Image: monticello/Shutterstock

Focusing on a point is the foundation of every PowerPoint presentation. Fortunately, PowerPoint supports dozens of ways to do so. With the addition of the PowerPoint morph transition, you have another choice that might not be as obvious: using morph to highlight important details. Doing so requires a bit of knowledge about the morph technique and how to crop pictures, but it’s easy. In this article, I’ll show you how to combine cropped figures and the morph technique to highlight parts of a larger picture.

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I’m using Microsoft 365 desktop on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use earlier versions; morph was added to PowerPoint 2016. It’s also available in PowerPoint for the web, iPad, iPhone and Android tablets and phones for PowerPoint. For your convenience, you can download the demonstration .pptx file.

About morph in PowerPoint

PowerPoint’s morph transition visually connects two slides, and you can use this transition in many ways:

  • To create motion
  • To zoom in and out, or highlight
  • Change one shape to another

Morphing allows you to combine common options, such as movement, size, rotation and color, at the same time to change the original slide into the second. It’s easy to use, but you can’t manipulate how PowerPoint actually shapes the movement from the first to the second slide. That sounds funny—shapes the movement—but it will make sense when you see it in action.

Morph requires, always, two slides: the first slide, where the morph begins and a second, where the morph ends. So, you set up the two slides, select them, and then apply the morph transition. For a simple use, you might change a square into a circle, or pull together letters to complete a message, as shown in How to use PowerPoint 2016’s stunning new Morph transition.

A less obvious use is to highlight specific areas of a slide. In this case, the first slide is the full picture, and the second slide is the cropped highlight. By combining the two with a morph transition, the full picture will seem to change into the cropped area.

The two PowerPoint slides

The morph transition requires two slides. In our case, the slides will both start with the picture shown in Figure A. This picture is part of 365’s stock images, so copyright isn’t an issue. To insert the picture into a blank slide, do the following:

  1. Click the Insert tab.
  2. Click Pictures in the Images group and choose Stock Images from the dropdown.
  3. In the resulting window, click Image, and enter owl in the search control.
  4. Click the picture shown in Figure A, and then click Insert.

Figure A

We’ll use this picture as the first slide in the morph transition.
We’ll use this picture as the first slide in the morph transition.

Figure B

Choose a picture to insert.
Choose a picture to insert.

Inserting the picture will open the design pane (for 365 users). The first suggestion will be to fill the entire slide with the picture. Click it to do so. If you don’t have 365, you can resize the picture using its corner size handles.

Duplicate the picture by right-clicking the thumbnail in the panel to the left and choosing Duplicate Slide. At this point, you have two slides with the same picture. The second side needs a bit of cropping to build the highlighting shape.

Crop to highlight

At this point, you won’t do anything else to the first slide. That’s our morph anchor. Select the second slide so you can begin cropping. Now, this seems a little odd, but bear with me. You want to crop the original picture to the area you want to highlight, using a shape—something to morph into. In this first morph, let’s highlight the little owl sitting at the top of the structure, as follows:

  1. With the picture selected, click the contextual Picture Format tab.
  2. In the Size group, click Crop.
  3. In the dropdown, choose Crop to Shape, and then choose one of the fat starbursts (Figure C). PowerPoint displays what it can of the original shape (Figure D).

Figure C

Choose a shape.
Choose a shape.

Figure D

Crop the picture to an oval shape.
Crop the picture to an oval shape.
  1. Click Crop again to add the cropping handles.
  2. This is where I have to rely on you a bit: Using the cropping handles, reduce the shape to only the small owl on the top of the structure and include the 1 (Figure E). There’s no step-by-step way to get you there—just keep moving those handles until you see only the owl and the number 1. Do not move the picture; move only the cropping handles. If you accidentally move the picture, press Ctrl + Z to undo it. Here’s what I did: I pushed the bottom-left handle up and then I pushed the bottom-right handle up. I also pulled the top of the shape up and off of the slide a bit. That’s fine. You don’t need the entire shape to show.

Figure E

Continue cropping until the shape shows only the area you want to highlight.
Continue cropping until the shape shows only the area you want to highlight.
  1. When you’re done cropping, click anywhere outside the cropped area.

The cropping is the hardest part of this technique. It might take a few times to get it just right, but remember, you can press Ctrl + Z to undo a crop. Now let’s combine the two slides using a morph transition.

How to add the morph transition in PowerPoint

This last part, adding the morph transition, is simple. Select both thumbnail slides. Then, click the Transitions tab and choose Morph in the quick gallery. If it isn’t available, click the More button; it’s in the Subtle section, although, there’s nothing subtle about this highlighting technique!

That’s it! To see how this works, press F5 to launch the show and then click the slide to start the morph. The picture in the first slide seems to morph into the starburst with the owl.

If you like, you can add more morphs. For instance, to move the first cropped area into another, such as the owl on the ground, next to the number 5, use the same process: duplicate the first slide and crop the small owl on the ground (Figure F). Then, connect the first cropped picture (that’s the second slide) and the second cropped picture (that’s the third side) by adding the morph transition.

Figure F

Combine the first cropped slide to a second cropped slide to create a second morph.
Combine the first cropped slide to a second cropped slide to create a second morph.

Figures just don’t do this technique justice. If you haven’t yet, download the demonstration .pptx file so you can see the full effect. The second morph changes to a cropped heart. However, you could select another cropped shape.