You’re organising your company’s Buka Puasa potluck or you are in charge of your NGO’s Instagram account or maybe you’re just trying to make the cover page of your final year paper look nicer. You have a simple design in mind but you’re getting frustrated with having to spend 22 hours learning how to use Adobe Photoshop. And, you’re not willing to spend RM50 on a professional designer for such a simple job! You’re thinking to yourself – there must be an easier way to do this.

You’re absolutely right!

Hidden in almost everyone’s computer is a tool that you have most likely used before if you live in the 21st century – Microsoft PowerPoint. I have found that it is one of the easiest, most versatile tool for the everyday non-professional designer like you and me. I have designed countless posters, professional work proposals, social media posts and even my website logo using this simple tool. And now, you can too! I’ll show you the basics and also some great options to get the most out your artwork.

What you’ll need:

  • Microsoft PowerPoint (any version, newer versions will have more tools)
  • Basic PowerPoint knowledge (you have made a PowerPoint presentation slide before)
  • A willingness to experiment
  • A dash of imagination

Ready? All right, let’s go!

1. Determine Your ‘Must Haves’

Before you even open PowerPoint, have a think about what are you trying to accomplish and how do you want it the end product to look like. At this point, it doesn’t have to be super-clear, just a rough idea will do. From my experience, the design usually changes as it starts taking shape, but there are always some ‘must-haves’ that cannot be compromised.

Size & Shape – Where will you be using this design?
Instagram? Square
Company poster? A4 or A3
English report cover page? A4
Facebook cover photo? Longitudinal

Content – What information must be included?
Date, Time, Venue
Sign Up Link / QR Code
Images (e.g. photos of speaker/venue)

💡 If you are working in a team, you may want to get everyone’s agreement on items that are ‘must haves’ and items that are ‘nice to have’. This will save tonnes of time and argument once the design has been completed.

2. Prepare Your Canvas

For the rest of this article, I’ll be doing a poster as an example, but it really works for any other kind of design work. I will also includa a pictorial guide after the written instructions, for all you visual learners. Let me know in the comments if there are any parts which are unclear or if you have additional questions/comments/tips or if you get stuck at any step.

  1. Open Microsoft PowerPoint
  2. Choose a ‘Blank Presentation’
  3. In the ‘Design’ tab, click on ‘Slide Size’ followed by ‘Custom Slide Size’.
  4. Here, you can select one of the common sizes (e.g. A4/A3) or input your own custom size. Select also the orientation ‘Portrait’ or ‘Landscape’
  5. Select either ‘Maximise’ or ‘Ensure Fit’. Does not matter when we are starting from scratch

⚠️ Selecting the right size is very, very critical. This ensures that your printed/displayed artwork is sharp and not pixelated or stretched!

💡 If you are making a few sizes that are of the same shape/scale, choose the larger one. (e.g. Use A3 to design and you can print it out in both A3 and A4)

💡 If you are making a web-based content (think Facebook cover photos) and the dimensions are given in pixels, PowerPoint can auto-convert pixels to cm/inch for you. Just input ‘px’ when you key in the measurement of your slide (e.g. 1080px). Watch this quick video if you need it.

💡 By default, PowerPoint follows the measurement system (cm / inch) of your computer. You can change the measurement system that PowerPoint uses by following this guide.

Steps 1 & 2: Open PowerPoint. Select ‘Blank Presentation’
Step 3: Go to ‘Custom Slide Size’
Step 4: Select your size and orientation
Step 5: Pick any option

You should now have a slide that looks like this:

3. Start Designing

At this point, you can start designing your artwork (inserting pictures & text-boxes) like how you would your regular presentation slide. In this section, we’ll recreate the poster below which will highlight some simple, useful tips on creating your first PowerPoint poster. Designing is meant to be fun and creative. Don’t be afraid to play around and make mistakes – there’s always the ‘Undo’ button.

Totally fictional basic poster for practice
  1. Go ahead and delete any existing textbox from the Blank Presentation.
  2. Insert a Picture. (Insert tab -> Insert Pictures OR simply drag your picture into PowerPoint)
  3. Enlarge the image to fill the entire slide.
  4. Crop the image to the size of your slide.
  5. Insert textbox. This will be our title.
  6. Insert more textboxes as needed.
  7. Align your textboxes.
  8. Add a background colour to your textbox to make the words more visible.
  9. Adjust the transparency of the background colour.
  10. Add the logo.

💡 Some of my favourite sites to get absolutely free stock images (for personal, commercial and whatever-you-want use) like the one I’m using here are Pixabay, Pexels & Unsplash. In the following example, I’m using a photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

💡 If you want to create a short & memorable sign-up link, I would highly suggest – create a free account. This allows you to change where the link redirects to in the future if you need to. For example, you have already sent out the shortened link to the public, but for some reason instead of directing it to your Facebook page, you now want it to direct to your website. Simply login and edit the URL. Oh, did I mention you can also create QR code easily?

Step 1: Delete these default textboxes
Step 2: Insert background picture
Step 3: Enlarge picture to fill the entire slide
Step 4a: Crop your picture
Step 4b: While in ‘Crop’ mode, drag your picture, so that the slide shows exactly what you want. In this case, it’s the hand with the globe.
Go out of ‘Crop’ mode by clicking any of the blank area outside of your slide/picture. You should be seeing this slide here.

Good, now that we’ve got the background image in place, we’re going to start adding the title and other textboxes.

Step 5: Under the ‘Insert’ tab, select ‘Text Box’ and proceed to draw a text box for our title
Step 6a: Insert another textbox for Description
Add 2 more textboxes and use the Align Right function
Step 7a: Align the Title & Description
Step 7b: Align the bottom 2 textboxes

💡 The ‘Align’ function is super amazing. It helps you align multiple objects together (in this case 2 textboxes) without needing to go through multiple trial and error using your eyes to get it in line. It can also align a single object towards your slide. Try it out!

Now, you may notice that the Pre-Registration textbox is not very clear as the text blends in with the background. Let’s go ahead and add some colour to make it stand out.

Step 8: Add a background colour to make the text more visible
Step 9: Adjust the transparency of the background colour
Step 10: Finally, add your logo. Resize as you see ift.

And, there you have it! Your first PowerPoint poster. Using the methods shared here, you’ll be able to create hundreds of different poster. All you need is a little bit of imagination to apply the principles to other uses.

4. Save

There are usually 3 types of files I would save a PowerPoint artwork in:

  • PowerPoint Presentation (extension .ppt or .pptx) – in case you’d want to edit this in the future
  • JPEG File (extension .jpg) or PNG (extension .png) – to share/use as a photo in web, Whatsapp, social media
  • PDF (extension .pdf) – to send for printing

And it’s pretty easy to do.

  1. Go to the ‘File’ tab
  2. Select ‘Save As’
  3. Select ‘Browse’
  4. Navigate to where you would like to save your file
  5. Select the right file type under ‘Save As Type’
  6. Click on ‘Save’
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 with other File Types where necessary

💡 If you save your files in JPG or PNG and find that the images and text are not high resolution (blurry, pixelated around the edges). Check out this quick tutorial to change the default DPI settings that PowerPoint saves images files in. It may seem a bit technical at first, but don’t let it scare you off. Just follow it step by step – and the good news is, you only need to do this once (unless you change computer, of course)!

Step 1: Click on ‘File’ tab
Steps 2-4
Steps 5&6: Select the right File Type and hit ‘Save’

You can then repeat Steps 1-6 to save it in other file formats.

That’s it – a simple poster you can create using a tool you’re already familiar with – PowerPoint. There are of course many more tips to enhance your design. This article is merely to jump start your creativity juices to the possibilities of PowerPoint as a design tool.

As always, some of the best ideas happen in the comments section below. Drop me a question if you are unclear about any of the above steps. Or if you are trying to achieve a specific design that is not covered here, let me know too!

Till next time,
Loo Han 🙂

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