Logos Over Photos – Best Practices

Back at the dawn of time, when PowerPoint was first being programmed, a fateful and incorrect decision was made. Placeholder content would always appear in front of static content, regardless of how placeholders and other content were stacked on the layout. This has led to countless bald designers, from them tearing out their hair because there’s no way to place logos over photos.

The Locked Graphics Workaround

One way to circumvent this design flaw is to place a picture placeholder on the layout as usual. Then create a sample slide from it. Place the logo over the photo and lock its position in the XML. Here’s my article on how to do that: OOXML Hacking: Locking Graphics. This allows the user to replace the photo while keeping the logo in front.

The disadvantage is that you can’t create a new slide from the layout. Instead, the user must copy and paste the sample slide to create another one.

The Background Picture Fill Workaround

If the photo is a full-screen photo, there’s another method. This time, don’t place a picture placeholder on the layout. Instead, just place the logo there. In use, the user right-clicks on the background and chooses Format Background. On the Format Background task pane, choose Picture or texture fill, then click on the File button and choose the background photo. The logo will stay on top.

The disadvantage to this technique is you have to include instructions to the end user, who may never have used a picture fill previously. My thanks to Jaakko Tuomivaara of Supergroup Studios in the UK for this tip.

The Holey Placeholder Workaround

For simple logos, or logos contained in a simple shape like a circle or square, create a logo-shaped hole in the placeholder. Here’s a Windows-only version.

  1. On the layout, create the picture placeholder.
  2. Insert the logo as an EMF vector file, then ungroup it twice, confirming with PowerPoint that you want to do this. This changes it from a placed picture to a set of vectors embedded on the layout.
  3. With the logo parts selected, hold the Shift key and click on the placeholder.
  4. Choose Drawing Tools Format>Merge Shapes>Subtract.
  5. Fill the background, or a shape placed behind the logo hole, with the logo color.

If the logo is in a shape, you can use similar steps on both Windows and macOS computers. Using Mac command names: Place the logo over the placeholder, then draw a Shape exactly the same size as the logo, placed over the logo precisely. Select the shape and the placeholder, then use Shape Format>Merge Shapes>Fragment, then delete the shape to reveal the logo-sized hole in the placeholder. For some reason, Merge Shapes>Subtract works differently on a Mac, deleting both the shape and the placeholder, but Fragment still get the job done. Thanks to Ute Simon for suggesting this method in the comments.

A variation on this that can be more detailed is to place a copy of the logo above the placeholder. Then, shape-by-shape, use the logo over the placeholder with the Combine variant of Merge Shapes to knock holes in the placeholder. Then add colored shapes below the placeholder to “fill” the holes. If you have compound shapes (like the letter O or A), you’ll have to release the compound shapes, then connect the inner shape with the outer one. Here’s what the end result looks like in Illustrator.

Outside line connected to inside to simulate a compound shape
De-compounded letter shapes

Logos Over Photos: The Placeholder Picture Fill Workaround

This works with any size photo, it doesn’t have to be full-frame like the previous hack. No copy and paste, no instructions required. I heard about this one from Joshua Finto (Make It So Studio in Austin, TX).

On the layout, insert a picture placeholder to hold the photo. Then add another placeholder on top, sized to exactly the same size as the logo. I use Online Image placeholders because they are rarely used, using a common placeholder type risks content being placed in it if you change layout types. Remove bullets, if there are any, and type a space character so no placeholder text appears.

In the Format Picture task pane, click on Picture or texture fill, then on the File button and fill the placeholder with the logo. Create a slide, place a photo and voila! The logo appears over top of the photo! After creating this, it’s wise to lock the placeholder in XML on that layout, to prevent distortion by the user playing with it. OOXML Hacking: Locking Graphics. EMF, SVG and transparent PNGs are all good logo formats for this application.

Microsoft maintains Feedback forums to collect feedback from users. I’ve created a suggestion there that the placeholder/shape stacking order on the layout should be respected on slides. Please add your vote here: Placeholders Should Not Pop to the Front. Perhaps we can persuade Microsoft to fix the mistake so we don’t need these time-wasting workarounds.

Thanks to my readers who have added some useful suggestions! Please read the comments for additional ideas and tips.

10:52 am

12 thoughts on “Logos Over Photos – Best Practices

  1. The problem with the last solution (I use it regularly) is twofold:

    1. The placeholder with the logo as background can be moved (and deleted) by the user. While I personally would think that users should be mature enough to not wrack havoc to a layout, I had customers complaining about this solution.

    2. If the layout of a slide is changed, text might be filled from another placeholder into this placeholder with the logo (even if the second layout was created as a copy of the first one with only minor changes, like colors). I never found out how to prevent this, and how PowerPoint determines which content goes into which placeholder.

    What I find most annoying is that the lock status of placeholders on the layout gets lost when a slide is created from that layout. If it could be preserved, a whole plethora of solutions would become possible …

    • Thanks for pointing out those issues. PowerPoint always chooses the same placeholder type when moving content during a layout change. So you could avoid it by choosing an esoteric placeholder type.

  2. I have created images placeholders, and using a mix of Apple Keynote and PPT I have managed to “punch” a hole on the placeholder using a vector logo, so any image can be placed and the logo always remain there. Works beautiful.

    • It’s helpful to others if you include the exact steps to reproduce the effect, rather than the generic “a mix of Keynote and PPT”

      That approach wouldn’t work so well if the user resizes the placeholder. And how would you handle multi color logos?

      • I have used the same approach if the client uses a simple shape (rectangle, oval) as a logo. It can be done without Apple Keynote: Insert an Image Placeholder in the position where you need it in the final layout. Insert the logo in a vector file format (EMF, SVG) in the position and size it has on the Slide Master or layout background. Ungroup the logo (twice), to convert it into a freeform shape. If this produces small objects in the middle of the logo, delete them and keep only the outline. Use this outline shape with Combine Shapes to subtract it from the image placeholder to get an Image Placeholder with a hole. Tell your users not to move or resize the Image Placeholder on their slides.

        • I wouldn’t use an Picture placeholder, because it’s too likely that a user will try to paste a photo and PowerPoint will place it in the over the logo.

          I’m not clear why you would want to create a placeholder with a hole in it, you haven’t explained the purpose of that. Ungrouping the logo is usually not necessary unless you need to key logo elements to the presentation theme (which is often not a good idea).

          To ensure the placeholder is not altered by the user, lock it in XML, as mentioned in the article. Then the users don’t need instructions.

          • Put the logo in the background of master or layout. Create a hole in the picture placeholder, so that the logo is always visible. So there is no need to place the logo as a separate object in a layer in front of the picture.
            A simpler way to do this (which works also for more complex logos) is to use a picture placeholder with one or two cut corners (subtract a triangle from the corner using Combine Shapes) to make the logo visible in the corner of the picture.

          • Thanks for the tip, that’s also a popular technique. I’d recommend locking the placeholder on the layout to ensure a curious user can’t wreck the alignment of the hole with the logo.

  3. Two additional remarks:
    – If using Background Picture Fill, make sure that the image has the same aspect ratio before you insert it, because it cannot be cropped after it is inserted. (Working with Offset to show another part of it is something the average user will not do.) And do not insert high resolution images, as Compress Images does not reduce size of background images.
    – If using the Placeholder Picture Fill, I’ve seen the placeholder text re-appear (I could not find a reason for this). To avoid this, do not type a “normal” space into the placeholder but use a non-breaking space (ASCII (dez) code = 0160). As this is a special character, PowerPoint will not automatically delete it.

  4. Question regarding the icon that you click on to add an image to the placeholder. Can that be repositioned by code? I don’t want it dead centre, but need it top left. For example… a title page that has both text and image placeholders… but the text placeholder sits right on top of the image icon.

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