Free icons for PowerPoint presentations.

3 minute read

Add a dash of flair to your next PowerPoint presentation by using icons. They’ll enhance your message, bolster your branding and add loads of style points. Read on to learn how to use and where to find free icons for PowerPoint presentations.

Icons are everywhere. They cling to every website you visit and they stare back at you from every app you scroll past on your smartphone. Icons to represent that you heart something. Icons to represent that you thumbs up something. Icons to demonstrate that you’re a proud Linux user and would like the world to know about it.

There’s an icon for everything and there are seemingly few situations where icons can’t be used. But like being given the keys to a sweet shop, you’ll need to exercise self-control. Otherwise, you and your audience will rapidly get sick of them. Great looking icons are, well, iconic but you still need to be smart about when and where you use them in your presentation.


How to use icons in your PowerPoint presentation

Why the fascination with icons? Because an icon takes a concept, sometimes an extremely abstract or complex concept – planet earth; cloud computing – and distills it down to a single colour shape. That’s pretty clever. It’s easy to see how powerful icons can be and their potential for visually summarising key points in your slideshow.

Stock photos can run the risk of being seen as cheesy and inauthentic. Icons cut through the clutter, representing the same concept but without all the game show host smiles and team leaders high fiving each other around the whiteboard. Of course, icons and images aren’t mutually exclusive; by all means use them alongside one another or interchangeably if the setting calls for it.

Icons can have a multitude of uses in a PowerPoint presentation, with the very first instance where you could justifiably using one being your title slide. A super-sized icon could take the place of text or imagery, or at the very least accompany it, crystallising your topic in the minds of all present. Next up, you might have a contents page if your slideshow is extensive. Instead of filling an entire page with dense text, how about tiling it with half a dozen large and colourful icons (preferably from the same set, so that it looks cohesive)? We’ll wager that a handful of distinctive icons would be far more visual and memorable than the same number of drab bullet points.

Now we’re onto your slideshow proper and, whaddya know, there’s scope for more icons. By default, PowerPoint expects you to use bullet points, which is why it appends them to all new slides. There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t feel constrained by these default settings. Instead, why not start with a blank page and then let your creativity dictate what belongs on the page? Aside from perhaps your contents and summary slides, you should aim to have no more than one icon per slide – just as you’d have no more than one image per slide. Want some more tips? Check out our presentation design cheat sheet.

A final word of advice on using icons before we move onto the ‘where’ part: make sure you download them as PNGs. Technically you could download your icons as vectors and then adjust their size in Adobe Illustrator, but unless your presentation is being beamed onto the side of Buckingham Palace, you probably won’t need to scale icons to ridiculous sizes.


Where to find free icons for PowerPoint presentations

For most commonly used icons – handshake; camera; toolbox; trash can – you’ll find a wealth of free options on the web that will be perfect. For more esoteric icons though your only option might be to download a specialist icon set; you may decide this modest outlay is a small price to pay for attaining a kick-ass collection of presentation-ready symbols.

Remember to use icons from the same set: if you choose flat design, it needs to be flat design throughout. Whatever style you choose, be it retro, minimalist or cartoon, use it consistently. There are loads of places where you can download free icons on the web but these are some of our favourites:

In addition to running an awesome Wordpress blog, Elegant Themes periodically dispense free icons, as they’ve done here and here. There’s more to be found here too, courtesy of those generous souls.

For the small price of submitting your email address, Creative Tail will furnish you with all kinds of cool icons. We particularly like the clean lines of their sport icons.

Fusionplate has a series of free icon sets including a number of cool looking social media collections. If you’re tired of seeing squares, grab some of their hexagonal icons instead.

A few more places where you can plunder free icons before we leave you to it: check out the freebies here as well as those to be found at iconscout, CSS Author and Fribly.

We’ve hooked you up with some of the best free icon resources on the web. Now it’s up to you to grab those icons and put them to good use, turning your presentations into well branded works of art that radiate authority, style and effortless cool. No pressure then.


Work Can wait

Put off writing that email just a little longer.
Send your incoming calls to voicemail.
Put your feet up, grab a brew and explore more presentation
insight in the Buffalo 7 Library

Get Reading