Transparent montages in PowerPoint

Applies to:
Microsoft Office PowerPoint® 2003
Microsoft PowerPoint® 2002

Have you ever wanted to fill a picture with a gradient — or another picture in PowerPoint? Have you wanted to blend two pictures in PowerPoint to create a montage? More important, have you been frustrated running images between Adobe Photoshop and PowerPoint to achieve some simple effects (like the ones shown below)?



Here is an easy trick that might prevent you from using Photoshop for basic color effects. However, this works only with PowerPoint 2003 and 2002.

  1. In a new or existing presentation, add a new slide. This can be done by clicking New Slide on the Insert menu. Thereafter, click Slide Layout on the Format menu and make sure that you choose the Blank slide layout from the Slide Layout task pane.
  2. If the Drawing toolbar is not visible, on the View menu, point to Toolbars and then click Drawing to make it visible. The Drawing toolbar typically is found at the bottom of the PowerPoint window unless you move it around.
  3. Click the Rectangle icon on the Drawing toolbar. Drag to draw your rectangle on the slide area. Now double-click this rectangle shape to open the Format AutoShape dialog box, which you can see in Figure 1.

Format AutoShape dialog box

Figure 1: The Format AutoShape dialog box
  1. On the Color and Lines tab of this dialog box, under Fill, click the arrow next to Color to display a submenu. Click Fill Effects. This opens the multitabbed Fill Effects dialog box, which you can see in Figure 2.

Fill Effects dialog box

Figure 2: The Fill Effects dialog box
  1. On the Picture tab, click Select Picture. This typically opens the default My Pictures folder — most of the time, you will see a Sample Pictures subfolder within this folder — just open that and click the Blue Hills picture. Of course, you can choose any other picture on your system to follow the rest of this tutorial. Click Insert to get back to the Fill Effects dialog box, and then click OK to get back to the original Format AutoShape dialog box.
  2. Back in the Format AutoShape dialog box, under Line, click the arrow next to Color and then click No Line on the submenu. Under Fill, move the slider next to Transparency to around 70%. Click OK to get back to your slide. Now is a good time to resize your rectangle — I filled in mine to cover around a quarter of the slide area, as you can see in Figure 3.

Altered picture

Figure 3: My picture in the rectangle covers a quarter of the screen.
  1. Now for the fun part! Just select your shape (and the filled-in picture) and click Cut on the Edit menu to place it on the Clipboard. Then click Paste Special on the Edit menu to bring up the Paste Special dialog box, which you can see in Figure 4. Click Picture (PNG) and then click OK to paste your picture back into PowerPoint.

You might be thinking that was no big deal since we essentially got back what we put on the Clipboard?

Actually, there is more here than what meets the eye. To discover that, let us start applying some effects!

Paste Special dialog box

Figure 4: Bring back your picture as a PNG (pronounced PING) graphic type.
  1. With your picture selected, click Picture on the Format menu to summon the Format Picture dialog box — and make sure that you are on the Colors and Lines tab. Under Fill, No Fill is selected in the Color list, as shown in Figure 5. That means you can now apply another fill to your picture.

Your new fill could be a gradient, a texture, a pattern, or even another picture! Click No Fill to open the submenu, and then click Fill Effects. This brings up the same Fill Effects dialog box that we last visited in Figure 2.

Format Picture dialog box

Figure 5: The Format Picture dialog box
  1. Now you have your choices with four tabs — I will just choose from the Gradient tab for now and fill my picture with a nice blue-green gradient. To make it even better, I just experimented with several other gradients as you can see in Figure 6.

Completed montage in PowerPoint

Figure 6: Imagine — all this happened just inside PowerPoint!
Applies to:
PowerPoint 2003, PowerPoint 2002