Powerpoint: how to turn symbols and characters from fonts into vector graphics

Powerpoint: how to turn symbols and characters from fonts into vector graphics

Would you ever like to place a large paragraph or question mark as a visual element on a slide? Or have you ever wanted an icon about the switch of the same name on the tab Insert into the presentation, but found that you always have to insert the characters you find there into text fields? Then I have good news for you: in PowerPoint you can transform not only letters, numbers and other characters, but also symbols from fonts into easily manageable vector graphics without much effort. Find out how and what the benefits are in this post.

Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind about symbols is that since the 2016 version of PowerPoint, there is a rather extensive thematically sorted collection of pictograms/symbols in PowerPoint in the Office 365 subscription. You probably also know then that these can be inserted into the presentation as vector graphics and easily edited accordingly. So this article is only for users with older PowerPoint versions? No, not at all. For one thing, you need at least PowerPoint version 2013 to convert characters to vector graphics. On the other hand, regardless of the graphic material that understands you, it is always good to know that all characters that can be inserted into text fields can be "freed" from them and used as visual elements in vector format for slide design. True, you certainly don’t need it in every presentation, but at times it can be quite a blessing. You can get more out of fonts than you might think.

Discover fonts as a source for visualization ideas

Particularly interesting for slide design are of course sog. symbol fonts. You will find a few on your computer even if you have never dealt with them. This is because fonts come standard with the operating system or application software. Also the symbols, which you can access in PowerPoint via the tab Insert Accessible are components of fonts. Here are a few symbols from the Webdings, Wingdings and Wingdings 2 fonts:

Symbols from the Wingdings, Wingdings 2 and Webdings fonts

You can find the symbols if you click in the Symbol dialog box (Insert > symbol) at the top of Font select the above fonts. Further symbol fonts of very different types are available on the Internet. Some are free, for others you have to purchase licenses.

Good to know: Collections of vector-based symbols and pictograms are also offered on the Internet. So if you are concerned about the graphics as such, it makes more sense to spend money directly on vector graphics and not to take the detour via the font.

In addition, the usual fonts contain various Character, which can be interesting for the slide design. These include the following in particular:

Finally, there may be situations where individual letters or numbers offer as graphical elements. You can influence the appearance of the characters as well as the letters and numbers by selecting the font.

What is the benefit of converting to vector graphics??

The question arises because you can also do quite a bit with symbols, characters, letters, and numbers that you insert into text boxes. Above all you have the possibility to recolor them by changing the font color. You can make them smaller or larger by adjusting the font size, and you can also place them on colored areas. For most design projects, this editing latitude will easily suffice to achieve the intended goal. Why it is still a good idea to convert the characters into vector graphics? And what are vector graphics anyway??

Vector graphics unlike raster graphics, do not consist of individual pixels, but of formulas describing simple geometric shapes. Their contours are therefore always sharp at any scaling. In addition, they usually require less memory than raster graphics. In PowerPoint presentations it is possible to insert especially vector graphics that have the following file formats: *.emf, *.wmf and (recently) *.svg.

Converting characters to vector graphics can be useful for six reasons: (In the following pictures you can always see the character on the left and the corresponding vector graphic on the right.) 1. You can scale characters more easily by grabbing a corner point and dragging the graphic smaller or larger while holding down the Shift key.

document symbol in text field and as vector graphic

2. If a symbol consists of several parts, you can color them differently.

blue hourglass as text symbol and as vector graphic, in the vector graphic the sand is colored red

3. you can delete or move parts of multi-part symbols.

blue hourglass as font symbol and as vector graphic, in the vector graphic the sand is colored red and can be seen only on the bottom of the clock

4. You can change transparent parts of characters in the conversion process z. B. color them white to make them stand out better against a colored background.

Check box with tick as font symbol and as vector graphic, both on blue background; in the vector graphic the box has a white fill color

5. You can change the shape of the characters and symbols by right-clicking on them and clicking in the context menu that appears on Edit points go. Attention: The editing of the points is difficult and needs some practice!

Laptop as a font symbol and as a vector graphic, the vector graphic has a slightly different shape and a different keyboard

6. Rotating, arranging, mirroring and stacking the characters and symbols is easier. The example shows quotes rotated by 180 degrees from the font Wingdings in the text field and as vectors. In the Wingdings font, quotation marks placed at the bottom are not available.

Quotation marks rotated 180 degrees from the Wingdings symbol font in the text box and as a vector graphic

How to turn characters into vector graphics

Bring the shapes together via Insert > Text box a text box on the slide and fill it with a character you want to convert to a vector graphic. You can also insert several characters at once. To make it easier to see what you are doing, it is best to make the font a little larger. You can enter the character via the keyboard or via Insert > symbol select a character. You can change the appearance of letters, numbers, and other characters by selecting a different font. The input of all characters works only if the cursor is in the text field.

The conversion does not work with the text placeholders that come onto the slide via Layouts. So you absolutely need a normal text field.

Screenshot PowerPoint: Merge shapes menu

Now go to Insert > Shapes, select the rectangle and draw one so large on the slide that the filled text field below it disappears completely. It does not matter what the rectangle looks like. Then select it and click Drawing tools > Start > Arrange > In the background. Now you can see your text box again. Under it lies the rectangle. Select the text box and then the rectangle (the order is important!). Keep the Shift key pressed so that both objects are selected at the end. The next step is the most crucial one: You split the selected objects into individual sets (Drawing tools > Format > Merge shapes> Break down into individual sets). The rectangle is now the same color as the character in the text box. Delete the rectangle and also all areas of the character or symbol that should be transparent. For small objects, it is best to group the remaining individual sets and drag the object larger so that you can better see and mark the areas you want to delete.

If you want to place the object on a colored background, it may be necessary to do so. It is advisable not to delete transparent areas, but z. B. white (see above advantage no. 4).

If the object is multi-part, you should group all remaining parts at the end. Your vector graphic is ready!

Character vector graphics in use

Here are a few more examples of slides that use vector graphics of characters that you have created yourself. The first slide could be a new slide section or. Introduce bullet point. Here I have used the book stack from the symbol font Webdings and also a digit in vector format:

PowerPoint slide with book stack symbol, a capital 2 and the lettering publications

On the next slide, three symbols from fonts are used at once. The document and the hand are from the symbol font Wingdings and the eye is from the font Webdings.

PowerPoint slide on the topic'Vermeiden Sie Fehler bei Betriebsvereinbarungen' mit verschiedenen Symbolen und dazugehorigem Text

It is especially difficult to make slides with unavoidably large amounts of text look halay appealing. Lawyers have this problem especially if they want to refer to the exact wording of the law. Here is an example, in which a paragraph in vector format should provide for some loosening up and in addition the law quotation as such to make recognizable:

Finally, another variation on the law foil, in which I used the quotation marks from the Wingdings symbol font as vector graphics:

Slide with legal text: definition of accessibility according to § 4 BGG; the text is set in large quotation marks


The ability to turn characters into vector graphics opens up interesting visualization possibilities in PowerPoint. These are not in competition with the recently available pictograms and external collections of graphics and symbols, but add another facet to them. Above all, letters, characters and numbers in vector format invite typographic experiments on PowerPoint slides. As always, however, the same applies here: Don’t overdo it, but use technical and visual options selectively where they really fit and ideally support the communication of the content.

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