7 PowerPoint text effects that add sizzle to slides

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Credit: Image: Rob Schultz

Here's one more secret to help your PowerPoint slides sell. You always need good, well-written content, engaging graphics, and chic animations. Now, add some flashy text to that mix—judiciously—to give your ideas more sizzle. 

Special effects in PowerPoint are minimal, but you can combine effects to create some interesting visuals. Although not really classified as effects, the Text and Outline Fill provide several options such as Solid colors, Gradients, Pictures or Textures, and Patterns to get you started.

Open a template or a blank presentation. If blank, choose a background color, gradient, texture, or image. (Note: The fonts have been sized at 200 points for these exercises, so the effects can be easily viewed on smaller screens.)

1. Text Fill and Outline (from the Context menu)

On the first slide, type a word (HUES, in my example) as H, U, E, S in four separate text boxes (in a large, thick font). Highlight, then right-click the H and select Format Text Effects from the Context menu. In the Format Shape submenu, click Text Options, then click the first "A" (it looks underlined) for Text Fill & Outline. Note: If the text is not highlighted, the effects you choose are not applied.

Select a solid fill with a gradient line on the H, and a gradient fill with a solid line on the U. Preset (sample) gradients are available or you can create your own using the options in the gradient task pane. You can adjust the type, direction, angle, stops (number of gradient levels), colors, position, transparency, and brightness on both the fill and outline. You can also choose a number of style options to customize outlines.

slide1 h u text fx JD Sartain

Fill and Outline effects.

Highlight the E and choose a Picture or Texture fill. This element can come from a file on your hard drive, the Internet, or an image copied and pasted onto your clipboard. Next, choose a line color that works well with the image. Highlight the S and choose a pattern from the Pattern library, then select the foreground and background colors and a matching outline.

slide2 e s text fx JD Sartain

Fill and Outline effects.

2. Special effects (from the Ribbon menu)

Special effects include Shadow, Reflection, Glow (+ Soft Glow), Bevel (a.k.a., 3D Format), Transform, and 3D Rotation.

The text must be selected to access the text effects menu. To select text, click anywhere on the target text box. Notice a new tab appears called Drawing Tools/Format.

Note: Monitors using low- to mid-resolution settings may truncate the word "Tools," so the tab shows Drawing...Format). Click Format to view the Format groups.

On Slide 2, type four characters (or my example, TRAP) in four separate text boxes. Highlight the first character in your string (or choose T from my example). In the WordArt Styles group, notice the three, small, uppercase A's on the right. Roll your cursor over these characters to view the associated submenus: Text Fill, Text Outline, and Text Effects, or click the tiny arrow in the bottom right corner to display the full effects menu.

A. Shadow

Choose a fill and outline color from the color palette for each of the four characters. Highlight the first letter T, and click the bottom "A" (Text Effects) in the WordArt Styles group. Roll your cursor over the first effect: Shadow, then choose a shadow preset from the list. With this letter still highlighted, click the small arrow in the bottom right corner of the WordArt Styles group. In the Format Shape submenu, click Text Options, and the center "A" (Text Effects). In the Shadow task pane, review the options: Color, Transparency, Size, Blur, Angle, and Distance, then customize your shadow. Repeat this process to add three more, different shadows to the remaining text.

slide3 shadow text fx JD Sartain

Shadow text effects.

Note: You cannot use two of the same type of effects on one character—each letter is limited to one Shadow, Reflection, et cetera—but you can use multiple different effects on a single character—each letter can have one Shadow, one Reflection, and one Glow effect. Also, you can use more than one of the same effects on the same text block, as long as each character, word, or sentence is highlighted individually.

If you want to use more than one of the same effect (such as shadows) on the same character, here's the workaround: Stack the characters (either aligned, offset a bit, or in different sizes) and apply one different shadow effect to each. In the example above, the R, A, and P all have stacked, double letters. The "R" has an Inner Shadow on the top letter and a Perspective Shadow on the bottom letter. The others are similar—two letters stacked, slightly offset, with a different shadow effect on each.

B. Reflection and Glow

Type a word (HEARTS in my example) in Slide 4, then add a Reflection and a Glow effect. Choose a fill and outline color, highlight the word, click the Text Effects "A" in the WordArt Styles group, and then choose a Reflection preset from the list. Repeat process and choose a Glow preset from the list.

You can change the Glow color, size, and transparency, and the Reflection transparency, size, blur, and distance in the Format Shape > Text Options > Text Effects submenu. To access, right-click the highlighted word and choose Format Text Effects from the Context menu, or click the small arrow in the bottom right corner of the WordArt Styles group.

slide4 reflectionglow text fx JD Sartain

Reflection and Glow text effects.

C. Bevel - 3D Format

Type four characters (BLUE in my example) in Slide 5. Highlight the first letter, click the Text Effects "A" in the WordArt Styles group, select Bevel from the list. With this letter still highlighted, click the small arrow in the bottom right corner of the WordArt Styles group. 

slide5 bevel 3d format fx JD Sartain

Bevel/3D Format text effects.

In the Format Shape submenu, click Text Options>Text Effects. In the 3D task pane, choose a Bevel, then customize the Depth, Contour, Material, and Lighting. Repeat this process to add three more, different Bevel effects to the remaining text. Note: Adjust the Width and Height of each Bevel to see some interesting effects. Then add some shadows, reflections, and other effects and see what happens. Have fun!

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