How to Use the Morph Feature to Highlight Important Details in PowerPoint

When changing focus from point to point in PowerPoint, use morph to add some fun to the highlighting.

Image: monticello/Shutterstock

Focusing on one point is the foundation of every PowerPoint presentation. Fortunately, PowerPoint supports dozens of ways to do this. With the addition of the PowerPoint morph transition, you have another choice that might not be so obvious: use morph to highlight important details. It requires a little knowledge of morphing technique and how to crop images, but it’s easy. In this article, I’ll show you how to combine cropped figures and the morphing technique to highlight parts of a larger image.

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I’m using Microsoft 365 desktop on a 64-bit Windows 10 system, but you can use older versions; morph was added to PowerPoint 2016. It is also available in PowerPoint for the web, iPad, iPhone, and Android tablets and phones for PowerPoint. For your convenience, you can download the .pptx demo file.

About morphing in PowerPoint

PowerPoint’s morph transition visually connects two slides, and you can use this transition in several ways:

  • To create movement
  • To zoom in and out or highlight
  • Change one form to another

Morphing lets you combine common options, such as movement, size, rotation, and color, at the same time to change the original slide to the second. It’s easy to use, but you can’t manipulate how PowerPoint actually shapes movement from slide one to slide two. It looks funny – shapes the move – but it will make sense when you see it in action.

Morph always requires two slides: the first slide, where the morph begins, and a second, where the morph ends. So you set up the two slides, select them, and then apply the morph transition. For simple use, you can turn a square into a circle or put letters together to complete a message, as shown in How to use PowerPoint 2016’s awesome new Morph transition.

A less obvious use is to highlight specific areas of a slide. In this case, the first slide is the full image and the second slide is the cropped highlight. By combining the two with a morph transition, the full image will appear to change within the cropped area.

The two PowerPoint slides

The morph transition requires two slides. In our case, the slides will both start with the image shown in Figure A. This image is part of the 365 stock footage, so copyright is not an issue. To insert the image into a blank slide, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Insert tab.
  2. Click Images in the Images group and choose Stock Images from the drop-down list.
  3. In the resulting window, click Image and enter owl in the search control.
  4. Click on the image displayed in Figure Athen click Insert.

Figure A

We will use this image as the first slide in the morph transition.
We will use this image as the first slide in the morph transition.

Figure B

Choose an image to insert.
Choose an image to insert.

Inserting the image will open the design pane (for 365 users). The first suggestion will be to fill the entire slide with the image. Click on it to do so. If you don’t have 365, you can resize the image using its corner size handles.

Duplicate the image by right-clicking the thumbnail in the left panel and choosing Duplicate Slide. At this point, you have two slides with the same image. The second side needs a bit of cropping to create the highlight shape.

Crop to highlight

At this point, you won’t do anything else for the first slide. This is our anchor morph. Select the second slide to begin cropping. Now, that sounds a bit strange, but bear with me. You want to crop the original image to the area you want to highlight, using a shape – something to transform. In this first morph, let’s highlight the little owl sitting on top of the structure, as follows:

  1. With the image selected, click the Image Format contextual tab.
  2. In the Size group, click Crop.
  3. From the drop-down list, choose Crop to Shape, then choose one of the big stars (Figure C). PowerPoint displays what it can of the original shape (Figure D).

Figure C

Choose a shape.
Choose a shape.

Figure D

Crop the image into an oval shape.
Crop the image into an oval shape.
  1. Click Crop again to add the cropping handles.
  2. This is where I have to rely on you a bit: using the crop handles, crop the shape to the single little owl on top of the structure and include the 1 (Figure E). There’s no step-by-step method to get there – just keep moving those handles until you only see the owl and the number 1. Do not move the image; move only the cropping handles. If you accidentally move the image, press Ctrl + Z to undo it. Here’s what I did: I pushed the bottom left handle up, then I pushed the bottom right handle up. I also pulled the top of the form up and out of the slide a bit. It is very good. You don’t need the entire shape to display it.

Figure E

Continue cropping until the shape shows only the area you want to highlight.
Continue cropping until the shape shows only the area you want to highlight.
  1. When you’re done cropping, click anywhere outside the cropped area.

Cropping is the hardest part of this technique. It may take a few times to get everything perfect, but remember that you can press Ctrl + Z to undo a crop. Now let’s combine the two slides using a morph transition.

How to add morph transition in PowerPoint

This last part, adding the morph transition, is simple. Select the two thumbnail slides. Next, click on the Transitions tab and choose Morph from the quick gallery. If it is not available, click the Plus button; it’s in the Subtle section, although there’s nothing subtle about this highlighting technique!

That’s it! To see how it works, press F5 to start the slideshow, then click on the slide to start the morph. The image on the first slide seems to turn into a starburst with the owl.

If you want you can add more morphs. For example, to move the first cropped area into another, such as the owl on the ground, next to the number 5, use the same process: duplicate the first slide and crop the small owl on the ground (Figure F). Then connect the first cropped image (this is the second slide) and the second cropped image (this is the third side) by adding the morph transition.

Figure F

Combine the first cropped slide with a second cropped slide to create a second shape.
Combine the first cropped slide with a second cropped slide to create a second shape.

The figures don’t do this technique justice. If you haven’t done so yet, download the .pptx demo file to see the full effect. The second shape turns into a severed heart. However, you can select another cropped shape.