How to use an image to tell a story in PowerPoint

You can't customize font colors, but you can merge text with photos or other graphics using this simple technique.

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Image: scyther5, Getty Images/iStockphoto

The article, How to create transparent text in PowerPoint 2016, shows you how to create seemingly transparent text. The technique requires three layers and some merging, but it's easy.

In this article, I'll show you a similar technique that allows text to tell a story by displaying an image instead of font color. More specifically, we'll fill the word spring with colorful spring flowers. The two techniques are similar in ease and implementation but somewhat different in result.

I'm using Office 365 PowerPoint (desktop) on a Windows 10 64-bit system. For your convenience, you can download the demonstration .pptx and picture files. (The picture is mine; please don't reuse it without my permission for anything other than working through this example.)

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About the technique

You might have some trouble imagining this technique. Figure A shows the final slide. It's colorful and totally supports the text's meaning.

ppspringa.jpg

Figure A: We'll fill the text with a spring bouquet.

The result is similar to filling a shape with an image, but you can't accomplish this using a fill property the same way you can with a shape. To implement this simple technique, we'll do the following:

  1. Insert a picture.
  2. Insert a text box.
  3. Merge the two.

Step 1: insert a spring picture

The picture you insert is up to you. I choose a picture of spring flowers, as you can see in Figure B. You can resize the picture, or not. To insert a picture, click the Insert tab, choose Pictures from the Images group, use the resulting Insert Picture dialog to locate your picture, and then click Open.

ppspringb.jpg

Figure B: Insert a picture.

Step 2: insert the text

  1. The next step is to insert the text and format it appropriately.
  2. To do so, click the Insert tab. C
  3. Click Text Box in the Text group, click anywhere inside the slide, and then type spring.
  4. With the text box still selected, press Ctrl+a to select the text.
  5. Then, choose Forte from the Font dropdown and enter 100 in the font size control.
  6. Next, drag the text onto the picture, and use the rotation handle to tilt it a bit.
  7. At this point, try to position the text over the part of the picture that's the most meaningful to your message. As you can see in Figure C, I positioned the text over the most colorful part of the picture. Don't worry that the text isn't particularly legible—that won't matter.

ppspringc.jpg

Figure C: Position the text on top of the picture.

Step 3: merge the two

Now comes a bit of magic. To merge the text and picture, hold down the Ctrl key and click both the picture and the text box to select both. Then, on the contextual Format (Drawing Tools) tab, choose Intersect from the Merge dropdown. The results are shown in Figure D.

ppspringd.jpg

Figure D: Use the underlying picture to fill the text.

The text is no longer black; it's full of spring colors from the underlying picture. You can enlarge, shrink, move, or even copy the text. If only we could make the slide smell like a spring bouquet!

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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.