Masking and animation. Name a more iconic combination… I’ll wait. Static stencils are all well and good (and they can be very good), but adding even the simplest animations will manoeuvre your presentation into top gear, which is no bad thing when you’re up in front of an audience wanting to make a great impression.

In case you didn’t know, you’re actually reading the third article in a series of three about masking in PowerPoint. Haven’t caught up yet? No worries. Click below to level up your masking abilities:

Masking effects in PowerPoint: 3 simple animation tricks

Masking effects in PowerPoint: Creating stencils

Masking effects in PowerPoint: Stencils and animation

Masking effects in PowerPoint: Stencils and animation

We like to harp on about animations and their ability to transform your presentation, but that really is the case. You may already be a stencils master having read our previous post on the topic, in which case, now it’s time to use PowerPoint animations to make your slides even more powerful.

1. Mask reveal

The best way to keep your audience engaged with your presentation is to feed them information bit-by-bit. By plonking everything on a slide, you’re effectively giving them a simplified word document, and they’re likely to tune you out while they read the slide content. Not ideal. Animation is the alternative.

This is especially helpful when you’re thinking about data visualisation. Graphs and charts are so often plonked onto the slide, but animation can be a clever way to reveal information in a way that supports the story the speaker is telling.

For example, you could have each of these bars come in one by one, like this:


Or in groups, like this:


Both of these animations use a cheeky mask, and it’s super easy to make your own. Here’s how to…

Create your graph using lines and shapes in PowerPoint. Use the alignment tools to make sure everything is nicely distributed and all lined up.

Now, draw a shape underneath your graph, and colour it the same as your slide background so that it’s invisible.

Send the shape to the front.

Your slide should look exactly the same, but now you have the mask sitting underneath your graph, like so.

Now for some animation! Open up the Animations tab, select the bars in your graph and choose “Fly in”.

Make sure that in the “Effect Options” tab, you have selected “From bottom” (this should be the default). Open up the Animation Pane.

You can control how the bars in the graph animate using the Animation Pane. Right click the shapes to choose whether they come in on a click, or automatically. I want all of my bars to come in as soon as the slide starts, and I want them to animate in one after the other, so I’ve chosen “Start After Previous” for the first shape, then “Start With Previous” for the others.

You can then change the delay settings for each bar, so that they come onto the slide in a sequence. I have a 0.2 second delay between each shape, so they fly in left to right, one after the other.

And that’s you done! A neat little way to animate your bar charts onto the slide!

2. Cutout text in motion

In our “Creating stencils” post, I showed you how to cut out text from a PowerPoint shape. Want to take things a step further? Add a motion path.

Follow the instructions from idea number 3 in the Creating stencils post, so you should have something that looks like this.

Using the crop function, enlarge your image so that excess is sitting off the side of the slide.

Then, add a motion path to the background image.

You can modify the length of the motion path by dragging the red and green dots, and you can also change the duration of the animation using the animation pane.

To set the animation so that it moves continuously until your next click, right click it in the animation tab to bring up a dialog box that looks like this:

Click “Auto-reverse”, which makes the motion path animate in backwards, then select the Timing tab and choose an option from the “Repeat” drop down menu.

Easy-peasy! Take a look below!

Perhaps you have another cool way to use a stencils and animations combo? We’d love to geek out about it with you! You can tweet us or send us an email – whatever you fancy.

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Written by

Rachael Hattam

Communication consultant

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Jun 2019

Having lots of image slides in a presentation can be great, but sometimes they don't do the heavy-lifting they ought to with your message. Using shapes as stencils to create masking effects in PowerPoint is a really easy and effective way to make your image slides stand out, and communicate something more. Here are three ideas you can try

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