In this beginner’s guide, we’ll show you step by step how to make a PowerPoint presentation from scratch.

While PowerPoint is designed to be intuitive and accessible, it can be overwhelming if you’ve never gotten any training. In this article, you”ll learn how to move from blank slides, to slides like these.

In this guide, you’ll specifically learn how to:

  1. Start a blank presentation
  2. Type text into your title slide
  3. Insert more slides
  4. Add content to slides
  5. Change the design
  6. Add animations & transitions (optional)
  7. Save your PowerPoint presentation
  8. Print your presentation

Additionally, you’ll learn tips and tricks along to make a good PowerPoint presentation, including how to:

  1. Change the slide order
  2. Reset your layout
  3. Change the slide dimensions
  4. Use PowerPoint Designer
  5. Format text
  6. Format objects
  7. Play a presentation (slide show)

With this knowledge under your belt, you’ll be ready to start creating PowerPoint presentations. Moreover, you’ll have taken your skills from beginner to proficient in no time at all.

Ready to start learning how to make a PowerPoint presentation?

1. Start with a blank document

Note: Before you open PowerPoint and start creating your presentation, make sure you’ve collected your thoughts. If you’re going to make your slides compelling, you need to spend some time on brainstorming.

For help with this, see our article with tips for nailing your business presentation here.

The first thing you’ll need to do is to open PowerPoint. When you do, you are shown the Start Menu, with the Home tab open.

This is where you can choose to start either a blank document (1) or with a preset theme (2). You can also choose to open an existing presentation (3).

For now, go ahead and click on the Blank Presentation (1) thumbnail.

Doing so launches a brand new and blank presentation for you to work with. Before you do anything else, try to familiarize yourself with the PowerPoint interface.

The PowerPoint Interface

Here is how the program is laid out:

A. The Application Header

B. The Ribbon (including the Ribbon tabs)

C. The Quick Access Toolbar (either above or below the Ribbon)

D. The Slides Pane (slide thumbnails)

E. The Slide Area

F. The Notes Pane

G. The Status Bar (including the View Buttons)

Each one of these areas has options for viewing certain parts of the PowerPoint environment and formatting your presentation. 

​Here are the most important things you need to know about the interface:

The PowerPoint Ribbon

The Ribbon is contextual. That means that it will adapt to what you’re doing in the program.

For example, the Font, Paragraph and Drawing options are greyed out until you select something that has text in it, as in the example below (A).

Furthermore, if you start manipulating certain objects, the Ribbon will display additional tabs, as seen above (B), with more commands and features to help you work with those objects. The following objects have their own additional tabs in the Ribbon which are hidden until you select them:

  • Tables
  • Pictures
  • Online Pictures
  • Screenshots
  • Shapes
  • Icons
  • 3D Models
  • SmartArt
  • Charts
  • Zoom
  • Text Boxes
  • WordArt
  • Equations
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Screen Recording

The Slides Pane

This is where you can preview and rearrange all the slides in your presentation.

Right-clicking on a slide in the pane gives you additional options on the slide level that you won’t find on the Ribbon, such as Duplicate SlideDelete Slide, and Hide Slide.

In addition, you can add sections to your presentation by right-clicking anywhere in this Pane and selecting Add Section. Sections are very helpful in large presentations, as they allow you to organize your slides into chunks that you can then rearrange, print or display differently from other slides.

The Slide Area

The Slide Area (A) is where you will build out your slides. Anything within the bounds of this area will be visible when you present or print your presentation.

Anything outside of this area (B) will be hidden from view. This means that you can place things here, such as instructions for each slide, without worrying about them being shown to your audience.

The Notes Pane

The Notes Pane is the space beneath the Slide Area where you can type in the speaker notes for each slide. It’s designed as a fast way to add and edit your slides’ talking points.

This text will be visible when you print Notes Pages and when you present with Presenter View. You can learn more about the Presenter View in PowerPoint in this article here

You can resize the Notes Pane by clicking on its edge and dragging it up or down (A). You can also minimize or reopen it by clicking on the Notes button in the Status Bar (B).


Note: Not all text formatting properly displays in the Notes Pane, even though ti will show up when printing your speaker notes. To learn all about working with speaker notes in PowerPoint, read our guide here.

Now that you have a basic grasp of the PowerPoint interface you have at your disposal, it’s time to make your presentation.

1. Start with a blank document

Note: Once you become proficient at making presentations, you may want to start with setting the design (see step #5 in this article). For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll start by inserting content and slides.

Notice that on the Slide Area, there are two rectangles with dotted outlines. These are called Placeholders and they’re set on the template in the Slide Master View (learn more about PowerPoint templates in this article here).

As the prompt text suggests, you can click into each placeholder and start typing text. 

Note: For the purposes of this example, I will create a presentation based on the content in the Starbucks 2018 Global Social Impact Report, which is available to the public on their website.

If you type in more text than there is room for, PowerPoint will automatically reduce its font size. You can stop this behavior by clicking on the Autofit Options icon to the left of the placeholder and selecting Stop Fitting Text to this Placeholder

Next, you can make formatting adjustments to your text by selecting the commands in the Font area and the Paragraph area of the Home tab of the Ribbon.


The Reset Command: If you make any changes to your title and decide you want to go back to how it was originally, you can use the Reset button up in the Home tab.

3. Insert more slides into your presentation

Now that you have your title slide filled in, it’s time to add more slides. To do that, simply go up to the Home tab and click on New Slide. This inserts a new slide in your presentation right after the one you previously were on.

If you click on New Slide again, you’ll get a blank slide with the same layout as the last one. If you want to insert a new slide with a different layout, simply click on the New Slide drop down arrow. This gives you more options of layouts to choose from.

Let’s go ahead and insert the following slide layouts:

  • Section Divider
  • Comparison
  • Picture with Caption

We now have 5 slides in total in our presentation. They are mostly blank for now because we haven’t yet added any content.

4. Add content to your slides

Now let’s go into each slide and start adding our content. You’ll notice some new types of placeholders. 

On slide 2 we have a Content Placeholder, which allows you to add any kind of content. That includes:

  • Text
  • A table
  • A chart
  • A SmartArt graphic
  • A 3D object
  • A picture
  • A picture from the web
  • A video
  • An icon

To insert text, simply type it in or hit Ctrl + V to paste in existing text from elsewhere. To insert any of the other objects, click on the appropriate icon and follow the steps to insert it.

For my example, I’ll simply type in some text as you can see in the picture below.

Slides 3 and 4 only have text placeholders, so I’ll go ahead and add in my text into each one.

On slide 5 we have a Picture Placeholder. That means that the only elements that can go into it are:

  • A picture
  • A picture from the web
  • An icon

 To insert a picture into the picture placeholder, simply:
  1. Click on the Picture icon
  2. Find a picture on your computer and select it
  3. Click on Insert

Alternatively, if you already have a picture open somewhere else, you can select the placeholder and paste in (shortcut: Ctrl + V) the picture.

Placeholders aren’t the only way to add content to your slides. At any point, you can use the Insert tab to add elements to your slides.

For example, if you want to have a three-layout content slide, or a single picture divider slide, you can use either the Title Only or the Blank slide layout and add content yourself.

In the first example above, I’ve inserted 6 text boxes, 3 icons, and 3 circles to create this layout. In the second example, I’ve inserted a full-sized picture and then 2 shapes and 2 text boxes.


The Reset Command: Because these slides are built with shapes and text boxes (and not placeholders), hitting the Reset button up in the Home tab won’t do anything. 

That is a good thing if you don’t want your layouts to adjust. However, it does mean that it falls on your to make sure everything is aligned and positioned correctly.

For more on how to add and manipulate the different objects in PowerPoint, check out our step-by-step articles here:

Use Designer to generate more layout ideas

If you have Office 365, your version of PowerPoint comes with a new feature called Designer (or Design Ideas). This is a feature that generates slide layout ideas for you. The coolest thing about this feature is that it uses the content you already have.

To use Designer, simply navigate to the Design tab in your Ribbon, and click on Design Ideas.


Note: To learn more about what Designer is, how it works, and how to troubleshoot it, read our guide here.


5. Change the overall design (optional)

When you make a PowerPoint presentation, you’ll want to think about the overall design of your presentation. Now that you have some content in your presentation, you can use the Design tab to change the look and feel of your slides.

For additional help thinking through the design of your presentation, read our guide here.

Pick your PowerPoint slide size

If you have PowerPoint 2013 or later, when you create a blank document in PowerPoint, you automatically start with a widescreen layout with a 16:9 ratio. These dimensions are suitable for most presentations as they match the screens of most computers and projectors.

However, you do have the option to change the dimensions if you so choose. 

For example, your presentation might be more of a document that will be PDFed or printed. In that case, you can easily switch to the standard dimensions with a 4:3 ratio, but selecting from the drop down (A). 

You can also choose a custom slide size or change the slide orientation from landscape to portrait in the Custom Slide Size dialog box (B).

You can learn more about the different slide size options (including what happens when you switch from one to the other) in PowerPoint in this .


To learn all about the different PowerPoint slide sizes, and some of the issues you will face when changing the slide size of a non-blank presentation, read our slide size guide here.

Select a PowerPoint theme

The next thing you can do is change the theme of your presentation to a pre-built one. For a detailed explanation of what a PowerPoint theme is, and how to best use it, read our article here.

In the beginning of this tutorial, we started with a blank presentation, which uses the default Office theme as you can see selected in the picture below.

That gives you the most flexibility because it has a blank background and very simple layouts that will work for most presentations. However, it also means that it’s your responsibility to enhance the design ourselves. 

If you’re comfortable with this, you can stay with the default theme or create your own custom theme (learn how here). But if you would rather not have to think about design, then you can choose a pre-designed theme. 

Microsoft provides 46 other pre-built themes, which include slide layouts, color variants and palettes, and fonts. Each one varies quite significantly, so make sure you look through them carefully.

To select a different theme, go to the Design tab in the Ribbon, and click on the drop down arrow in the Themes section

For this tutorial, let’s select the Frame theme and then choose the third Variant in the theme. Doing so changes the layout, colors and fonts of your presentation.


Note: The theme drop down area is also where you can import or save custom themes. To learn where you can buy great PowerPoint templates, read our article here.

Change the overall background

The next thing to decide is how you want your background to look for the entire presentation. In the Design tab’s Variants area, you can see four background options.

For this example, we want our presentation to have a dark background, so let’s select Style 3. When you do so, you’ll notice that:

  • The background color automatically changes across all slides
  • The color of the text on most of the slides automatically changes to white so that it’s visible on the dark background
  • The colors of the objects on slides #6 and 7 also adjust, in a way we may not want (we’ll likely have to make some manual adjustments to these slides)

Note: If you want to change the slide background for just that one slide, don’t left-click the style. Instead, right-click it and select Apply to Selected Slides.

After you change the background for your entire presentation, you can easily adjust the background for an individual slide.

To change the background formatting of your slide, either:

  1. Right-click your slide and select Format Background in the right-click menu
  2. Navigate to the Design tab in your Ribbon and select Format Background

Each one of these options provides you with ways to make your backgrounds look beautiful… as well as some caveats.


Note: To learn everything there is to know about PowerPoint backgrounds, including where to find free ones online, read our backgrounds guide here

Inside the Format Background pane, you can see you have the following options.

  1. Solid fill
  2. Gradient fill
  3. Picture or texture fill
  4. Pattern fill
  5. Hide background

You can explore these options to find the PowerPoint background that best fits your presentation.

Change your color palette

Another thing you may want to adjust in your PowerPoint, is the color scheme.  

Each PowerPoint theme comes with its own color palette. By default, the Office theme includes the Office color palette. This affects the colors you are presented with when you format any element within your presentation (text, shapes, SmartArt, etc.).

The good news is that the colors here are easy to change. To switch color palettes, simply:

  1. Go to the Design tab in the Ribbon
  2. In the Variants area, click on the drop down arrow and select Colors
  3. Select the color palette (or theme colors) you want

You can choose among the pre-built color palettes from Office, or you can customize them to create your own.


Note: To learn more about how to create a custom color palette, as part of a custom theme, check out this article here.

As long as you’ve been using the colors from your theme to format the objects in our presentation, changing the color palette adjusts all the colors in your presentation.

Change your PowerPoint fonts

Just as we changed the color palette, you can do the same for your font pairing.

Each PowerPoint theme comes with its own font combination. By default, the Office theme includes the Office font combination. This affects the fonts that are assigned to all text in your presentation.

The good news is that the font pairings are easy to change. To switch your Theme Fonts, simply:

  1. Go to the Design tab in the Ribbon
  2. Click on the drop down arrow in the Variants area
  3. Select Fonts
  4. Select the font pairing you want

You can choose among the pre-built fonts from Office, or you can customize them to create your own.


To learn more about how to create your own custom font combinations as part of create a custom PowerPoint theme, read our guide here .

If you are working with PowerPoint presentations on Mac and PC computers, make sure you choose a safe PowerPoint Font. To see a list of the safest PowerPoint fonts, read our article here.

As long as you’ve been using the colors from the theme, changing the font combination should adjust all the fonts in your presentation.


Note: For more tips on how to make compelling PowerPoint design, see this article with presentation design tips that work.

6. Add animations & transitions (optional)

The final step to make a PowerPoint compelling, is to consider using animations and transitions. These are by no means necessary to a good presentation, but they may be helpful in your situation.

Adding PowerPoint animations

PowerPoint has an incredibly robust animations engine designed to power your creativity. That being said, it’s also very easy to get started with basic animations.

Animations are movements that you can apply to individual objects on your slide.

To add a PowerPoint animation to an element of your slide, simply:

  1. Select the element
  2. Go to the Animations tab in the Ribbon
  3. Click on the drop down arrow to view your options
  4. Select the animation you want

You can add animations to multiple objects at one time by selecting them all first and then applying the animation to them.

There are three ways to preview a PowerPoint animation:

A. Click on the Preview button in the Animations tab

B. Click on the little star next to the slide

C. Play the slide in Slide Show Mode


Note: To learn more ways to launch and run your slide show (including keyboard shortcuts), read our guide here.

To adjust the settings of your animations, explore the options in the Effect OptionsAdvanced Animation and the Timing areas of the Animation tab.

If you want to add a second animation to an object you’ve already animated, make sure you use the Add Animation drop down in the Animations tab. If you don’t, your original animation will be overwritten and you’ll wonder what went wrong.


Note: To see how to make objects appear and disappear in your slides by clicking a button, read our guide here.

The best way to manage lots of animations on your slide is the Animation Pane. To open the animations pane, simply

  1. Navigate to the Animations tab
  2. Select the Animation Pane

Inside the Animations pane, you’ll see all of the different animations that have been applied to objects on your slide, with their numbers marked as pictured above.


Note: To see examples of advanced PowerPoint animations that we recommend using the animations pane for,  see our PowerPoint animation tutorials here.

Adding Transitions

PowerPoint has an incredibly robust animations engine designed to power your creativity. That being said, it’s also very easy to get started with basic animations.

Transitions are movements that you can apply to whole slides, which will show between two slides.

To add a transition to a PowerPoint slide, simply:

  1. Select the slide
  2. Go to the Transitions tab in the Ribbon
  3. In the Transitions to This Slide area, click on the drop down arrow to view your options
  4. Select the transition you want

To adjust the settings of the transition, explore the options in the Timing area of the Transitions tab.

You can also add the same transition to multiple slides. To do that, select their thumbnails in the Slide Area and apply the transition to them.

There are three ways to preview your PowerPoint transitions (just like your animations):

A. Click on the Preview button in the Transitions tab

B. Click on the little star beneath the slide number in the thumbnail view

C. Play the slide in Slide Show Mode

To learn more ways to launch and run your slide show, see our detailed article here.


Note: In 2016, PowerPoint added a cool new transition, called Morph. It operates a bit differently from other transitions. For a detailed tutorial on how to use the cool Morph transition, see our step-by-step article here.

7. Save your PowerPoint presentation

After you’ve built your presentation and made all of the adjustments to yours slides, you’ll want to save your presentation, which you can do a number of different ways.

To save a PowerPoint presentation using your Ribbon, simply:

  1. Navigate to the File Tab
  2.  Select Save As on the left
  3. Choose where you want to save your presentation
  4. Name your presentation and/or adjust your file type settings
  5. Click Save

You can alternatively use the Ctrl + S keyboard shortcut to save your presentation. I recommend using this shortcut frequently as you build your presentation to make sure you don’t lose any of your work.

Your presentation is saved to that location on your computer. Now, you can open, present, and send this presentation to others. Below is an example of what your presentation will look like in a file folder.

This is the standard way to save a presentation. However, there may be a situation where you want to save your presentation as a different file type. 

The most common types are PDFs and templates. I’ll explain each one below.

Save your PowerPoint as a PDF

Why would you want to save your PowerPoint as a PDF? It’s the simplest way to share it with others in a way that doesn’t allow them to edit the content.


Note: Keep in mind that if you save your presentation as a PDF, you will lose all interactivity within your presentation including animations, transitions and multimedia. Hyperlinks, however, will still work.

To learn all about converting PowerPoint to PDF and what types of content you will lose in the conversion process, read our guide here.

To save your PDF as a Presentation as a PDF, first open teh Save As dialog box, which you can do with the Ctrl + Shift + S keyboard shortcut (or hit F4).

Inside the Save As dialog box, simply change your Save as type to PDF and click Save.

Clicking save, a PDF version of your presentation will be saved to the location you selected on your computer, with the name you gave it. You can continue working on your PowerPoint if you wish, as the two files are completely independent.


Note: To learn more about converting your PowerPoint presentations into the PDF file format and the types of content you will lose in the conversion process, read our guide here.

Save your presentation as a template

Once you’ve created a presentation that you like, you may want to turn it into a template. The easiest – but not technically correct – way, is to simply create a copy of your current presentation and then change the content.

But be careful! A PowerPoint template is a special type of document and it has its own parameters and behaviors.

If you’re interested in learning about how to create a real PowerPoint template, read this detailed tutorial here.

8. Print your presentation

After finishing your PowerPoint presentation, you may want to print it out on paper. Printing your slides is relatively easy.

To open the Print dialog box, you can either:

  1. Hit Ctrl + P on your keyboard
  2. Or go to the Ribbon and click on File and then Print

Inside the Print dialog box you can choose among the various printing settings:

  1. Printer: Select a printer to use (or print to PDF or OneNote)
  2. Slides: Choose which slides you want to print
  3. Layout: Determine how many slides you want per page (this is where you can print the notes, the outline, or handouts)
  4. Collated or uncollated
  5. Color, grayscale or black and white

There are many more options for printing your PowerPoint presentations. Here are links to more in-depth articles:


So that’s how to create a PowerPoint presentation if you are brand new to PowerPoint, and links to helpful resources to boost your PowerPoint skills further.

When you are first creating your presentation, it is critical to first focus on the content of your presentation (what you are going to present) before getting lost adding and removing things in PowerPoint.

The clearer you are on what you want to present, the easier it will be to build it out in PowerPoint.

If you enjoyed this article, you can learn more about our PowerPoint training courses and other presentation resources by visiting us here.

What’s Next?

4 Weird Little PowerPoint Tricks Could Save You 40 Hours in PowerPoint this Year!

“I would have paid $500 for this information” – Sam Thatte

Discover 4 weird little PowerPoint tricks that will save you 40 hours of heartache and frustration in PowerPoint this year… as soon as you start using them. Join for free today.


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