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Using Patterns in PowerPoint 2007

It was disappointing for many of us when we learned that patterns were no longer available in PowerPoint 2007. Patterns can extend a color palette and provide a powerful tool for showing merged objects. There are a few workarounds available if you browse the internet. But we came up with a way that we like better.


Let's take a look at desirable pattern attributes.

  1. It's important that all presentation content consistently reflect template colors and preferred styles. Therefore, it's important that patterns appear in template colors. This means that patterns need to be available at a formatting level: line and fill colors, line thicknesses, transparencies, etc., need to be formattable. Also, only a small number pattern types are needed so consistency is served.
  2. The patterns also need to align. If patterns do not align perfectly, you're better off using semitransparent fields.
  3. Patterns need to be usable in data-driven charts as well as shapes. A versatile single technique for applying patterns makes it easier for presentation developers to learn and become comfortable with the process of creating and applying patterns.
  4. Ideally, patterns should have some transparency, which allows two overlaid pattern to create a third pattern, which is perfect for illustrating merged or partially merged objects. The patterns available in PowerPoint 2003 do not allow for partial transparency, which restricts their usefulness.

There is a simple way to accomplish all of these goals. It's basically only a three-step process from creating to applying patterns.

Step 1: Create the pattern in PowerPoint 2007. For example, if you want to use two patterns: one with vertical lines and the other with horizontal lines, which can be overlaid to create a cross-hatch, simply create a full slide of horizontal lines and a full slide of vertical lines. Color the lines, apply the desired line thickness, and distribute the lines so that they are evenly spaced. Alternative: download PowerFrameworks series DE032.

It's important to understand why you need a full slide of the pattern. Each shape to which you apply the pattern will be a different size: some are large and some are small. A very large block of the pattern will ensure that you can crop the pattern to the correct size of a shape, regardless of its size. You won't need to size the pattern block to match the size of a shape and, therefore, you'll always have a consistent looking pattern from shape to shape, slide to slide, and document to document.

Step 2: Save the contents of the slide (make sure that there are no other fields on the slide – no text or other fields) as a PNG picture. To do this:

  1. Select all of the lines
  2. Right-click and select Save as Picture…
  3. Route the picture to a folder that will be easy to find
  4. Name the new picture something other than Picture1
  5. Choose PNG in "Save as Type:"
  6. Click "Save"

The good news is that once you create the PNG picture of the pattern, you won't have to do it again. Just save the formatted PNG and import it the next time you want to apply a pattern that reflects your company's color scheme.

Step 3: Apply the "picture" pattern to an object:

  1. Draw, copy, or import a shape that you wish to fill with the pattern you just created (make sure it is the size you want)
  2. Drag the PNG pattern that you just created onto your slide
  3. Crop (not size) the PNG pattern so that it is the same size as your shape (click on the Format tab on the ribbon to find the crop tool)
  4. Cut (Ctrl x) the newly cropped PNG pattern so that it goes into your Clipboard

If you have more than one object on the slide to receive this pattern, then copy (Ctrl c) the newly cropped PNG pattern instead of cutting it (Ctrl x). That way it will still be on the slide so you can apply it to the next shape. To apply it to the next shape: crop the PNG pattern so that it fits the next shape – do not move it to the new shape and resize. If you crop it to the next shape, the alignments will be perfect – this is important

  1. Right click on the shape to receive the pattern. If it is a data-driven chart, right click on the segment of the chart to receive the pattern
  2. Select "Format Shape…"
  3. Click on Fill in the left-hand list on the Format Shape menu
  4. Click on Picture or texture fill
  5. Click on "Clipboard" in the Insert from: section of the menu.

This is the same procedure you've probably already used to import photographs or pieces of photographs into shapes. So this really isn't a new process, just a new application!


It would be nice if this technique could be used in PowerPoint 2003 to gain transparency in the patterns, but the PNGs come into shapes as nontransparent fills. There is no gain by using this technique in PowerPoint 2003.

* * *

Adding pattern fills may not be a click away like it was in PowerPoint 2003, but that doesn't mean you have to live without being able to use patterns as a presentation tool. Even though it is not a push-button operation, there are slight advantages over the pattern fills in PowerPoint 2003. It really is worth the effort to learn this technique and apply it when the situation warrants.

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