PowerPoint and Adobe are two powerhouse brands in what they do. In fact, each brand has become synonymous with the market it represents with PowerPoint for presentations and Photoshop for graphic design.
PowerPoint was designed to make presentation more accessible, but it is still a graphic design resource with the capabilities and functionality much like Adobe’s design suite. Unfortunately, the Microsoft program was forever typecast as the presentation design software rather than a complete suite of design tools and resources
Any pre-made PowerPoint template from the Design tab will be instantly recognisable as a built-in template – the look, colours, fonts, and various design elements have an immediate familiarity for anyone who’s sat through a presentation at school, university, the workplace, or a conference.
The key is to avoid default colour palettes and fonts by designing your own or heavily customising the built-in content. Also, remember that you can change default settings of any new PowerPoint document in the Master Slide view, then use the Font and Colours drop-down menus to find your own aesthetic, setting the look and size consistency with Master Slide.
Whenever you create shapes, it has a default fill and line settings, which contributes to the generic PowerPoint look you commonly see in presentations. Experiment with different colours, line thicknesses, gradients, and transparencies. The more you customise the settings of these objects, the less they’ll look like stock-standard PowerPoint shapes and images from its default settings.
Ways to play with PowerPoint
A simple way to do this is to play with transparency in the gradient fills, which can achieve a Multiply or Overlay layer effect like in Adobe. Click on Gradient File in the Format Shape pane, here you can edit the various Gradients across the slider. From here you can choose different colours or keep them all the same colour but use various transparency settings for each one. This is great to help highlight text against a detailed photograph or background while creating subtle depth to a flat slide.
Tools to be used in PowerPoint
Remember you don’t have to remain restricted to default shapes in PowerPoint. Use the Merge Shapes tool to combine, subtract, or crop default shapes into more compelling and varied shapes. You can also use the Edit Points tool to further reshape your designs freehand by moving vector points around, pulling on anchor points to edit Bezier curves, adding and subtracting points like in Adobe Illustrator. This can also be used in conjunction with photographs or images. You can use Intersect to crop images and photographs into more interesting shapes rather than stock-standard squares and rectangles.
In terms of making the text look less generic, change your fonts, kerning, and line spacing. Use the Character Spacing setting in the Home menu to kern. The ability to customise here means you can input your own values rather than be reduced to the preset settings, so try experimenting with different value to create your own unique-looking font while reducing the default aesthetic of your slides. To further customise your text, use the line spacing setting in the Indents and Spacing window under the Paragraph tab. Setting the line spacing to Multiple allow you to input your own values.
Anyone who’s tried to cut and paste an image into Microsoft Word will know how temperamental spacing can be, so if PowerPoint is giving you trouble with your text, remember that you don’t have to confine all text to a single textbox. Splitting the text into multiple textboxes makes it easier to arrange and customise things to how you prefer it.
Adding special effects to text and shapes can also make your PowerPoint look more like Adobe. Effects like drop shadows, glows, and bevels further customise your designs, adding your own unique details and finesse to your slideshow. These settings are in the Format pane under Shape or Text Options. Avoid using the default settings for each of these effects. Choose one to start, then experiment further to try to understand what each setting does, then edit them to how you see fit.
Combining and Integrating with PowerPoint
The final piece of advice: don’t limit yourself by only using PowerPoint assets. You don’t have to use exclusively use PowerPoint shapes to design your slides. Importing photographs, shapes, and illustrations from other programs really help create something more unique. And don’t forget about videos and gifs. PowerPoint is great at handling all kinds of assets, so use it to design multimedia experiences for your audience.
Remember, PowerPoint is even compatible with Adobe programs, so you can build complicated vectors in Illustrator and import them to continue editing, animating, and repurposing. If you’re really having trouble editing in PowerPoint, then edit your photos or images or even entire slide backgrounds in Photoshop, then bring them onto your slides. In the end, PowerPoint is just the program to host your assets – it doesn’t have to be the sole program you use for designing.
While Adobe suite may offer more options and details for design work, PowerPoint combines the different programs and capabilities of Adobe’s creative suite into a single platform that’s accessible, easy to use, and made for sharing with others (since most of your clients, staff, and audiences already have Microsoft programs pre-installed into their devices).
Templates and pre-built PowerPoint features can look generic, so why not play around with some designs we designed for your readers? We’ve put together some fun and useful templates that you can reuse and tweak to create your own unique design. Download it here