In this beginner’s guide, you will learn 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 will learn how to move from blank slides to slides like these.
In this guide, you’ll specifically learn how to:
- Start a blank presentation
- Type text into your title slide
- Insert more slides
- Add content to slides
- Change the design
- Add animations & transitions (optional)
- Save your presentation
- Print your presentation
Additionally, you’ll learn tips and tricks to make a good PowerPoint presentation, including how to:
- Change the slide order
- Reset your layout
- Change the slide dimensions
- Use PowerPoint Designer
- Format text
- Format objects
- 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. I will also include links to more advanced PowerPoint topics.
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 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 either a blank theme (1) or a pre-built 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 start adding content to your presentation, let’s first familiarize ourselves with the PowerPoint interface.
The PowerPoint interface
Here is how the program is laid out:
- The Application Header
- The Ribbon (including the Ribbon tabs)
- The Quick Access Toolbar (either above or below the Ribbon)
- The Slides Pane (slide thumbnails)
- The Slide Area
- The Notes Pane
- 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.
Below are the important things to know about certain elements of the PowerPoint 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:
- Online Pictures
- 3D Models
- Text Boxes
- 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 Slide, Delete 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 extremely 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.
To expand your knowledge and learn more about adding, printing, and exporting your PowerPoint speaker notes, read our guide here.
Your speaker notes are visible when you print your slides using the Notes Pages option and when you use the Presenter View. To expand your knowledge and learn the ins and outs of using the Presenter View, read our guide 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 displays in the Notes Pane, even though it will show up when printing your speaker notes. To learn more about printing PowerPoint with notes, read our guide here.
Now that you have a basic grasp of the PowerPoint interface at your disposal, it’s time to make your presentation.
2. Adding Content to Your PowerPoint Presentation
Notice that in 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.
To expand your knowledge and learn how to create a PowerPoint template of your own (which is no small task), read our guide here.
As the prompt text suggests, you can click into each placeholder and start typing text. These types of placeholder prompts are customizable too. That means that if you are using a company template, it might say something different, but the functionality is the same.
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 were on.
You can alternatively hit Ctrl+M on your keyboard to insert a new blank slide in PowerPoint. To expand your knowledge and learn how to best use the Ctrl+M PowerPoint shortcut, read our guide here.
Instead of clicking the New Slide command, you can also open the New Slide dropdown to see all the slide layouts in your PowerPoint template. Depending on who created your template, your layouts in this dropdown can be radically different.
If you insert a layout and later want to change it to a different layout, you can use the Layout dropdown instead of the New Slide dropdown.
After inserting a few different slide layouts, your presentation might look like the following picture. Don’t worry that it looks blank, next we will start adding content to your presentation.
If you want to follow along exactly with me, your five slides should be as follows:
- Title Slide
- Title and Content
- Section Header
- Two Content
- Picture with Caption
4. Adding 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:
- A table,
- A chart,
- A SmartArt graphic,
- A 3D object,
- A picture,
- A picture from the web,
- A video,
- Or an icon.
To insert text, simply type it in or hit Ctrl+C to Copy (details here) and Ctrl+V to Paste (details here) 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:
- Click on the Picture icon
- Find a picture on your computer and select it
- 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. You can also drag the picture in from a file explorer window.
If you do not like the background of the picture you inserted onto your slide, you can remove the background here in PowerPoint. To see how to do this, read our guide here.
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.
You can use either the Title Only or the Blank slide layout to create slides for content that’s different. For example, a three-layout content slide, or a single picture divider slide, as shown below.
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 you 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:
Using Designer to generate more layouts 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 how to use PowerPoint Designer and how to troubleshoot if it’s not working for you (it’s greyed out in the ribbon), 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. 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.
A. Picking 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.
For example, your presentation might not be presented, but instead converted into a PDF or printed and distributed. In that case, you can easily switch to the standard dimensions with a 4:3 ratio by selecting from the dropdown (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).
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 guide here.
B. Selecting 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 in the picture below.
That gives you the most flexibility because it has a blank background and quite simple layouts that work for most presentations. However, it also means that it’s your responsibility to enhance the design.
If you’re comfortable with this, you can stay with the default theme or create your own custom theme (read our guide 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 dropdown 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 dropdown area is also where you can import or save custom themes. To see my favorite places to find professional PowerPoint templates and themes (and recommendations for why I like them), read our guide here.
C. How to change a slide background in PowerPoint
The next thing to decide is how you want your background to look for the entire presentation. In the 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:
- Right-click your slide and select Format Background in the right-click menu
- 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. There are however some caveats.
Note: To expand your knowledge and learn more about PowerPoint backgrounds (including where to find free ones online), read our guide here.
Inside the Format Background pane, you can see you have the following options:
- Solid fill
- Gradient fill
- Picture or texture fill
- Pattern fill
- Hide background
You can explore these options to find the PowerPoint background that best fits your presentation.
D. How to change your color palette in PowerPoint
Another thing you may want to adjust in your presentation, is the color scheme. In the picture below you can see the Theme Colors we are currently using for this presentation.
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:
- Go to the Design tab in the Ribbon
- In the Variants area, click on the dropdown arrow and select Colors
- 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 you build your presentation, make sure you use the colors from your theme to format objects. That way, changing the color palette adjusts all the colors in your presentation automatically.
E. How to change your fonts in PowerPoint
Just as we changed the color palette, you can do the same for the fonts.
Each PowerPoint theme comes with its own font combination. By default, the Office theme includes the Office font pairing. This affects the fonts that are automatically 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:
- Go to the Design tab in the Ribbon
- Click on the dropdown arrow in the Variants area
- Select Fonts
- 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.
If you are working with PowerPoint presentations on both Mac and PC computers, make sure you choose a safe PowerPoint font. To see a list of the safest PowerPoint fonts, read our guide here.
If you receive a PowerPoint presentation and the wrong fonts were used, you can use the Replace Fonts dialog box to change the fonts across your entire presentation. For details, read our guide here.
6. Adding Animations & Transitions (optional)
The final step to make a PowerPoint presentation 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.
A. Adding PowerPoint animations
PowerPoint has an incredibly robust animations engine designed to power your creativity. That being said, it’s also 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:
- Select the element
- Go to the Animations tab in the Ribbon
- Click on the dropdown arrow to view your options
- 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.
B. How to preview a PowerPoint animation
There are three ways to preview a PowerPoint animation:
- Click on the Preview button in the Animations tab
- Click on the little star next to the slide
- 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 Options, Advanced Animation and the Timing areas of the Animation tab.
Note: To see how to make objects appear and disappear in your slides by clicking a button, read our guide here.
C. How to manage your animations in PowerPoint
The best way to manage lots of animations on your slide is with the Animation Pane. To open it, simply:
- Navigate to the Animations tab
- Select the Animation Pane
Inside the Animation 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 Animation Pane for, see our tutorial here.
D. How to add transitions to your PowerPoint presentation
PowerPoint has an incredibly robust transition engine so that you can dictate how your slides change from one to the other. It is also extremely easy to add transitions to your slides.
In PowerPoint, transitions are the movements (or effects) you see as you move between two slides.
To add a transition to a PowerPoint slide, simply:
- Select the slide
- Go to the Transitions tab in the Ribbon
- In the Transitions to This Slide area, click on the dropdown arrow to view your options
- 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 them in the Slides Pane and apply the transition.
E. How to preview a transition in PowerPoint
There are three ways to preview your PowerPoint transitions (just like your animations):
- Click on the Preview button in the Transitions tab
- Click on the little star beneath the slide number in the thumbnail view
- Play the slide in Slide Show Mode
To learn more ways to launch and run your PowerPoint presentation (start slide show mode), read our guide 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 the adjustments to your slides, you’ll want to save your presentation. YOu can do this several different ways.
To save a PowerPoint presentation using your Ribbon, simply:
- Navigate to the File tab
- Select Save As on the left
- Choose where you want to save your presentation
- Name your presentation and/or adjust your file type settings
- 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.
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.
To expand your knowledge and learn how to save your PowerPoint presentation as a PDF, read our guide here.
How to save your PowerPoint 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 your own PowerPoint template from scratch, read our guide here.
8. Printing Your PowerPoint 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:
- Hit Ctrl+P on your keyboard
- Or go to the Ribbon and click on File and then Print
Inside the Print dialog box, you can choose from the various printing settings:
- Printer: Select a printer to use (or print to PDF or OneNote)
- Slides: Choose which slides you want to print
- Layout: Determine how many slides you want per page (this is where you can print the notes, outline, and handouts)
- Collated or uncollated (learn what collated printing means here)
- Color: Choose to print in color, grayscale or black & 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 it. We’ve also included a ton of links to helpful resources to boost your PowerPoint skills further.
When you are creating your presentation, it is critical to first focus on the content (what you are trying to say) before getting lost inserting and playing with elements. The clearer you are on what you want to present, the easier it will be to build it out in PowerPoint.
If you want to get access to all our best PowerPoint training courses, check out our PowerPoint Pro Membership here.
If you enjoyed this article, you can learn more about our PowerPoint training courses and other presentation resources by visiting us here.