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Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac

Make changes to the appearance of shape lines in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac. You can change line color, weight, dash type, arrow-ends, add gradients, and remove line attributes altogether.

Shapes in PowerPoint have three major attributes: fills, outlines, and effects. We have already explored how you can use fills for shapes in PowerPoint 2011. In this next section of this series, you will learn how you can work with shape outlines (lines) in PowerPoint 2011.

For all practical purposes, shape outline attributes in PowerPoint 2011 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, of 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 (like the sample on the right side of Figure 1 above). We'll cover arrowheads in a subsequent tutorial.

Whenever a new shape is inserted in a PowerPoint slide, you can see that it has an outline by default. Follow these steps to explore the outline options, such as the color, weight, dash, etc.

  1. Select the shape that you want to change the line attributes for. Alternatively, if you just want to follow this tutorial step-by-step, launch PowerPoint 2011. You will see the Presentation Gallery which allows you to set all attributes of your new presentation, such as a preset Theme or template. Make selections or just click Cancel in this gallery to open a blank presentation with a new slide, PowerPoint 2011 users can change the slide layout of this slide to Blank by selecting the Layout | Blank option within the Home tab of the Ribbon.
  2. Within the Home tab of the Ribbon, locate the Insert group, and click the Shape button (highlighted in red within Figure 2) to access the Shape gallery with different types of shape options that you can see in Figure 2. In this gallery, select the Lines and Connectors option to access the Lines sub-gallery, and in this sub-gallery, select the Line shape (refer to Figure 2 again). You can also choose a closed shape if you want to make changes to it's outline.

  3. Figure 2: Line shape selected in the Shape gallery
  4. Then, click and drag on the slide to insert the shape, or click once on the slide to place an instance of the shape. Select the inserted line (or closed shape) so that the Ribbon area now shows the Format tab, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 3. Activate this Ribbon tab by clicking on it.

  5. Figure 3: Format tab of the Ribbon
  6. Note: 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 Format tab, locate the Shape Styles group, and then click the Line button to view the Line drop-down gallery that you can see in Figure 4.

  8. Figure 4: Line drop-down gallery
  9. The options in Line drop-down gallery are explained below, as marked in Figure 4, you'll need to choose any one of these options for the outline:
  10. A. No Line

  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 Line option will make the line to completely disappear! Learn more about the No Line option in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac.

  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. You can choose any of the ten standard colors available, 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 we'll show you in the next 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 Colors

  19. This option is to summon the Mac OS X Color picker as shown in Figure 5.

  20. Figure 5: Mac OS X Color picker
  21. In this Color picker, you can chose any color from the wheel. Thereafter adjust the selected color's luminosity within the long, thin slider on the right. Once you are happy with the color attained, you click OK to get back to your slide.
  22. If you want to make changes to the transparency of the line fill, select the line (or the closed shape if you want to reduce the transparency of the outline of the shape) and right-click to access the context menu. In this menu select Format Shape option as shown in Figure 6.

  23. Figure 6: Format Shape option selected for Line shape
  24. This will open the Format Shape dialog box. Make sure that Line panel is active (see Figure 7). Then select the Solid tab and use the Transparency slider to make changes to the transparency level of the line, or you can also enter percentage value of transparency in the box next to the slider (both have been highlighted in red within Figure 7).

  25. Figure 7: Outline color and transparency edit options within Format Shape dialog box
  26. F. Line Effects

  27. Selecting this option takes you to the Line panel of the Format Shape dialog box as shown in Figure 8. Here you can make any changes to the selected line using the options available.

  28. Figure 8: Line Style and Arrow options within the Format Shape dialog box
  29. Also, if you want to apply gradient style to the line, you can do so using the options within Gradient tab of this panel. Gradient line options in this dialog box have been explained in our Gradient Lines in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac tutorial.
  30. G. Weight

  31. 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 Lines (and Shape Outlines) in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac -- Weight.
  32. H. Dashed

  33. These are different dash types. Learn More about Dashed Lines in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac.
  34. I. Arrows

  35. 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 2011 for Mac.
  36. Once you apply the line formatting to a selected shape or line, remember to save your presentation.

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 2016 for Mac
Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows
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