How to add falling snow to a PowerPoint slide

Spread a little holiday cheer by incorporating a falling snow effect in your next presentation.

istock-1055328962ipadinsnow.jpg
Image: Rodrusoleg, Getty Images/iStockphoto

It's the most wonderful time of the year—whether you are surrounded by snow and mistletoe or beaches and warm sand, you might want to share some traditional holiday cheer. One way to do this is by adding snow to a PowerPoint slide.

The article How to make it snow in PowerPoint offers a basic snow plan that uses the same shape and random timing effects. In this article, we'll enhance the technique. Specifically, we'll use the same animation and timing technique, but I'll show you how to make two different kinds of snowflakes using star shapes and pattern files.

I'm using Office 365's PowerPoint 2016 (desktop) on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but this will work in older versions. You can create the effect yourself or download the demonstration .pptx and .ppt files , which include slides from the first article. (Some effects might not perform the same in the .ppt version.) This article assumes you're familiar with PowerPoint. Don't try to achieve this effect in the browser edition.

See: System update policy template download (Tech Pro Research)

The method

The process for simulating snowfall is simple:

  1. You make snowflakes.
  2. You randomly spread the snowflakes around the slide.
  3. You randomly animate the snowflakes by timing their rate of descent from the top of the slide.

The basic process is simple and is often enough to create an elegant slide. However, you can enhance the process by using different snowflake shapes, adding a picture, and even adding sound effects. There's no right or wrong and the great part is, that it's up to you. I'll show you the basics, and you can apply them to create your own holiday fun.

PowerPoint offers several built-in shapes that you can use to simulate snowflakes. You can use the basic oval, a star combination, or a pattern. You can even mix them up on the same slide. The article, How to make it snow in PowerPoint uses the oval shape to create circular flakes, so we'll focus on the star and pattern graphics in this article.

How to build a star from scratch

There's are several built-in stars, but none of them, as is, looks like a snowflake. We'll use two stars to build one snowflake. To get started, insert a 12-point star and a 4-point star. Hold down the Shift key as you insert and size the star to maintain its ratio. Both stars should be about the same size, as shown in Figure A. Click the Insert tab and then choose the shapes from the Shapes drop-down in the Illustrations group. Select a star and use the yellow circle to reduce the girth of each (Figure B). Simply drag it; it's easy to use and requires little practice.

Figure A

snowppa.jpg
Start with two different stars.

Figure B

snowppb.jpg
Reduce the width of the rays for each star.

Next, we need to format the stars by removing the outline and adding a gradient white fill as follows:

  1. Right-click either star and choose Format Shape from the resulting submenu.
  2. From the Line option, choose No line.
  3. From the Fill option, choose Gradient fill.
  4. Choose Path from the Type drop-down (using the Format Shape pane).
  5. Remove all but two of the gradient stops (simply click one and press Delete).
  6. Choose white for the first stop's color.
  7. Make the second stop white also, but change the Transparency setting to 100 (Figure C).
  8. Use Format Painter to format the second star.

Figure C

snowppc.jpg
Set gradient properties.

You can apply the Soft Edges effect, but you'll probably find it unnecessary. If you decide to try, do so to each star individually before grouping the two stars. To group the stars, simply stack them, and this is where you can let loose a bit with your creativity. Experiment with the ray width, transparency, and positioning until you get the effect you want. You could use a star with more or fewer rays. Figure D shows both stars layered with the cardinal points lined up. You also see two more stars with varied positions, width, and transparency, but don't limit yourself to my examples. Experiment and explore.

Figure D

snowppd.jpg
Stack your stars.

Once you have a star the way you want it, create a permanent group so you can work with both as one. Select them both and choose Group from the Group drop-down in the Arrange group on the contextual Format tab. You can work with one simple star pattern or several. The demonstration file uses the three shown in Figure D.

Make more snow

With one or more original flakes, you're ready to create more; your originals will become the basis of the entire snowfall effect. First, select each grouped original, hold down the Shift key and reduce its size. Then, copy and paste several more. Create groups and position them randomly. Make some smaller and some larger. You want a random group—like nature. Figure E shows a random grouping. There's no right or wrong.

Figure E

snowppe.jpg
Spread the flakes around the slide randomly.

Let it snow

With a random collection of flakes scattered across your slide, you're ready to animate them. First, we'll add a Fly Out animation to the entire group as follows:

  1. Select all the flakes by pressing [Ctrl]+[A] and then click the Animations tab.
  2. From the Animation gallery, choose Fly Out. You might have to click More Exit Effects to find it.
  3. Click the Animation Pane option in the Advanced Animation group (if necessary) to display the Animation Pane.
  4. With all the flakes still selected, choose Timing from the group's drop-down menu (in the Animation Pane).
  5. In the resulting dialog, change the Duration setting to two seconds (Medium).
  6. Select Until End of Slide from the Repeat drop-down menu (Figure F).
  7. Click OK.

Figure F

snowppf.jpg
Change the timing options.

To make the fall more natural, make most of the larger flakes fall a bit faster than the smaller ones. You can work with several different groups, or only a few. To create a group, hold down the shift key and select a few large flakes. Right-click one of the selected flakes in the Animations pane and choose Timing as you did before. This time, change the Duration setting to one second and click OK. Repeat this process for the smallest flakes, changing the duration to four seconds. Mix things up a bit though; a large flake or two can fall at .75 a second and some of the smallest flakes can fall at four-five.

You can watch the full effect by pressing Ctrl+A and then clicking Play Selected in the Animation Pane. Doing so will help you tweak the flakes until you're satisfied.

As is, the preview is a bit jerky. To fix that, press Ctrl+A to select all the flakes. Then, drag the entire group above (and off) the slide. It's okay if a few flakes remain at the top of the slide, as shown in Figure G. Preview again. This time, the snowfall will appear smooth, and so, more natural. You might need to modify timings and placement a bit more before you're done.

Figure G

snowppg.jpg
Drag the snowflakes off the slide.

The pattern flake

The pattern flakes shown in Figure H are images available by Creative Commons license. (The authors are unknown.) I then used the same process to animate this slide.

Figure H

snowpph.jpg
Use patterned snowflake images.

To find these snowflakes, use PowerPoint's Online Pictures option on the Insert tab in the Images group. In the search control, enter snowflake and press Enter. Make sure to check the Creative Commons only option and start inserting snowflake images.

Use the Remove Background tool (on the contextual Format tab) to remove the backgrounds if necessary. Use the Color option in the Adjust group to change colors.

To learn how to remove the background from an image, you can read Remove that annoying background from your company logo and 9 been-around-the-block Office tips (see #2).

Pictures and sound

You could stop here; the effect is lovely and elegant. But there's much more you can do. You can add a picture—whimsical, serious, or even a picture of your family or co-workers. You can also add sound. Figure I shows a cute holiday wish with snow falling. You can't tell it from the figure, but if you download the demonstration file, you'll see snow falling and hear holiday music.

Figure I

snowppi.jpg
Add pictures and audio to create a cute holiday card.

To send the slide as a holiday card that plays automatically, save the presentation as a .ppsx (or .pps) file. Be sure to set the snowflake animation's Start property to With Previous so it'll start automatically. Also, set the audio clip's Start property to Automatically. Be sure to hide the audio clip graphic during the show.

Providing step-by-step instructions for the card is beyond the scope of this article. The focus is on the falling snow. If you need help with an enhancement, use the comments section below to ask questions. If I can't help, perhaps other readers will.

Happy Holidays!

Credits

The snowflake patterns and Christmas card image are available via Creative License. The music is available from FreeSoundEffects.com and is royalty free. It's your responsibility to properly secure permission or pay for images and audio that aren't free. Many files that are free for non-profit use charge if you use the files in any money-making venture, so be sure to check licenses thoroughly.

Send me your question about Office

I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. Don't send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. You can send screenshots of your data to help clarify your question. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. Please mention the app and version that you're using. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at susansalesharkins@gmail.com.

See also

By Susan Harkins

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.