How to Create a Sexy Curved Arrow in PowerPoint
When you’re trying to highlight a key part of a chart or table, you may want to use an arrow. It’s fairly easy to create an arrow in PowerPoint 2007, but it is not as obvious how to create an eye-appealing curved arrow. I find that curved arrows are frequently better than straight arrows because they can bend around other important data points in a chart or table rather blocking them. And let’s face it — straight arrows are very boring.
How can you spot a sexy curved arrow?
Inexperienced PowerPoint users will use straight arrows or ugly curved arrows that look hand drawn. A good curved arrow has a smooth curve – no kinks or abrupt changes in its arc. The more points in an arrow, the more bends you’ll have. The key is to minimize the points or bends (Right click on an arrow and select “Edit Points” to see how many points are in the arrow). The following steps will show you how to add more professional-looking curved arrows to your next set of PowerPoint slides.
Step 1 – Draw the arrow
In PowerPoint 2007, if you use the default “arrow” drawing option, you can only create a straight arrow. For whatever reason, you can’t edit the arrow shape so we have to use another shape which is editable — the Freeform drawing shape. Because you’re going to edit the shape once it is drawn, you don’t have to be exact on your initial drawing. Hit the “Esc” key to stop drawing the arrow once you have two points or a straight line segment.
Step 2 – Edit the points of the arrow
Now that you have a line segment drawn, right click on the line and select “Edit Points” to start adding a curve to the line. Using the blue handle that appears when you click on one of the end points, you’ll be able to change the arc of the line. You may need to play with both ends of the line to achieve the curve you’re looking for. Tip: Make sure your line doesn’t become twisted. Watch the angles of the blue handles — think “smooth” and “gradual”.
Step 3 – Add the arrow end type and width
The last step is to add the arrow’s begin/end type and adjust the width of the arrow. Right click on the curved line segment and select “Format Shape” at the bottom of the pop-up menu. In the Format Shape window, go to the Line Style tab where you will be able to add an end type and change the width. Voila! You have a sexy curved arrow that will be the envy of your co-workers.
Since I created this post, I’ve added another article on another approach to creating a “sexy curved arrow”. Check out my follow-up Part II article.
How to Create a Sexy Curved Arrow in PowerPoint – Part II
Back in December 2008, I published an article on how to create “sexy” curved arrows in PowerPoint 2007. I never thought that particular post would become one of my most popular articles. It highlights a problem within PowerPoint 2007 where you can no longer edit and curve the default arrows. The article shows you a workaround approach that enables you to create a nice flowing — dare I say “sexy” — curved arrow in PowerPoint 2007.
In this Part II article, I’d like to add to your curved arrow technique to your PowerPoint design toolbox — the curved swoosh arrow. It’s a little more work to create than the “standard” sexy curved arrow, but I think the effect might be worth the extra effort in some situations.
What are my arrow options in PowerPoint?
Before I introduce the swoosh arrow technique, I’d to review the different types of arrow options that you have in PowerPoint 2007 and show how there’s a void that the swoosh arrow fills.
As mentioned, the default arrow is only good for straight lines — you can’t edit or curve it. Some people like to use the elbow arrow connectors. I rarely use them because I find the connectors difficult to work with and the connectors (not the objects) can’t be aligned so they often end up looking messy. You also can’t curve the connectors.
The directional (up, down, left, and right) block arrows are straightforward and very useful, and I use them frequently. However, the curved and circular block arrows usually end up looking too chunky, skewed, or generally awkward-looking so I typically just use sexy curved arrows in their place.
Enter the Swoosh Arrow
When you look at all of the Arrow options in PowerPoint 2007, you’ll notice that all of the arrows basically have a uniform thickness. Sometimes you’d like to create a more dynamic arrow to highlight or emphasize a particular aspect of your presentation. A swoosh arrow provides a more dramatic, tapered effect than a simple curved arrow. Let’s walk through the steps to creating a curved swoosh arrow.
Step 1: Create a directional block arrow
The first step is create a directional block arrow. The key is to size the arrow so the head of the arrow is the right size for the swoosh arrow. If you find that you haven’t sized your arrow correctly, then in most cases you’re going to have to start over so it’s important to get the arrow’s head size correct.
If you are creating a series of swoosh arrows and want them to have uniformly sized heads, you’ll want to make several duplicates of the block arrow once it is sized properly.
Step 2: Rotate the arrow to the desired angle
Focusing on the arrow head, you want to make sure it is rotated to the desired entry position. It’s important to position the arrow head correctly because you want to avoid having to adjust things later on when it would be messier and more work to fix.
Step 3: Convert the arrow into a Freeform shape
Now we need to convert the arrow into a Freeform shape so that it can be transformed into a swoosh arrow. First, you select the arrow by left-clicking on it. Second, you click on the Drawing Tools > Format tab on the Ribbon. Third, on the far left you should see the Edit Shape option within the Insert Shapes module. Click on the Edit Shape dropdown menu and select Convert to Freeform to change the arrow into an editable Freeform shape.
Step 4: Edit the block arrow’s shape
With the arrow being a Freeform shape, we can edit its corner points to create a curved swoosh arrow. In order to edit the arrow shape, right-click on the arrow and select Edit Points. With the end points showing, you can now reposition the starting points of your arrow. You’re going to need to use the handles to adjust the angles of the corner points of the arrow to create the desired curve for the swoosh arrow. You can keep both of the starting corner points or delete one of them so the arrow starts from a single point instead.
I would recommend not touching the front three edit points that form the “V” of the arrow head. If you start playing with them you can ruin the integrity of the arrow. It will begin to fall apart like a cheap tent that has had its support poles removed.
Swoosh arrows may not always be worth the extra effort compared to that of regular sexy curved arrows. Most of the time a simple curved arrow will communicate just fine, and you don’t necessarily want arrows to stand out. However, when an arrow is important to what you’re trying to communicate and it needs a little extra flair or panache, the swoosh arrow can be a great option.