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Create Overlays Using PowerPoint Drawing Tools

PowerPoint has built in drawing tools for making your own customized overlays for background slides. You can select a single background and quickly create an attractive and custom overlay for your presentation.

This tutorial will cover a number of effects available in PowerPoint.  But we suggest that you select the effects that you apply to your  overlay judiciously. A professional look is often the result of editing, not adding.

Using Format/Background, insert your selected background.


widescreen in powerpoint 2002

Large fonts (for titles) can be used directly over virtually any background.

widescreen in powerpoint 2007

An overlay makes text legible over even the most cutting-edge designs.

To save time, choose “Apply to All” if you are going to use a single background for your presentation.


An AutoShape offers the fastest, easiest way to get started.

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Select an autoshape and drag it across the slide. You can position, scale and colorize it later using Format/AutoShape.

Notice the dots around your autoshape when you have it selected.  To put text on top of the shape, you will need to use the Draw tool to send it backward. With these “handles” you can scale and move the shape.  The green one is used for rotation.


Just a few of the options you have using drawing tools.

Under the Colors and Lines tab, you can select the overlay color and set transparency.  Frequently an overlay looks better with a little transparency.  Try 5-6%.

Choose Fill Effects (the little pitcher) and you can fill your Autoshape with a pattern or a gradient.  Take care with patterns - select colors without a lot of contrast, and beware of anything with much design.

The toolbar at the bottom of the screen gives you quick access to many settings. Many are intuitive, others - not so much.  Of special interest are:

  • Fill Effects - the little pouring pitcher
  • Shadows - the green square with a drop shadow
  • 3-D Effects - next to the Shadow button, this controls everything from tilt, depth, lighting and more.

Many of the buttons will cause a new toolbar to display at the top (you can drop and drag them off the top toolbars if you prefer).

Take a few minutes to try the other buttons and see what they do. You’ll be making new overlays, shapes and effects to enhance your presentation in no time!

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