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.

Example of the six slides you'll learn how to create in this tutorial

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 presentation
  8. 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.

In the backstage view of PowerPoint you can create a new blank presentation, use a template, or open a recent file

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

Picture of the different parts of the PowerPoint layout, including the Ribbon, thumbnail view, quick access toolbar, notes pane, etc.

Here is how the program is laid out:

  1. The Application Header
  2. The Ribbon (including the Ribbon tabs)
  3. The Quick Access Toolbar (either above or below the Ribbon)
  4. The Slides Pane (slide thumbnails)
  5. The Slide Area
  6. The Notes Pane
  7. 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 PowerPoint Ribbon in the Microsoft Office Suite

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).

Example of the Shape Format tab in PowerPoint and all of the subsequent commands assoicated with that tab

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

The slides pane in PowerPoint is on the left side of your workspace

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.

Right clicking a PowerPoint slide in the thumbnail view gives you a variety of options like adding new slides, adding sections, changing the layout, etc.

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

Content added to your PowerPoint slides will only display if it's on the slide area, marked here by the letter A

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 in PowerPoint is located at the bottom of your screen and is where you can type your speaker notes

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 click and drag to resize the notes pane at the bottom of your PowerPoint screen

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.

Click into your content placeholders and start typing text, just as the prompt suggests

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.

Example of typing text into a content placeholder in PowerPoint

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.

Use the formatting options on the Home tab to choose the formatting of your text

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.

Hitting the reset command on the home tab resets your slide formatting to match your template

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.

To insert a new slide in PowerPoint, on the home tab click the New Slide command

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.

Opening the new slide dropdown you can see all the slide layouts in your PowerPoint template

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.

Example of a number of different blank slide layouts inserting in a PowerPoint presentation

If you want to follow along exactly with me, your five slides should be as follows:

  1. Title Slide
  2. Title and Content
  3. Section Header
  4. Two Content
  5. 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.

Use the icons within a content placeholder to insert things like tables, charts, SmartArt, Pictures, etc.

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,
  • 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.

Example typing bulleted text in a content placeholder in PowerPoint

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

Examples of text typed into a divider slide and a title and content slide in PowerPoint

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
A picture placeholder in PowerPoint can only take an image or 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. You can also drag the picture in from a file explorer window.

To insert a picture into a picture placeholder, click the picture icon, find your picture on your computer and click insert

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.

Example slides using PowerPoint icons and background pictures

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.

To use Designer on your slides, click the

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 change your slide size, click the Design tab, open the slide size dropdown and choose a size or custom slide size

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.

All PowerPoint presentations start with the default Microsoft Office theme

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.

On the Design tab you will find all of the default PowerPoint templates that come with the Microsoft Office Suite

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.

Example choosing the Frame PowerPoint theme and the third variant of this powerpoint 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.

To change the background style of your presentation, on the Design tab, find the Background Styles options and choose a style

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)
What our PowerPoint presentation looks like now that we have selected a theme, a variant, and a background style

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.

You can either right-click a PowerPoint slide and select format background or navigate to the design tab and click the format background command

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. 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.

The format background pane in PowerPoint

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.

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.

Example of the theme colors we are currently using with 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.).

To change the theme color for your presentation, select the Design tab, open the Colors options and choose the colors you want to use

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 dropdown 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 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.

Example of custom theme fonts that might come with a powerpoint template

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.

To change the default fonts for your presentation, from the design tab, find the fonts dropdown and select the pair of fonts you want to use

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 dropdown 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.

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 an animation to an object in PowerPoint, first select the object and then use the Animations tab to select an animation type

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 dropdown 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.

B. How to preview a PowerPoint animation

There are three ways to preview a PowerPoint animation

There are three ways to preview a PowerPoint animation:

  1. Click on the Preview button in the Animations tab
  2. Click on the little star  next to the slide
  3. 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.

The Animations tab allows you to adjust the effects and timings of your animations in PowerPoint
If you want to add a second animation to an object you’ve already animated, make sure you use the Add Animation dropdown in the Animations tab. If you don’t, your original animation will be overwritten and you’ll wonder what went wrong.
When adding a second animation to an object in PowerPoint, use the Add Animation dropdown on the Animations 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

You can see the animations applied to your objects by the little numbers in the upper right-hand corner of the objects

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

  1. Navigate to the Animations tab
  2. 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 slide, select the slide, navigate to the transitions tab in PowerPoint and select your transition

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 dropdown 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 them in the Slides Pane and apply the transition.

E. How to preview a transition in PowerPoint

There are three ways to preview a transition in PowerPoint

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

  1. Click on the Preview button in the Transitions tab
  2. Click on the little star beneath the slide number in the thumbnail view
  3. 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.

Click the file tab, select Save As, choose where you want to save your presentation and then click save

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.

The save shortcut is control plus s in PowerPoint
Now that your presentation is saved to that location on your computer, you can open, present, and send tit to others. Below is an example of what your presentation will look like in a file folder.
Example of a PowerPoint presentation saved on your computer

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.

The print shortcut is control plus P in PowerPoint

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
In the Print dialog box, make your selections for how you want to print your PowerPoint presentation, then click print

Inside the Print dialog box, you can choose from 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, outline, and handouts)
  4. Collated or uncollated (learn what collated printing means here)
  5. 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:

Conclusion

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.

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