PowerPoint Illustration Best Practices

Please read the PowerPoint Clipart / Online Picture articles before reading this one – Part 1 and Part 2.  PowerPoint Illustration Best Practices covers how to find relevant images and how to use them efficiently.

The first thing to notice and understand is that images searchable on the web are NOT free for all to use randomly. Let us address this issue at the outset.

PowerPoint Illustration Best Practices - one picture is better than 1000 words

Usage rights are important

Most people use Google image search to find illustrations for use within PowerPoint and other tools. While it seems to work, most of us are not aware of the legal implications. Of course, Google also provides a filter to ensure that you are using the images appropriately. However, most of us are either ignorant or not bothered to filter by license type.

The PowerPoint options for Inserting Online Pictures are auto-filtered by these type of license where reuse is permitted by the owner or creator.

In the current version of PowerPoint, adequate information about the source of the image is also added automatically. That reduces our efforts  while safeguarding our interests. I will discuss these usage rights in a separate article. Also remember that the Insert Online Pictures option is available in Word, Excel and OneNote as well.

Right now, all I am saying is that unless you have exhausted the safer options available within PowerPoint, do not go exploring images without regard for usage rights.

Going further, the availability of a plethora of images leads to other issues as well.

The problem

Millions of images are available within Online Pictures option of PowerPoint. This itself is a problem. How are you going to select and use the right illustration in the right place? The following best practices will help you in this regard.

If you do not follow these recommendations, you will end up spending too much time in finding the best image for a few slides and the remaining slides will get ignored. What we want is a balance between adding a relevant illustration and the time we are spending in finding and refining those images.

The PowerPoint Illustration Best Practices given below can be used with tools other than PowerPoint and sources outside the Online Picture options of Office. Some items may be specific, but the concepts are generic.

Simple benchmark of adding relevant illustrations

By adding an illustration, does it reduce the amount of time you have to talk about that slide or explain something verbally? If yes, use the illustration. Else don’t use it.

PowerPoint Illustration Best Practices

This is a long list. It is ironic that I have not used a single picture or illustration while listing the best practices. However, I have added relevant links which point to detailed articles for further exploration.

  1. Focus on the content.
    Poor content with great illustrations is useless.
  2. Get the base content created and finish all the slides.
  3. Now look at the slides again and add placeholders where you need illustrations.
  4. Do not put images just because it is fashionable to do so.
  5. Each picture or illustration must add context and meaning to the slide content.
  6. Do Not start adding images and illustrations from first slide to last slide
  7. Start by adding illustrations to only the first slide. The reasons are obvious:
    First impression matters.
    First slide may be shown longer than other slides because attendees may be walking in before the presentation starts.
    Even if you email the presentation, the first slide will be seen first!
  8. Next step is to add illustration to the last few important slides.
    People remember what you covered at the end (not beginning).
  9. Now manage the middle slides.
  10. In your mind visualize what you want to show.
  11. Choose the right type – Photo, drawing, clipart, illustration, combination, etc.
  12. Don’t waste too much time on each illustration,
    unless the presentation is super-critical.
  13. Search using the relevant keyword(s).
  14. If you cannot find a useful image in the first page, try changing the keyword itself.
    Otherwise, you will keep scrolling endlessly and waste time on just one slide.
  15. Try different sources, if time permits. As you use this option more, you will understand what to expect from which source. There is not right or wrong choice. It is just a balance between relevance and time spent.
  16. Specifically, with PowerPoint, keep the search text same and choose different sources. You may find appropriate images faster using this method.
    Why so? Because all sources sort the results on some kind of relevance or score. Images which match your search text most are likely to be shown on the first page.
  17. Nowadays, PowerPoint automatically adjusts the inserted illustrations and creates new Design Ideas. Just scroll through the suggestions. You may find an interesting arrangement which will save you lot of manual work.
  18. Finding and inserting the appropriate image is not the end point. There is more.
  19. Modify the illustration to convey the intended meaning
    1. Use crop effectively
    2. Remember that crop can be in any shape (not just rectangle) and offers many other sophisticated options like changing the aspect ratio.
    3. Resize the picture
    4. Change brightness/ contrast and sharpness as necessary
    5. Try artistic effects if you want to add some twist to the image
    6. Also try various color tones and recoloring options
    7. Use transparency and mix the image with the background or other images
    8. Use Compress Pictures option to adjust the resolution and minimize the file size
    9. Try it out on full screen
    10. Do not waste too much time
  20. Consider using Animation to show images in interesting ways.
  21. Explore Picture SmartArt. It automatically arranges images and allows you to add captions easily.
  22. Consider using Morph – a great feature which goes beyond traditional animation.
  23. Use Icons – a new feature which provides a reasonably good collection of familiar, good-looking icons which are easy to use and resize.
  24. You can combine image and text together using the Merge Shapes option in Drawing tools. This can create powerful graphics quite easily.
  25. Explore Picture Styles in the Picture Tools tab. Just open the drop down and hover over each option. It instantly applies the style and shows a live preview. As you use this feature more frequently, you do not have to try each style for each image.
  26. If you like the final result, copy that slide and paste it into your archive presentation. Use source formatting while pasting. This archive presentation will be your repository for reusing proven ideas at a later date.


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