UPDATE: The highlight picture effect explained in this article was created in PowerPoint 2013. Users of PowerPoint 2010 have to customize their PowerPoint Ribbon to use this hack. Please see the steps given at the end of this article to create this effect in PowerPoint 2010. 


There are many times when you need to highlight a particular area of the slide and fade out everything else in the background. It improves the aesthetics of the slide, definitely, but more importantly, you need this effect for one major reason:


To remove the background noise and focus on the portion that is the crux of the slide.


You don't need to learn Photoshop or CorelDraw to achieve this cool 'Highlight Picture Effect'. It can be easily done using the good old PowerPoint! This article will walk you through 6 steps to create such a slide wherein the actor or the most significant object in a slide stands out and grabs the immediate attention of the audience.


Let's get started. Say you have a slide about the qualities of a team leader. You have 6 or 10 qualities that can be listed out on a slide in the old fashioned way like the one below:


Transform boring slides full of text


Now, how about presenting the same using a visual of a team with spotlight on the leader! Here’s what the transformation would look like:


Impressive PowerPoint Slide Design for Business Deck


The after slide not only looks better but is also easier to read and comprehend. The visual and the words complement each other to create the right impression.


This design is just 6 steps away. Open your PowerPoint presentation, move to the slide where you want to give such an effect, and work with us step by step to pull it off. Here we go:



Steps To Create Highlight Picture Effect 


Step 1- Add an Image

There should be no trouble in finding a good, high-resolution business team stock photo from the internet. Just cover the entire slide canvas with that visual.


Step 1- Add an image


Step 2- Insert a Circle and Merge the two Shapes

Draw a circle around the area you wish to highlight, the team leader in this case. Here are the steps to insert and draw a circle:


  • Click the Insert tab
  • From the Shapes menu, select the Oval shape
  • Press Shift and drag to draw a perfectly proportionate circle.


As you drag to draw the circle, you are able to clearly see if the area you require has been properly covered or not.


Step 2- Insert a circle


Fragment the Image and the Shape- We will now merge the image and the circle to cut the portion that we want to highlight. Here’s how you do it in PowerPoint:


  • First, select the image showing on your slide
  • Press Ctrl and select the circle too
  • Go to the Format tab under Drawing Tools
  • Under the Merge Shapes menu, click Fragment


Step 2.1- Merge Shapes using Format tab in PowerPoint


You might assume nothing happened at all. But the leader’s face has now been fragmented as you can see in the selected portion below:

Fragmented shape


Step 3- Blur the Image

We will now blur the rest of the team members so that only the leader stands out bright and clear. Follow these steps:


  • Select the full size image, not the fragmented one
  • Go to the Artistic Effects menu under the Format tab and select the Blur option


Step 3- Blur the Full Image using Artistic Effects in PowerPoint


Now, only the fragmented image remains highlighted. Since the difference isn’t that stark to create an awesome effect, we’ll need to apply the fourth step too.

Step 4- Add a Transparent Shape

Adding a transparent shape serves a twofold purpose: it will make the fragmented circular image of the team leader stand out. Second, it will allow us to display our content that can be read with ease. To add such a shape, follow these steps:


  • From the Shapes menu under the Insert tab, choose the Rectangle option
  • Cover the complete slide with the rectangle
  • Right click on the shape and click Format Shape
  • The Format Shape box will open on the right
  • Select the No line radio button under the Line menu
  • Change the Solid fill to black and set the transparency at 25%


Step 4- Insert Rectangle


We now need to send this transparent shape backward and the fragmented image forward. To do that:


  • Select the transparent shape
  • Go to the Selection Pane under the Format tab (see screenshot below)

Step 4.1- Locate the Selection Pane in PowerPoint Ribbon


  • Locate the fragmented image from the panel on the right
  • Click the Bring Forward command (in the Format tab). Keep clicking till you see the highlighted face on the top.

Step 4.2- Click Bring Forward option

The highlighted circle will now pop out lending an awesome effect to the slide:

Highlight Effect is now visible


Step 5: Give the Highlighted Portion an Outline

This step is very simple. Insert a circle from the Shapes menu once again, this time larger than the highlighted portion. From the Format Shape menu, remove the fill color from the circle and change the outline to Gold or Yellow. You can increase the width of the line to make it more visible (for our slide we kept the width at 3 points). See the screenshot below:


Step 5- Give Circle Outline


To ensure that the gap between the outline and the image is evenly distributed, select the two objects, go to the Format tab, locate the Align menu and click Align Centre and then the Align Middle option. You’ll get a perfectly aligned outline with these steps.


Step 5.1- Use the Align command in PowerPoint


Step 6- Add Pointers to List Out Content

We come to the last step- add our content in the most effective manner. For that, we’ll create pointers that touch the circular outline and distribute them equally on both sides of the shape. This is what me mean by adding pointers to the edges of the outline:


Step 6- Add Pointers using Line shape in PowerPoint


And this is how these pretty pointers can be created in PowerPoint:


Step 6.1- How to add pointers


The tricky part is to distribute them evenly both horizontally and vertically. You can rotate them to give a slant by dragging the edges of the line. If you are facing trouble doing that, you can simply keep those pointers straight and have four on the left and four on the right side.


Last but not the least, put each bullet points next to a pointer. Make your heading bold and large, you can even give the text box a solid fill for added impact. Simply select the text box, right click on the shape, click Format Shape and give it a Solid Fill color of your choice. That’s it, your super awesome slide is ready to amaze:


Effective Qualities of Team Leader PowerPoint Design

Where Can You Use The Highlight Picture Design Layout:


You can apply this highlight picture effect on any presentation slide where you need to put spotlight on one portion of the image and dim out the rest.


  1. Introduce your team
  2. List out product features
  3. Highlight key services offered by your business
  4. Explain potential solutions/benefits of your products
  5. Flaunt business milestones
  6. Point out your corporate goals, company mission, and vision, targets for the new financial year, etc.


Taking an example, you can highlight the features of Apple iWatch using this stand-out effect:


Apple iWatch Features Slide Design


How to Create Highlight Picture Effect in PowerPoint 2010:


The 'Merge Shapes' feature in 2013 version is hidden in PowerPoint 2010 and is called 'Combine Shapes'. Please follow these steps to integrate the functionality in your Ribbon:


1. Click the File tab (extreme left corner in the PowerPoint Ribbon)
2. Click Options
3. Select the "Customize Ribbon" option
4. Under the "Choose commands from" drop-down menu, select "Commands Not in the Ribbon"
5. Now, locate the "Combine Shapes" command from the list
6. Create a New Group within an existing tab or create a New Tab using the dialog box on right.
7. Add 'Combine Shapes' to the new tab or group you have created
8. Click Ok to save the changes you have done.

Customize Ribbon in 2010


The 'Combine Shapes' feature will now be permanently integrated within your Ribbon. You'll however still face one problem- the combined shapes options will be grayed out when you select the image and the shape. PowerPoint 2010 allows you to apply this effect on shapes only. But there is a workaround. We will convert the image into shape! Here's how:


  • Insert a rectangle from the Shapes menu and cover the complete slide with it.
    Cover the complete slide with rectangle
  • Now right click, Format Shape, Click Picture Fill and fill the rectangle with your image.
    Use Picture Fill to fill the shape with your image
  • Now insert the oval shape from the Shapes menu and cover the area you wish to highlight.
    Cover the area you wish to highlight with circle
  • Select the rectangle, then the oval, and in Combine Shapes, click Shape Intersect. You'll be left with the fragmented image.
    Fragmented Shape

You'll have to insert the full visual once again in PowerPoint 2010 and send it backward. The rest of the steps will remain the same as explained in the article above.


How did you like the highlight picture PowerPoint tutorial? Please share your feedback in the comments below. 

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If you are facing trouble anywhere in your PowerPoint presentation and need a professional touch, you can get in touch with our expert PowerPoint Presentation Design Services Team. Get a single slide or the entire deck designed or redesigned for a flawless look and feel.