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In Search of Non-Rectangular
by Rick Altman

To many, the photo that can be displayed as a non-rectangular shape is the holy grail of graphic design. To that end, many go to elaborate lengths in their image-editing software to create selection layers, isolate backgrounds, and perform partial exports as PNG files. While a sound strategy, it is a headache to those who have not reached a certain plateau of proficiency with Adobe Photoshop and the like.

Fortunately, there is a much easier way, if you simply seek a photo to be displayed in a boundary other than rectangular: fill a shape with the photo.

Most PowerPoint users know that a closed shape (circle, square, triangle, etc.) can be filled with an opaque color, a transparent color, a gradient of more than one color, and various textures and patterns. Few know that you can fill a shape with a photo, and fewer still know that you fill a shape with the background image (a very cool trick that I have written about previously and no doubt will again.)

Once you have created and selected a closed shape, right-click it to reach the Format AutoShape dialog. Click the Color dropdown and choose Fill Effects to reach a dialog with four tabs. Choose the fourth tab, Picture and then click Select Picture. Go find the desired photo that lives on your hard drive, a removable drive, or on a network drive.

The options for locking aspect ratio and rotating photo with shape are both checked on by default and most of the time that is preferred. OK your way out of the Format dialog and you're there, ready to create a nice menu slide or photo layout similar to the upper illustration. The picture-filling command has very few options and nothing that allows you to crop or pan across the photo. So you might need to spend a few minutes with the crop tool of your image-editing app to relocate an off-center part of a photo that you want to show.


Rick Altman is the host of the PowerPoint Live User Conference. It covers the whole of the presentation community—message, slide design, software technique, and delivery—and limits enrollment to 250. Complete details are available at PowerPointLive.com.
Other PowerPoint Articles
Focus Through Blurry Photos
Filling Shapes with Photos
The Perils of Postage Stamps
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