How to get the most from your images in PowerPoint

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If you want your PowerPoint presentation design to grab the audience’s attention and deliver your messaging in an impactful way, you’ve probably spent a good deal of time researching and sourcing quality images that match your content and tone.

Presentation Design Experts on Inserting Images in PowerPoint

But what about when it comes to actually placing these images into your slide layouts? You’ll want them to work well within your overall design, and inserting images into PowerPoint is a subtle art in itself. Our presentation design expert Jasmin is on hand to share some of her top tips on how to get the most from your visuals.

Let’s Talk PowerPoint Placeholders

In PowerPoint, the type of placeholder that you insert an image into will significantly affect how it appears on your slide.

Placeholders are those boxes with dotted borders that appear on your slide layouts. They exist so that you can keep the positioning of the layout consistent when adding elements. There are two types that images can be inserted into: ‘content placeholders’ and ‘image placeholders’.

As their six prompt icons suggest, content placeholders can contain body text, tables, charts, SmartArt, pictures, or media clips. Image placeholders, on the other hand, will only accept images.

If you simply insert an image into a content placeholder in PowerPoint, it will keep its original proportions. This is simplest way of getting your image into your layout. It ensures that the whole image appears without any cropping taking place.

presentation design content placeholder

Things work a bit differently with dedicated image placeholders. When you insert an image into one, the original visual will be automatically cropped to fit the shape of the placeholder.

Essentially, you can change the imagery contained within this placeholder, but not the shape of the placeholder itself.

images in powerpoint placeholder

This is useful for instances where you need to insert images of different shapes and sizes. By inserting them into image placeholders of equal size, you can make them displayed consistently on the slide. If you have a landscape image that needs to be presented as a square on the slide, the image placeholder can make this happen for you.

You might have a PowerPoint template or design that’s going to be used and adapted by someone else – in situations like this, image placeholders are incredibly useful because they allow imagery to be switched out while preserving the integrity of the overall design.

If the image isn’t sitting within the placeholder how you’d like it to, this can be easily fixed. Just select it and navigate to the Crop tool under the Shape Format tab in the main ribbon. You’ll then be able to move the original image around underneath the placeholder area so that the desired parts of it are emphasised.

Just be sure to use high-resolution images so that you have the flexibility to move them around and scale them within the placeholder without any loss of quality.

Transparent Images in PowerPoint

A common gripe is that you can’t make an image transparent once you insert it into PowerPoint. However, there’s a workaround you can use to accomplish this result.

First, insert a shape onto your slide by selecting Shapes from the Insert tab on the main ribbon (this should correspond to the shape and size you want your transparent image to take on).

With the shape selected, open the Format Pane and choose Picture or texture fill. Choose your desired image using the Insert picture from File… button and it will fill the shape. Then simply adjust the Transparency level in the pane to the desired level and you’re all set.

transparent images in powerpoint

Inserting Images Within Text

Another little-known PowerPoint trick is that you can actually place images within your type. This is a unique way of delivering key messages, and works best when the text is minimal and displayed at a large font size.

Using images within text can actually enhance how you convey your messaging. For example, if you were talking about sustainability or organic growth, something like the following could work well:

powerpoint presentation design images within text

You can achieve this effect by selecting the appropriate text, opening the Format Pane and selecting Text Options. Navigate to Picture or texture fill and specify the desired image from file using the same Insert picture from File… option outlined in the last point.


On the topic of inserting images into PowerPoint, our designer Jasmin commented, “Users are typically concerned with finding the best images for their PowerPoint presentations, but less thought is given to the best way of implementing these visuals.

“The way you use your images within slide layouts can dramatically affect how effective your visuals are. Pay particular attention to the focal point of the image and which features you wish to emphasise.”

Looking for more presentation tips and best practices? Check out our New Rules of PowerPoint Design.

Ask for help designing your presentation.

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