Let There Be Light (in PowerPoint)


Flashlights, searchlights and lamps can suggest searching, discovery, revelation and even celebration in presentations. This post is about creating these dramatic effects in PowerPoint.

Creating light beams and lighted areas involves gradient fills and transparency. The PowerPoint gradient fill tools are clumsy but I can get acceptable results with very simple gradients, using Soft Edges as a shortcut.

I don’t have a lot of experience with graphics software, but I have seen tools for creating gradients that are a lot more intuitive than PowerPoint’s. I usually struggle with how the sliders relate to the actual object and what the options (Type and Direction) are actually going to do. It doesn’t help that the Pre-sets are pretty complicated and difficult to use as starting points. Ah, well.

Look at photos of flashlights, searchlights, etc., in action to get an idea of what beams and other light effects look like. As a matter of style and practicality, you will probably want to simplify these in your presentation.

The most dramatic effects are with very light (!) colored shapes against a fairly dark background. Here’s an example “beam:”


This Trapezoid has a gradient fill with white ranging from 0 (at the small end) to 55% transparency. Soft Edge is also applied. Here are the Fill settings for the Trapezoid:


I’ve used only two transition points for this effect;sometimes I use three. Any more than that is confusing. And, make sure that Rotate with Shape is checked.

This shape is used in my first project:

Here are some details:

  • The flashlight is a circle with some 3d effects applied: a top and bottom Bevel, Depth and Rotation. Here’s an overview showing the effect of the Bevels:


  • Here are a couple of rotations of the flashlight:


This is an example of the kind of object that can be created with “3d bevels.” Other kinds of objects can be created with additional techniques; see this post on toy blocks. However, PowerPoint 3d is limited; some of your ideas for 3d objects may be impossible.

  • The lit area is simply a gray oval (no transparency) with soft edges.
  • The oval, beam and text are grouped so that a single animation works.
  • A semi-transparent rectangle is placed over the flashlight; it disappears in the animation. Here’s the slide:


  • Here’s the animation pane. A fast (0.1 sec) Fade (exit) is used for the masking rectangle and a 0.1 sec Wipe for the beam group. The wipe is not strictly accurate (light is much faster that this) but it has a nice effect.


Here’s the next project:

Here are some details:

  • The lamp is made from standard shapes; the shade is a Chord and the wire is a Curve:


  • The bills in the pile of cash are Block Arcs with a green fill and border, flattened:


  • The coins are a couple of Rounded Rectangles with a shadow Line:


  • The beam is the Trapezoid used in the last example but it has been converted to a picture (Copy/Paste Special) and Cropped to give it a sharp lower edge.
  • The “glow” is a circle with a gradient fill, converted to a picture and cropped. This represents reflected/scattered light from the lamp and adds to the overall effect.
  • The animation for the light effect is a quick (0.1 sec) Wipe for the beam with a simultaneous entrance Fade for the cash and the ambient glow.

Here’s another project – a flashy (!) introduction:

Here are the details:

  • The slide has 5 “layers:”
    • The slide background is formatted with one of the presets. I used blue rather than dark gray for this slide.
    • Two searchlight beams are in front of the background.
    • The skyline is next – a series of black rectangles.  (You might want to add lighted windows to the buildings.)
    • The marquee is in front of the skyline.
    • Two searchlights are in front of the marquee.
  • The searchlight beams are gradient-filled Rectangles with Soft Edges like the flashlight beam in the first project. (Search lights are more tightly focused than the typical flashlight so I used a rectangle rather than the trapezoid.) I added a Rectangle to the beams in front to represent the searchlight.
  • I often group an invisible circle with objects so that the center of rotation is where I want it to be. I added a circle to the beams so that they “sweep” properly:


  • The beam animation for the searchlights is a Spin of around 60 degrees with Auto-reverse and Repeat/Until end of slide selected. The duration is around 6 seconds. The timing and Spin amount vary slightly.
  • The marquee is composed of a couple of Rectangles and some stars and circles:


  • A blinking light on the marquee involves two circles, one white-filled in front of one blue-filled. The white circle appears and disappears over the blue one to give the effect of blinking. Here are two sets of three circles:


  • The animation for the white circles is a quick (0.5 sec) entrance Fade. The timing parameters are set to “rewind” the fade and repeat. The start time for each circle is offset by 0.2 sec. Here’re the animation setup and the fade parameters:


  • I copied the 2 sets of three circles and placed them around the edge of the marquee to finish the effect.

If turning on a light means something, maybe turning one off means something, too. Here’s the last project:

I used the same techniques for this effect, observing that a shaded lamp casts light upwards and downwards along with creating an ambient glow.

If you want to try some of these effects, use the form below to request a free copy of a PowerPoint file containing these slides. Please double-check your email address.

0 Responses to “Let There Be Light (in PowerPoint)”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow powerpointy on WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: