, change the weight of the line to anything higher than 10 pt. In fact, 20 pt. would be even better. Then 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).
Figure 3: Format Shape option
- This opens the Format Shape Task Pane, as shown in Figure 4. Make sure that the Fill tab is selected (highlighted in red within Figure 4), then under Line section (highlighted in blue within Figure 4), select the Gradient line radio button (highlighted in green within Figure 4).
Figure 4: Gradient Line option within Format Shape Task Pane
- The options related to Gradient line within Format Shape task pane are explained below, as marked in Figure 4 above:
- 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 pane.
Figure 5: Preset gradients
- Figure 6 shows shapes that have their outlines applied with a preset gradients.
Figure 6: Outlines applied with preset gradients
- There are four gradient types available, these are Linear, Radial, Rectangular, and Path (see Figure 7).
Figure 7: Type drop-down list
- 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.
Figure 8: Shapes with linear gradient outlines rotated to different angle values
- 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.
Figure 9: Shapes with radial gradient outlines centered from different positions
- 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.
Figure 10: Shapes with rectangular gradient outlines centered from different positions
- 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.
Figure 11: Shapes with path gradient outlines
- 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.
Figure 12: Direction options
- Sets the angle of the gradient, this option is only available for linear gradients.
- 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.
- After applying required gradient style to your selected outline shape, you can see the changed shape outline, as shown in Figure 13. Note that the gradient style has been applied to the Rectangle shape outline that was selected earlier (compare with Figure 3, earlier on this page).
Figure 13: Gradient style applied to the Rectangle shape outline
- Don't forget to save your presentation often.
A. Preset gradients
E. Gradient Stops
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