How to Create a Placeholder for a Custom Picture in Microsoft PowerPoint

If you don’t want the same rectangular images for your Microsoft PowerPoint slideshow, create a custom-shaped image placeholder and make it available for presentation via a layout slide.

Image: Postmodern Studio/Adobe Stock

Microsoft PowerPoint is all about consistency – from slide to slide, you want things to look like they belong together. This is where the slide master feature comes in. You can format layout slides so that the formatting is the same for each slide. You can also create a layout slide with image placeholders. By default, image placeholders are rectangular, but you can use most any shape you like.

In this article, I’ll show you how to create a placeholder for a custom image and add it to a layout slide so you can use it again and again in your presentation.

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I’m using Microsoft 365 desktop on a 64-bit Windows 10 system, but you can use older versions. You can download .pptx and .ppt demo files. PowerPoint for the web doesn’t let you create a layout slide, but it does support an existing slide.

How to Add a Layout Slide in PowerPoint

When you open a new PowerPoint presentation file, you start with a set of default layout slides. You can modify this set by choosing an integrated design or by designing your own. This is how you’ll add a custom image placeholder: add a new layout slide in the Slide Master section. This way, the layout slide with the custom image placeholder will be available at all times.

You can work with a new PowerPoint presentation or modify an existing one, but I will work with a new, blank presentation.

The first step is to open the Slide Master section of PowerPoint by clicking the View tab and then clicking Slide Master in the Main Views group. The default presentation layout slides are in the left pane. The selected slide is in the middle of the screen – this should already be familiar to you as the normal view uses the same setup.

Click Insert Layout in the Edit Mask group. PowerPoint inserts a layout slide at the bottom of the list.

Delete the title text box. You will also see footer elements at the bottom that are predefined for the default layout. Don’t bother with them yet, but you might want to do so when you apply this technique to your own work.

At this point, you have a blank layout slide, as shown in Figure A. Now it’s time to add the image placeholder.

Figure A

Image: Susan Harkins/TechRepublic. Add a layout slide to the main PowerPoint slides section.

How to Add an Image Placeholder in PowerPoint

PowerPoint offers several placeholders, but we’ll work with the image placeholder.

With the new blank layout slide selected, click Insert Placeholder in the Main Layout group. Choose Image from the drop-down list displayed in Figure B.

Figure B

Image: Susan Harkins/TechRepublic. Add image placeholder to new layout slide in PowerPoint

Then drag to size. As you can see in Figure Cthe default image placeholder is a rectangular shape.

Figure C

Image: Susan Harkins/TechRepublic. The default picture placeholder is a rectangle in PowerPoint.

You can make the Microsoft placeholder large or small, and you can add multiple ones to the same layout slide – it’s all up to you. We’ll keep things simple by working with a single placeholder for a large image.

Now it’s time to customize the image placeholder.

How to Change Placeholder Shape in PowerPoint

PowerPoint’s default image placeholder is a rectangle, but you’re not stuck with that. You can change the shape of most of the ones you like, but you’ll want to be reasonable. After selecting the image placeholder, follow these steps to change its shape:

  1. Click Edit in the Insert Shapes group.
  2. From the drop-down list, choose Edit Shape.
  3. From the shape gallery, choose a shape, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Image: Susan Harkins/TechRepublic. Choose a shape.

If the PowerPoint placeholder does not change shape, hover over one of the yellow dots (edit dots) to see the new shape, as shown in Figure E. With the custom image placeholder in a layout slide, you’re ready to go. Click Close Slide Master to return to normal view or click Normal on the View menu.

Figure E

Image: Susan Harkins/TechRepublic. Hover over an edit point to see the placeholder’s new shape.

How to Use Custom Picture Placeholder in PowerPoint

Once you’ve added a layout slide for the custom image placeholder, you can use it in the current PowerPoint presentation. In Normal view, click New Slide in the Slides group. Thumbs down until you find the new image placeholder shown in Figure Fthen click on it to insert the new layout slide shown in G-figure.

Figure F

Image: Susan Harkins/TechRepublic. Find the new layout slide in PowerPoint.


Image: Susan Harkins/TechRepublic. The inserted slide shows the custom picture placeholder in PowerPoint.

You’ll insert an image as you normally would:

  1. Select the placeholder for the custom image.
  2. Click on the Insert tab.
  3. In the Images group, click Image, then choose Stock Images from the drop-down list.
  4. Click on an image and click Insert.

Back in the slide, run the PowerPoint presentation to see the custom image placeholder, shown in H-figure. It’s not the normal rectangle, but the difference is subtle. When choosing a shape, don’t choose something strange unless you have a reason to. You can have a single image with something unique, but it’s unlikely that you’ll need to create a layout slide for one-time use.


Image: Susan Harkins/TechRepublic. This PowerPoint placeholder is not the normal rectangle.

By using a custom PowerPoint image layout slide, your images will all have a uniform shape and position on every slide.

Perhaps reduce the size of your placeholder and position it to the side. You might add two or three to the slide. It’s up to you, and you can create more than one layout slide, so don’t be stingy with your imagination. But work more efficiently by creating the layout slides first.