How to make icons in Powerpoint 1by Paul C. Tumey

Knowing how to make icons in PowerPoint will give you the ability to make great looking slides. With my secret technique you can quickly upgrade deadly bullet point slides. All you have to do is replace the bullet symbols with icons. For some examples of this, see my previous post, Iconic PowerPoint – A Breakthrough Approach.

Making your slides more visual is essential for an effective PowerPoint presentation. This is the first of a three-part series that will show you step-by-step how to make icons.

All the tools you need for this are in PowerPoint. You don’t need to be a designer to produce pro-quality graphics with this technique.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Steve Jobs

Best of all, once you learn this technique, it only takes about three minutes to make an icon! Here’s the three parts of this mini-course:

  1. Working with pre-made icons that have a transparent background
  2. Editing icons with solid color backgrounds
  3. Make your own icons

The essence of the technique is this: replace bullets with icons. Iconic PowerPoint lets you do a lot more, but this the basic starting point:

picture that compares a bullet powerpoint slide with an Iconic PowerPoint version

Note that the symbols in the slide on the right are visually consistent. This is key! When you insert icons from various sources, they will likely be different sizes and colors. This is what the slide looked like with the icons I used untreated:

picture of powerpoint slide with ugly clip art icons

I think you will agree that it doesn’t look as good.

A Simple Technique

I’ve created a very simple way to make visually consistent icons. It’s a 3-step process:

  1. Draw a shape (Circles and rounded-corner squares work best)
  2. Fill with a solid color (great chance to use a branding color)
  3. Insert pre-made icon with transparent background and make it white

Step One: Make Your Icon Shape

Draw a circle, or a rounded-corner square. Fill it with the color of your choice. Bonus tip: hold the SHift key down while you draw a shape to get a perfectly proportioned figure! (See the video at the end of this blog post for more information on this helpful tip.)

art that shows how to draw a perfect shape in PowerPoint

Step Two: Insert pre-made icons with transparent background

One good place to get icons is Google images. Here’s a good search formula: icon + (icon name) + png. If you type in “png,” Google will serve up some images that have a transparent background. “Png” stands for “Portable Network Graphic.” This format usually (not always) has a transparent background. If you can find icons with transparent backgrounds, it will save you work.

Be aware that there could be some copyright issues with some icons. See my video below for more information on this.

Pick flat images, like the one indicated in the graphic below. The shaded, three-dimensional art will not work with this technique.

picture of a google search for powerpoint icons

Step Three: Insert icon and make white

In most cases, the icon will be black. It doesn’t matter what color, or colors, it is. Once inserted and resized, right-click and choose “Format Picture.” Then, slide the Brightness control to 100%. This will magically turn the art white.

picture that shows how to make art inserted into PowerPoint 100% white

That’s it — you’re done! This takes about 3 minutes once you learn how.

Here’s a 9-minute video I made that explains this technique in greater detail:

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Paul C. Tumey is the founder and director of Presentation Tree.