How to Look Sleek With Smooth PowerPoint Transitions

By Elizabeth Stodolski

A major problem that people have when creating presentations is a lack of fluidity and cohesiveness between slides. Not only do smooth transitions make the deck more aesthetically appealing, they also remove interruptions in the flow of information, which can give an audience an opportunity to tune out. Below I will discuss some transition techniques from a basic to a more advanced skill level. Test some of these out on your next presentation and seduce your audience into a state of both relaxation and attentiveness.

The Simple Fix 
Since people are generally more concerned with the style and content of their slides, they generally tend to neglect the transitions tab on their PowerPoint ribbon.

PowerPoint 2013 Transitions
PowerPoint 2010 Transitions


Applying these basic transitions is a simple and fast way to make your presentation look just a bit better. Look at the examples below to see the difference a fade transition can make. Without a transition, moving between slides feels a bit glitch and unplanned. Although it is a small touch, the transition makes things feel more professional. You can even check “apply to all” to quickly add this effect to all the slides in your deck.

Speaking of professionalism, if that is the look you’re going for I’d be careful when using the other preset transition effects. Even some that appear to be more basic such as wipe can look funny when applied to branding template. Not to say that you shouldn’t use them, but pay attention to how it affects any objects you may have on the top and bottom of your template.Some of the fancier ones may look cool on a slide or two if they have a specific relevance, but your audience is going to get sick of seeing the screen “shatter” or break into “random bars” if you use these effects throughout the presentation. Remember, you want to look sleek and smooth, not like a child who has just been given computer privileges in elementary school.

More Advanced Tricks

My personal favorite way to tie two slides together is to keep one (or more!) objects on screen from one slide to another. I like this because it forces you to use the same symbols to talk about the same topic, which facilitates understanding for your audience members. Below is a short presentation I’ve created to demonstrate some of these different techniques for you.


Slides 1-2

For this transition I kept the toy horse from the first slide to the second slide, but I shrunk it and moved it over to the left so I could add information to the story.

Start out by copying the object from the first slide to the second slide. It should paste in the exact same spot from which you copied it. If this is giving you trouble for some reason, you can also duplicate the slide (by pressing CTRL + D while the desired slide is selected) and deleting out all unwanted objects.

Now it’s just a case of manipulating the object to the right size and location. To shrink the horse and move it over to the left, I used a simultaneous combination of a motion path and grow/shrink animation. In order to do this, copy the object again. Now adjust the copy to the new desired size and location.

motion path and resize

Now is when those tiny little gray lines on your screen come in handy…also known as drawing guides. When you select the copied image (the one which is the size and position you are aiming for) four white boxes will appear around the edges.

Line up the drawing guides so they are centered within these boxes. This will give you an exact center point of your object. Knowing this will make your life much easier in the next step, because motion paths start and end points are concerned with an object’s centre.

Add a motion path animation that suits your needs (right, left, up, down, etc.). Now adjust the end point so that it is perfectly lined up with the center point that you’ve created with your drawing guides.

drawing guides

In order to resize the object you’ll have to do a bit of math. Open up the format tab and compare the sizes of the two objects. Calculate the percentage of size increase or decrease between your two objects.

Now add a grow/shrink animation on the object you are manipulating, and right click effect options in the animation pane. Adjust the size change to match the proportions.

Finally it’s just a bit of fine tuning. Ensure that both the motion path and the grow/shrink are occurring simultaneously by right-clicking on the grow/shrink and selecting “with previous.”

With both the motion path and the grow/shrink selected, right-click and select “effect options.” Adjust the smooth start and smooth end so that it is the matches for both animations. How much of a smooth start and a smooth end you apply is up to you, but make sure it is the same for both otherwise the effect will look jerky.

smooth start smooth end

For more information on how to master this and other tips, click here for all of our PowerPoint tricks

Slides 2-3

For the transition between second and third slide, the toy is already where I want it to be, however it isn’t facing the right direction. This is an easy fix.

Copy the object from the previous slide (so you are copying the copy you made last time) and paste it on to the succeeding slide.

Copy the object again and use go to Format>arrange>flip horizontal to make the image about face.

Now add an exit fade animation to the old copy, and an entrance fade on the new copy

Open up the animation pane, and right click so on the entrance fade animation, select “with previous” to make the two animations occur at the same time.

Personally I think this looks better if you put a slight delay between the fade out and fade in. I put a 0.25 second delay on the fade in.

Now you have to play with the alignment a little. Every object will be different, so try a few options to see what looks best. Some objects may look great right on top of one another. My toy horse looked best with the new copy a little right of center.

about face


Slides 3-4

This transition is a bit different than the previous too. Instead of manipulating an image I am manipulating what looks to be like the background. In reality it is a rectangle fit to the size of the slide and filled with the texture, but when you are in show mode it appears to be the background. The rectangle hasn’t done anything up until this point in the presentation, but now I’m going to move it in order to give off a panning effect.

Note: If you aren’t familiar with the “arrange” functions, this is where you go in order to play around with the layers in your slide. Select your background rectangle and go to arrange>send to back.

Start out with a slide that is completely blank other than your background rectangle.

Use a motion path to make the rectangle move in the desired direction. In the example I used down. I recommend sticking to either up, down, left or right in order to keep things looking neat.

Adjust the motion path to the exact desired ending position. You may want to pick back up on our tricks from slides 1-2, and make a copy of the rectangle in order to get a better idea of where you want it to be. For PowerPoint 2013 users this adjustment process will be easier because of the ghost that appears when you are playing with motion paths. I recommend using a copy anyway in order to spatially plan the rest of your slide.

These simple tricks help to make a simple PowerPoint presentation look more professional and polished.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Stodolski of Bright Carbon makes visual representations of information that would otherwise be far less exciting and engaging. She also is a proud member of the company’s newly-initiated USA team.


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