PowerPoint Secrets: Editing Clip Art Inside PowerPoint

Someone recently asked me to share some of my dirty little PowerPoint secrets so I’m obliging.  This is one my favorites.  I wonder how well-known it is?  I discovered it by accident.

Did you know you can edit and modify some clip art pictures inside Power Point?  That’s right!  No need to export it to another program.  No need to beg a graphic designer to help you.  You can do it!

Let’s start with the caveat.  Some, not all, clip art can be edited.  How can you tell at a glance?

My rule of thumb is:  If it looks pretty and/or modern, you probably can’t edit it.  😦

For example, photographs are pretty.  You can’t edit those. 😦

Newer clip art that looks “modern,” “glossy,” or has “snazzy shadows”.  You can’t edit that either. 😦

But old school clip art that borders on cheesy?  You can edit that!  And that means you can modernize it or remove the cheesy bits as you see fit.

Screen shot of the clip art navigator

And since “cheesy” versus “glossy” and “old school” versus “modern” are in the eye of the beholder, the official way to determine whether you can modify the clip art is to:

  1. Insert the clip art into your presentation.
  2. With the clip art selected, right-click and look for the Edit Picture option in the menu.  If you do not see the option, you cannot modify the clip.

Look for the Edit Picture option

Today’s Mission:  Find an image that communicates “approval” and fix it.

I envisioned a stamp of approval.  Specifically how the word “Approved” looks after it’s been stamped on a document.  This is what I found:

Original clip art

It’s close to what I want, but it is old school cheesy.  I hate that color blue.  It’s all wrong for what I’m working on.  And I don’t like that stamp.  I want to get rid of it.

Step 1:  Edit the picture.  Convert it to a Microsoft Office drawing object.

After right-clicking on the image, select Edit Picture.  Power Point will now throw out a scary, somewhat confusing warning.

Power Point error message asking if you want to convert to an object.  Yes, you do.

Don’t fret.  This is just a classic case of bad design.  If you followed the steps I gave you, you wouldn’t be doing anything related to “grouping”.  So just ignore the first sentence.  In fact, ignore the whole message.  The answer is yes, you do want to convert it to a Microsoft Office drawing object.

Step 2:  Nothing happened!?!  Ungroup it.

After you covert the clip art to a drawing object there is no feedback to tell you if you were successful.  Again, don’t fret, it’s more bad design.  I promise you were successful.

You need to select and ungroup the shapes.  There are a number of ways to ungroup shapes.   I use the keyboard shortcut, Control + Shift + G.  This is what it looks like after you ungroup the shapes:

Ungroup the converted clip art

Step 3:  Channel your inner artist.  Edit the clip art.

Now that I’ve ungrouped the shapes that make up the clip art, I can get rid of that ugly stamp.  In this case it’s easier to surround the area I want to keep by clicking and dragging.

Click and drag to group what you want to keep

From here I can experiment until I get what I need…

I can apply quick styles…

Approved with a Quick Style Applied

I can remove the quick style from the text and apply it to just the surrounding rectangle…

Remove Quick Style from Words

Or I can forget the whole thing and go with easy-to-read black and white.

Approved in Black and White

That’s the beauty of knowing this dirty little secret about editing clip art inside PowerPoint.  You can do whatever you want!

Did my article influence you? You should tell Fast Company here. You’ll even see what I look like…

Or better yet, share this article.

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