How to Add a Drop Shadow to Any Graphic in PowerPoint

Drop shadows in the right place can enhance your presentations. Here’s how to add drop shadows in PowerPoint.

This article will show you how to add a drop shadow to any graphic in PowerPoint. A drop shadow is a subtle way to enhance a graphic or text. While you can format text and shapes with a drop shadow effect in a slide, customizing it to suit the shape or text is a bigger challenge.

We will cover the methods of adding drop shadows with the default Shape Effects and Text Effects. Also, we will show you how to add custom drop shadows with the help of oval shapes.

Add a Drop Shadow With Shape Effects

Microsoft Office provides a dedicated feature to add drop shadows quickly. Follow these steps in PowerPoint to add a drop shadow to any shape.

  1. Select the shape on the slide. For selecting multiple shapes, press and hold Ctrl as you click on the other shapes.
  2. Go to the Shape Format Format tab > Shape Effects > Shadow.
  3. Choose the preset shadow options from the menu.
  4. To customize the shadow, go to Shadow Options at foot of the menu to open a side panel that allows you to set up the precise look of the drop shadow. For instance, to avoid a harsh and unrealistic shadow, drag the Blur slider to the right.

PowerPoint Shape Effects

Add a Drop Shadow With Text Effects

In PowerPoint, you can apply a drop shadow to WordArt or any other text and emphasize the word on the slide. There are a few different methods on the Ribbon to apply the effect.

Method 1:

  1. To add a drop shadow to a word or a sentence, select the text or WordArt.
  2. Go to the Home tab > Font Group > Text Shadow.
  3. This is a straightforward text enhancement and doesn’t offer a way to customize the drop shadow.

PowerPoint Text Shadow

Method 2:

  1. Select the text or WordArt.
  2. Go to Shape Format > Text Effects > Shadow.
  3. Select Shadow Options at foot of the menu to open a side panel and tweak the precise look of the drop shadow.

PowerPoint Text Effects

Method 3:

  1. Select the text or WordArt.
  2. Go to Shape Styles > Shape Effects > Shadow.
  3. Select Shadow Options at foot of the menu to open a side panel and tweak the precise look of the drop shadow.

PowerPoint Shape Effects for drop shadows

Add a Drop Shadow With Picture Effects

The same methods apply to drop shadow when you insert any image like a photo or a cutout into a PowerPoint slide.

  1. Select the picture.
  2. Go to the Picture Format toolbar enabled for any selected photo or illustration.
  3. Select Picture Effects > Shadow and choose from the presets available. You will use the Graphics Effects menu instead of Picture Effects if it’s an illustration or a graphic.
  4. Imagine the direction of the light source and pick a drop shadow that complements the image. For instance, Perspective: Upper Right simulates the light on the top-right of the figure in the screenshot.
  5. Customize the drop shadow from Picture Effects > Shadow > Shadow Options. Alternatively, right-click on the image and choose Format Picture > Shadow to open the sidebar.

PowerPoint Picture Effects

Remove a Shadow Effect

You can turn off the drop shadow effect just as easily because each effect on PowerPoint has the option to remove the effect. Select the shape or text and choose either of the two methods below:

  • Go to Picture Format > Picture Effects > No Shadow.
  • Right-click on the shape or text and choose Format Text Effects or Format Shape depending on the text or shape on the slide. Choose Text Options or Shape Options > Shadow > Presets > No Shadow.

PowerPoint No Effects
Screenshot by Saikat Basu — No attribution required

Add Custom Drop Shadows With Shapes

You can also add your own drop shadows with the help of shapes, shape formatting options, and some imagination. Custom drop shadows allow flexibility when the default options look plain on the slide. In the example below, we will apply a custom shadow effect to the stock cutout figure which isn’t available in the shadow presets on PowerPoint.

Tip: You can insert a cutout from Insert > Pictures > Stock Images > Cutout People.

  1. Go to Insert > Shapes > Oval. You can choose any other shape that looks natural for the cutout or the graphic in the slide.
  2. Right-click on the shape and select Format Shape from the context menu to open the Format Shape sidebar on the right.

Using a shape to make a custom drop shadow in PowerPoint

Now, let’s format the shape to resemble a shadow. We will use the Gradient sliders to tweak the look for the drop shadow.

Formatting the Drop Shadow

  1. Select Line > No Line to remove the border around the edge of the shape.
  2. Select Gradient Fill.
  3. Set Type > Path. There are different gradient types according to the positioning of the gradient within the shape. The default is Linear, so you can try the other types for a natural fit for your graphic.
  4. Keep only two Gradient stops by selecting the extra stops on the slider and clicking the Remove gradient stop icon (or merely dragging the stop downwards away from the slider).
    Creating a custom drop shadow with a shape in PowerPoint

  5. Select the color (usually, black is best) for the two gradient stops with the color picker by clicking on the stops one at a time.
  6. Select the second gradient stop and drag the Transparency slider to 0% (because the drop shadow fades outwards).
  7. Adjust the transparency for the first slider if necessary.
  8. Right-click on the drop shadow shape and select Send to Back > Send to Back. This places the shape (drop shadow) in a natural position behind the figure or graphic.

Send the drop shadow behind the main graphic on the slide

Combining shapes with gradient fills and transparency can help you come up with interesting drop shadows.

Tips to Add Drop Shadows

Keep these creative PowerPoint tips in mind when adding drop shadows to a slide.

  • Drop shadows should be soft as the imaginary source of light is diffused.
  • Use an imaginary direction of light to keep your drop shadows consistent across all slides.
  • Create drop shadows on selected elements only to distinguish them from other parts of a slide.
  • Play around by making the shadow color the same as the main shape or text, but adjust the opacity.
  • With drop shadows, less is always more, so not everything will need a drop shadow effect.

Use Shadows to Create Depth on Slides

PowerPoint presentations are two-dimensional. Adding slivers of drop shadows in the right places adds the illusion of depth and can enhance a graphic. But it’s important not to go overboard because drop shadows can also add to visual clutter. So, the rules of professional presentations still apply — be subtle but be consistent.

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