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How to Make PPT Slide Layouts in Microsoft PowerPoint

This post is part of a series called How to Use PowerPoint (Ultimate Tutorial Guide).
How to Create a PowerPoint Presentation From a PPT Template
What Are the Right Dimensions (Size) for Your PowerPoint PPT Slides?

PowerPoint is an industry standard for creating presentations for good reason: it's got enough tools to easily create professional presentations. 

These tools help create presentations without having to reinvent the wheel with each presentation you make. Tools like themes, animations, and slide layouts speed up the process of building presentations.

Slide Layout Example
PowerPoint slide layout with text box tool open.

In this tutorial, I'll teach you to use and create PowerPoint layouts. You can think of a slide layout as a one-click starting point for making your presentation.

What Is a PowerPoint Slide Layout?

Let's look at a definition of PowerPoint slide layouts and what makes them so useful:

PowerPoint layouts are the combination and arrangement of objects on a slide. You can choose a layout that's built into PowerPoint and start adding your own content to build out a slide.

PowerPoint themes include multiple slide layouts. In the screenshot below, you can see a variety of slide layouts to choose from that are included with the Simplicity PowerPoint theme, available on GraphicRiver. 

PowerPoint Slide layout
These slide layouts are professionally designed and included with the Simplicity PowerPoint theme.

A slide layout in PowerPoint can be as simple as a title, centered on a slide. A layout for PowerPoint can also contain complex combinations of text boxes, images, and graphics. Use a number of slide layouts for variety in your PowerPoint presentations.

5 Popular Types of PowerPoint Slide Layouts

In this section, I'm going to sample from PowerPoint slide layouts on Envato Elements. Elements is an all-you-can-download service that includes thousands of custom PowerPoint templates—each of which includes custom layouts.

Envato Elements grids
Envato Elements is an all-you-can-download service that features thousands of PowerPoint templates for a single flat rate.

Here are five PowerPoint layouts that you'll see in many custom templates from Envato Elements. Let's check them out and think about how you might use them. I'll show you the templates that include the best PowerPoint layouts you can use in your next presentation.

1. The Timeline Layout

Timeline layout
A great example of a custom PowerPoint layout is a timeline that links together events, like this one from The X Note.

A timeline layout is the perfect example of a PowerPoint layout that isn't built-in. Many premium templates include timelines as a custom PowerPoint layout option.

Timelines can be used to tell stories and link events together in chronological order. It's one of the best ways to chain together events and tell a cohesive story.

2. The "Colorful Content" Slide

The Colorful Content Slide
Just adding a few complementary colors to your content blocks like this slide in The X Note will make for a bold message.

Minimalism and simple slides are all the rage in 2019. But throwing in the occasional bright, colorful slide can help break the rhythm and make a key slide really stand out.

In the example above, you can see a PowerPoint layout that's common to many modern presentation templates. A simple combination of blocks that serve as the backdrop to your content is the perfect example of a PowerPoint layout you won't find built into the app.

3. The Device Mockup Layout

Device Mockup Layout
Templates like Groningen feature layouts with all of the placeholders needed to show a photo on a real-life device.

Want to see something in a real-world setting? A device mockup layout in PowerPoint may be the perfect way to show off an app or service. 

These can take many forms, but the example above is a prime one. Combining a device mockup with supporting points can bring an app or service to life.

4. The "Chart and Facts" Layout

Chart and Facts Layout
Charts can illustrate data, but they balance well with the backing details to the side like this PowerPoint layout in The X Note.

Charts and graphs can usually stand on their own, but it helps when you put them side-by-side with key talking points. That's why a "chart and facts" layout is one of my favorite way to accomplish both on the same slide.

5. The "People Grid" Layout

People Grid
The Gronigen template features a perfect example of a people-centric grid, combining images and introductions in a geometric arrangement.

There are so many presentations that benefit from showing your team. That could include business-centric presentations or a class presentation that shows everyone who contributed.

There are many PowerPoint layouts to do this, but the example above is one that's common to many templates: a simple combination of shapes and image placeholders that show off the contributors. 

How to Quickly Make Slide Layouts in PowerPoint (Watch & Learn)

In this screencast, I'll teach you how to choose from different layouts in PowerPoint. Then, you'll learn how to create your very own slide layouts. This helps you save and re-use your most common slide designs.


Read on for written, illustrated instructions for mastering PowerPoint slide layouts.

How to Change PowerPoint Layouts

To change your PowerPoint layout, make sure that you're working on the Home tab on PowerPoint's ribbon.

Choose the Layout dropdown. PowerPoint shows a menu with thumbnails for each of the different layouts packaged with the theme:

Change Slide Layout in PowerPoint
Choose a slide layout by clicking on the Layout dropdown on the Home tab.

To change a layout, simply click on one of those thumbnails to apply a selected layout. The slide view in the main workspace will change to the selected PowerPoint layout.

Change PowerPoint Layout
Choose a layout from the Layout menu to change the active slide to a different layout.

When you choose a new slide layout, PowerPoint will put placeholders on a slide, empty boxes where you can insert your own content. Based on the slide layout, the placeholder might expect you to insert header text, bullet points, images, video, and more.

Each slide layout for PPT is different. They might include placeholders for images, text boxes for your content, or even video boxes. Slide layouts also can include background colors or images specific to each slide.

Think of a slide layout in PowerPoint as a blueprint for a slide. Different blueprints help you build different styles of slides. Specific slides might skip image placeholders or use all text, so choose the layout that helps you present your content efficiently.

How to Create Custom Slide Layouts

So far, we've looked at layouts that are built into a PowerPoint theme. What if you want to create your own slide layouts with custom combinations of elements? The theme that you're using may not include the PowerPoint layout you envision. In PowerPoint, you can create custom slide layouts and use them over and over.

If you find yourself creating the same arrangement of objects on a PowerPoint slide repeatedly, it's a good idea to create your own layout. Create custom layouts and re-use them with a single click. Here's how.

1. Navigate to Slide Master View

Enter Slide Master View to create your own layout. Click on the View tab on PowerPoint's ribbon and choose Slide Master from the Master Views section on the ribbon.

View Slide Master in PowerPoint
Choose View > Slide Master on PowerPoint's ribbon to edit the Slide Master and create your own layouts.

Slide Master View is a feature to edit your slide templates. You can edit or insert new layouts with this view. The screenshot below shows one of the slide layouts that's built into the theme. Notice that it includes placeholder boxes where you can add your own content.

When you work in Slide Master view, you aren't working with the presentation file—you're adding layouts to the presentation theme itself. 

Slide Master View in PowerPoint
Slide Master View includes the option to edit your slide layouts in PowerPoint.

2. Insert a Slide Layout

Now that we've entered Slide Master view, we can add and edit slide layouts. Create your own PowerPoint slide layout if your theme lacks the structure you need.

To add a new slide layout, find the Insert Layout button on the ribbon and click on it. On the left side, PowerPoint will add a new thumbnail that represents a new PowerPoint layout.

Insert Layout in PowerPoint presentation

This slide layout for PPT is your blank canvas to design your very own custom slide layout. The elements you add will show anytime you use the custom slide layout.

3. Add Placeholders for Your Slide

Placeholders are the objects you can add to a slide layout. When you select a slide layout in PowerPoint, you'll see boxes that are filled with your content.

To add those boxes, click on Insert Placeholder on the ribbon while in Slide Master view. Choose from one of the options to add a box

Choose Placeholder
Choose from the placeholder drop-down to add a blank box to your slide layout.

Adding a placeholder to a slide layout in PowerPoint will create a box on the slide to add content. When you use that slide layout in the future, these placeholder boxes will appear,  and you can add content to them.

A PowerPoint layout is just a set of placeholders that you can re-use, so don't add specific content like the slide title or bullet points to this view. The goal is to create re-usable slide designs that are flexible. In the screenshot below, I've added a couple of placeholders ("Content" and a "Picture" placeholder) to the layout.

Created Slide Layout in PowerPoint

Slide Master View also allows you to change font sizes and color. Those changes are included as a part of the new Slide Layout, so they'll appear anytime that you use the custom slide layout.

4. Use the PowerPoint Slide Layout

Let's leave Slide Master view and return to Normal view, the standard presentation-building view in PowerPoint. Click on View and click on Normal to leave Slide Master view.

Normal View in PowerPoint
Switch back to Normal view by clicking on View > Normal.

Now that you're back in Normal View, return to the Home tab on the ribbon, and open the Layout drop-down. You'll see the new layout that we just created, and you can click on it to apply it to the active slide.

Add custom layout in PowerPoint presentation

PowerPoint will change the current slide to the custom PowerPoint layout you select. Then, you can start adding content to the placeholder boxes you added in Slide Master view. Return to the Layout menu any time that you want to use your custom slide layout.

Tips for Making Great Slide Layouts

What are the elements that make for a great PowerPoint layout? We've all sat through too many presentations with crowded, confusing slides.

Not all slide layouts in PowerPoint are created equally. Here are my top tips for great slide layouts:

  • Above all, limit the number of items included on a slide layout. You want to focus on a few key bullet points or media to remain readable.
  • Consider font sizes when adding text boxes; use larger sizes for header text and smaller sizes elsewhere.
  • Don't fill the entire slide with placeholders; leave white space between each of the elements so that the slides flow naturally.

Keep Learning More About PowerPoint

Slide layouts are just arrangements of items on a PowerPoint slide, but they're essential to master for PowerPoint professionals. 

If you want to learn more about PowerPoint in general, we've got a great resource for you: the PowerPoint Ultimate Tutorial Guide. There's no other source that's got so much information in a single place.

You can make your own custom PowerPoint layouts or save time by working with a top professional PowerPoint template, which comes with great slide designs that are pre-built and ready to use: 

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Build Your Best Slide Layout in PowerPoint With Helpful Tutorials and Templates

In this post, we covered one of the most important aspects of Microsoft's presentation app: PowerPoint layouts. A layout for PPT is a blueprint you can use to set up the elements for your slides. PowerPoint certainly has built-in layout options that are easy to use as the starting point for your slides. 

But, custom slides from Envato Elements or GraphicRiver have limitless layout options that can help you build your best presentations ever. Jump to those links to design your presentation with custom PowerPoint layouts.

Editorial Note: The tutorial was originally published in July of 2017. It's been comprehensively revised to include new information—with special assistance from Andrew Childress.

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