Sprucing up presentations with SmartArt

These types of changes were difficult before SmartArt. You had to use individual shapes, and moving, adding or removing shapes meant almost every shape had to be tediously repositioned by hand. You could spend ages getting a diagram right, then tear your hair out when your boss said: “that’s great, but could you add one extra item?”

Sprucing up presentations with SmartArt

Adding “one extra item” could take longer than it did to create the whole diagram. SmartArt takes care of all that hassle, so you can keep your cool and your hair.

Layout choices

If you’re not happy with the diagram type you’ve chosen, the Layouts gallery on the Ribbon shows you all the other types within the category you chose. You can hover your mouse pointer over these layouts to preview how your diagram would look.

If you want to choose a different diagram type, you’ll need to click the More Layouts option at the bottom of the gallery. This returns you to the full SmartArt Graphic dialog, so you can pick a different layout from any category.

SmartArt takes care of all that hassle, so you can keep your cool and your hair

By default, SmartArt diagrams use the main accent colour of your document. The Change Colors button on the Ribbon lets you use any of the accent colours of your document’s theme, or use all of the colours by picking one of the multicolour options.

By sticking to theme colours you ensure SmartArt fits in with the rest of your document, and any later change of theme will update the SmartArt to follow the new theme. The theme is set in Word and Excel in Page Layout | Themes, in PowerPoint at Design | Themes and in new Outlook emails at Options | Themes. Each theme consists of a set of colours for text, background and accents, fonts for body text and headings, and a set of effects for highlighting shapes.

In PowerPoint, themes also affect the background and the layout of the slides. Changing the theme of a document changes the look with one click. Alternatively, you can pick the colours, fonts and effects parts separately, and you can even save your chosen combination as a named theme to reuse in other documents or share with others in your company, enabling you all to produce documents with consistent formatting.


If you need one or more of the shapes in your SmartArt diagram to have a particular colour, rather than one of the accent colours from the theme, use the Shape Fill and Shape Outline tools on the SmartArt Tools | Format tab.

The SmartArt Styles gallery

Next to the Change Colors button on the SmartArt Tools | Design tab is the SmartArt Styles gallery, which enables you to quickly set borders, bevels, shadows, glow, 3D rotation and perspective. If you need more control over shapes, colours and effects, switch to the SmartArt Tools | Format tab.

If you want pentagons instead of circles in your diagram, select all the circles and choose Format | Shapes | Change Shape. Click the pentagon and, presto, the change is made.

Want one shape larger or smaller than the others? Click the shape and either drag its size handles or use the Format | Shapes | Larger, or Format | Shapes | Smaller tools (hold down Shift while dragging the size handles to retain the aspect ratio to keep the width and height of the shape in the same proportion).

You can also move a shape by dragging it around. If you’ve applied a 3D effect to your SmartArt diagram you won’t see the size handles, so click Format | Shapes | Edit in 2D to temporarily turn off the 3D effect.You can size and position the shapes as you want them, then click this tool again to turn it back on.

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