How to selectively use clip art components using PowerPoint

See part of a clip art file that you like? Insert it into PowerPoint and use its tools to separate the objects and use them individually.

Most experts discourage the use of clip art. I agree that clip art, as is, is often too complex for presentations. That doesn't mean you can't use them-at least, parts of them. You can easily dissect most clip art and use individual pieces.

The following figure shows part of a clip art file, copied a few times. The effect is a slide full of confetti. Not bad for clip art-but it doesn't much resemble the original file.

Grabbing just the pieces you want is easier than you might think. First, you insert the clip art into a slide. Then, you convert it so you can ungroup the objects, as follows:

  1. You might want to increase the size of the graphic a bit. It'll be easier to work with.
  2. Right-click the clip art and choose Group.
  3. Then, select Ungroup from the resulting submenu.
  4. Click Yes when PowerPoint prompts you to convert the imported picture file.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 3 and PowerPoint will select the individual objects.
  6. Click anywhere outside the picture to clear the multiple-object selection.

With the individual objects selectable, you can make just about any change you'd like. For instance, to delete the cake, select the objects that belong to the cake and press Delete. It might take several steps and be careful not to accidentally snag something you want to keep.

With the cake gone, you can copy and paste individual confetti components, randomly. (That's a little tedious, but if you have the time and inclination, you can do it!) A quicker route is to regroup the objects and paste it as a whole picture, overlapping and changing the orientation of each paste to create a tossed-in-the-air effect. You could also enlarge the file to fill the entire slide. Don't be afraid to experiment; you can always use [Ctrl]+Z to undo your changes.


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.


I've ungrouped clip art in the past, so I don't understand why the group feature is greyed out, even when I copy the clip art in the article. I've tried using other clip art and the group feature is still greyed out. What gives?


If you've converted the imported art and it won't ungroup, the file probably isn't compatible with this particular technique (format type). It works with most clip art files.


Maybe that's the problem. I wondered about the instruction, First you insert the clip art into a slide. Then you convert it..." I guess my real question should be - how do I convert the clip art so that it allows me to ungroup it?

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