Use Unsplash and Pexels to create beautiful PowerPoint slides for work

We’re all not blessed with an eye for design and let’s face it that’s probably partly why you are working in the industry that you’re in. Just because you’re not a designer doesn’t mean you are incapable of creating beautiful and modern looking PowerPoint slides.

Presentations are a powerful tool to communicate information. Whether you are creating a presentation to enhance a live talk or a Slidedoc (Slide Doc to some), intended to be read and referenced in the future, the actual designing and layout can often take as long (or longer) than the content itself. 

Regardless of the templates your company has or processes in place, we are all bound to run into scenarios where we are creating something from scratch. OR maybe you’re working with mediocre looking templates and want to update the look and feel of your presentation.

At Astute Review, we feel your pain and we also know that you’re busy and not looking for a 15,000 word explainer on visualization techniques or the theory behind ethereal design (You’re busy, don’t click on this!).  As business professionals, we’re pressed for time and sometimes (let’s face it, most of the time) we need to crank something out and move on with the 57 other things we have to do in the day before trying to make it home for dinner, pick the kids up from school, make that happy hour, etc.

That’s why this blog is about showing you a PRACTICAL way to quickly make beautiful slides using free stock images from Unsplash, Pexels and Getty Images in just a few short steps. 

1. Find your image

This ain’t rocket surgery, check out one of these sites and find an image that your like. Don’t worry too much about colors yet (we’ll get to this later), just don’t select something incredibly dark or light.  Just make sure that the layout (portrait vs. landscape) of the image is going to match where you want it on the slide.  Find your image (we suggest Unsplash, Pexels and Getty Images) and save it to your desktop or Cloud. You can vary the size of the image you want to download to help minimize file size. If you choose to download the highest quality image, you can also compress the file (more on that later). 

If you really want to get into the details, here is a great article from ShapeChef on how to pick the best images for your PowerPoint Presentation.

Here is a cool image we’ve used in a recent presentation

Image to show example from Unsplash that is used in Astute Review Marketing Materials
Source https://unsplash.com/photos/7e2pe9wjL9M
Taken By Riccardo Annandale

2. Insert your image in PowerPoint

a. Insert  → Picture  → This Device  → find image saved location

How to insert a picture in PowerPoint saved on device.

How to insert a picture in PowerPoint

b. Position the image. Here is an example of the start of a Representative Customers page we recently built. If you want this image as your background, skip down to background design section in this blog.

Inserted picture from Unsplash
Inserted picture from Unsplash

3. Create a transparent overlay

This next step adds a lot of visual appeal to the slide with little extra work. A nice stock photo is great in and of itself, but muting the image with a colorful transparent colors will mute the image slightly, and help the reader draw attention to the actual content of the page.

a. Insert a shape to match the shape of your image.

How to insert a shape
Insert a shape that matches the shape of your image.

b. Resize and position the shape over the image.

Show the user how to resize the shape over the image.
Resize the shape over your image. Note: this is not final.

c. Make sure shape is on top of image. You may need to send the image behind the shape.  To send an image back, right click the object.

How to send an image to back
Send image to back

d. Adjust the color and transparency of your shape.  Right-click shape → Format Shape → Fill → Select Color & Adjust Transparency

In this step, we suggest you select colors consistent with the brand guidelines you are working in. Adjust the transparency. We suggest something between 30-50% depending on the colors you are using.

Adjust transparency

e. Group the transparent shape and image so they are easy to move in the. How to group objects:

  1. Select object
  2. Shape Format Tab / Picture Format Tab → select Selection Pane
  3. Select multiple objects by holding “CTRL” on your keyboard
  4. Shape Format Tab / Picture Format Tab → Group
How to Group Objects in PowerPoint
How to Group Objects in PowerPoint

In these 3 steps (5 min) our slide already has a more modern look and feel. The below picture is using an RGB code of R:1 G: 131 B: 255 (Hex #0183FF) and a transparency of 36%.

A much improved look and feel…although not done yet!

4. Insert text and images over the image as desired.

In the below example we included some white text and a white logo.

Original Slide

Original slide
Original Slide

Final Slide

Final Product
Final Slide

That’s it! In just 4 easy steps we were able to improve and modernize a slide, by simply overlaying an object on top of a picture.

5. Use this process to create beautiful backgrounds for title and transition slides

After you insert your object, create a transparent overlay and group the objects, you can now easily apply this image to a background of a slide. You’ll never go back to boring title and transition slides again after adopting this process.

Note: Make sure you select objects that meet the shape of your slides (i.e. portrait or landscape to avoid distortion.

Once your object is grouped, simply right click and save the object.

Grouped image and shape
Grouped image and shape


To insert as a background, select the Design tab and click Format Background.

Final Background

Even the PowerPoint masters need help sometime—check out Astute Review, it’s spellcheck, but for PowerPoint formatting. We created a software catches and resolves all font mismatches, layout inconsistencies and misaligned bullet points in the click of a button, allowing your consultants to spend more time on content.

On top of that, our automated software ensures consistent quality of deliverables—slides will look meticulously formatted every time. Want to learn more about how 1 click can save your day? Schedule a quick 15 minute intro call to see what Astute can do for your organization.


Scroll To Top