If you’ve ever touched a PowerPoint slide, chances are that you’ve already used PowerPoint graphics already.
But you may have questions: How do you find good graphics? How do you manipulate them correctly? And how do you customize them?
That’s what this article will answer for you.
What is a PowerPoint graphic?
There seems to be a wide range of things that people label as a graphic for PowerPoint.
Here at Nuts & Bolts, we define a graphic in PowerPoint as any image that is not a picture. This includes SmartArt, which is a type of native PowerPoint graphic and has special attributes.
A PowerPoint graphic most typically refers to a grouping of shapes into an image, commonly referred to as vectors.
From PowerPoint’s perspective, vectors are considered to be shapes – and that means that you can customize them as you would any rectangle, circle, or freeform shape… giving you complete freedom to create the visual you need.
Vector graphics can come in the following file types:
EPS (Encapsulated PostScript – create by Adobe - this is perhaps the most common vector image format)
However, PowerPoint will only accept certain file types. To see which ones, go to the section on how to use vectors in PowerPoint below.
Why use a graphic in PowerPoint
As the representation of an idea, a graphic is the perfect way to help your audience immediately visualize and grasp a concept you are sharing with them.
On top of that, it’s a great way to add some flair to any presentation and a quick way to take it up a notch.
Graphics can be better than pictures in some situations, when you need to be able to edit elements in a visual. For example, maybe you need to remove, add or re-color a certain item.
You cannot do this with pictures – but with the right graphic (and in particular a vector graphic), you could potentially customize it to your heart’s content.
Where to get free graphics for PowerPoint
Getting free graphics for PowerPoint is easy – you just have to know where to look.
Here are our favorite 2 places to find free vector graphics for PowerPoint:
Freepik - Great database with tons of very high-quality and modern icons, flat icons, vectors, and PSD files to use. Freepik does require you to give them credit if you use their material, but they make it very easy with a simple html code.
Pixabay - Awesome site for 100% free and Creative Commons CC0 licensed images, illustrations, vectors, and videos.
To learn where to get more free PowerPoint graphics, images, videos, etc. check out this list of our favorite PowerPoint resources.
Another way to get free vector graphics is to create them from scratch. There are two tools that can help you do this:
Text-to-Outline by YouPresent – Allows you to convert text into vectors/shapes, which you can then format any way you like in PowerPoint.
Vector Magic – Creates a vector out of any image…truly magic!
Keep in mind that because these are all free methods for finding vector graphics for PowerPoint, you will be limited in what you find or create. If you want a very specific and professional-looking vector, you may have to go to a paid service to purchase well-designed graphics that suit your need better.
Where to buy graphics for PowerPoint
By far the easiest way to get professional & unique graphics onto your slides (especially now that ClipArt is gone) is to use a service like GetMyGraphics.
They are custom-built graphics designed for PowerPoint. All you need to do is download and insert them onto your slide and then tweak them like you would SmartArt.
Although this is a paid service, we’ve found that we’ve reused these graphics again and again, so we see it as a good investment in sharper looking slides.
How to use vector graphics in PowerPoint
Using vectors in PowerPoint depends on what file type you have.
If you have an older version of PowerPoint (2013 and earlier), you can insert the following vector files types into PowerPoint:
If you have Office 365, you can no longer insert EPS files. However, you can still use EMF files, and you can also insert SVG files (except for on a Mac).
If you have an EPS file and can't import it into your version of PowerPoint, check out our article on how to import EPS files into PowerPoint.
Note: If you’re trying to use a file type that is not supported by your version of PowerPoint, you can try converting your file into the correct file type.
For a really good tutorial on how to convert vectors into usable PowerPoint objects without Adobe software, check out Microsoft MVP Dave Paradi’s post on finding and using vector images in PowerPoint.
Once you have an SVG file downloaded onto your computer, you’ll want to insert it into your presentation.
There are two ways to insert a vector file onto your PowerPoint slide:
Method #1: Drag the file from wherever it is sitting on your computer and drag it onto your slide.
Method #2: Go to the Insert tab in the Ribbon and select ‘Pictures’ (make sure to select the ‘Pictures’ icon and not the ‘Online Pictures’ icon). Then find your vector file and click on ‘Open.’
Note: If you have PowerPoint 2016 with Office 365, you have a new object class, called Icons. These are also vector files (SVG).
You can insert them by going to the Insert tab in the Ribbon and selecting ‘Icons’ (or using this shortcut: Alt, N, Y1).
You can learn more about the icons feature in this Office blog article.
Once you have a vector file inserted on your slide, you can manipulate its various pieces.
To do that, you’ll need to ungroup it twice.
To ungroup a vector image, select it and then use one of the following methods:
Hit the ungroup shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + G
Right-click the vector and select ‘Group’ and then ‘Ungroup’
Go to the Drawing Tools > Format tab in the Ribbon, select ‘Group’ and then ‘Ungroup’
A pop-up box will appear, asking you if you want to ungroup it. Click on ‘Yes.’
For the last step, you’ll need to ungroup it again (a second time). So go ahead and do that once more.
And now you have a series of shapes (instead of a picture) that you can edit and format however you like, just like for regular PowerPoint shapes.
Note: Keep in mind that some things might come out strangely as vectors in PowerPoint:
Gradients and shadows
Lines (the lines will likely come out as one object and may lose their original weight)
Complex artwork, such as sketching and other artistic effects
Some things you can do with your vector images now include:
Change the fill color
Add an outline with a custom weight
Move and resize pieces of the vector
Edit the points of certain pieces to change even the shape of it
And much more!