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PowerPoint Tips: Power Tracing With The Freeform Shape Tool

by Adam Noar


presentation tips - freeform shape tool

One way to design great looking graphics for your PowerPoint presentations is by “tracing images” that you find online and then customizing to fit the theme of your presentation.

I do this ALL THE TIME when designing PowerPoint slides and in this post I’m going to show you my tracing technique in a few simple steps.

Note: In elementary school, tracing might have been frowned upon and considered “cheating.” However, tracing in PowerPoint can be a great design trick and huge time saver.

Sometimes you may have the right image, but:

  • The image is too low res
  • You need a graphic instead of a photo
  • You need to be able to edit the image

This tracing technique can help solve these issues. Read on to find out how it’s done.

#1: Find An Image To Trace

The first thing you need to do is find an image (photo or illustration) online that you would like to trace.

When first trying this technique you probably want to start with a simple image that is not too complicated to trace around. Once you get comfortable with tracing, you can move on to more difficult images.

Take a look at the image example below.

Imagine that you really liked this image but wished you wanted to change the character in the middle to a different color. Follow the steps below to see how it can be done.

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#2: Select The Freeform Shape Tool

In order to trace an object you need to select the Freeform shape tool (as seen the image below).

Once you have selected the Freeform shape tool simply trace around the object that you would like to trace. As you can see, I have traced around half of the person in the image below.

Tip: Before you start tracing the object, make sure to zoom in on it first. This will make it easier to see what you’re tracing.


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#3: Clean Up Your Edges With The Edit Points Tool

When you trace around images you will see that sometimes your points might be a little “off” from the original image.

No need to worry here. Simply select the Edit Points tool to clean up your edges.

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Here’s how to use the Edit Points tool:

With your mouse, right-click on the object and select “Edit Points” from the pop-up menu (as seen in the image above). When you do this, small black squares (points) will appear which are connected by a thin red line. When you hover over the line or one of the points, the mouse pointer transforms different forms. Depending on what you’re trying to do, the mouse pointer’s form is important (edit a point vs. add a point).

Again, I find it’s helpful to zoom in close to the object so that you can manipulate the points and line segments accurately.

When you click on a specific point, two handles will appear which control the curves of the lines intersecting at the point. Three factors influence a line segment: the length of the “A” handle, the angle of the “A” handle, and the same two aspects for the “B” handle. In the examples below, you can see how the positions of the A and B handles create different line effects.

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Make the necessary adjustments to the points’ handles to create the desired shape for your object. I recommend removing unnecessary points. For example, if you can achieve the same curve with two points instead of three or four, you’re going to have smoother line segments with fewer points.

As you work with the points, you might find that you need to alter the point type (corner, straight, or smooth). You right-click on a point and select the point type you want.

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Note: A corner point allows for a sharp corner, a smooth point allows for a non-sharp corner, and a straight point doesn’t allow for corners. Resetting the point type can fix a problematic point in your shape as you’re editing.

#4 Format Your Newly Traced Image

Once you are happy with your traced object make any formatting changes (color, patterns, gradients etc.) necessary to fit the theme of your slides.

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When it comes to creating images for your PowerPoint presentations, the “power tracing technique” can come handy in many occasions.

Here’s my question for you …

Now that you have learned this new image tracing technique do you think that you will give it a shot? Why or why not?

Please try to be as specific as possible.

Also, do you have a friend that is currently doing a presentation and could benefit from learning PowerPoint tips like this? If so, send them a link to this article by using the sharing buttons below.

Finally, if you found these presentation tips helpful. Please remember to like and share using the share buttons to the left!

Presentation tips  - Check out my ebook Slides Made Slimple Now!

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