PowerPoint Tip: Adding crosshatching fills to graphs in PowerPoint 2007

When I was presenting a course for accountants in July, a number of the participants mentioned that starting in PowerPoint 2007, they had lost the ability to fill graph segments with crosshatch patterns. This is important when printing graphs in black and white since shades of grey are hard to distinguish. The participants asked if there was any way to get back this important feature that had been eliminated. Today I want to show you a way to restore this functionality to PowerPoint 2007 and 2010.

First, let’s start with what crosshatch patterns are and why you may need to use them. A crosshatch pattern is a series of lines on a white background that is used to fill a shape or, in the case of a graph, a column or pie wedge. There are usually patterns such as diagonal lines (in both directions and a combination), vertical and horizontal lines, and dots. A crosshatch fill is used to be able to distinguish the different parts of a graph, such as the five wedges in a pie chart.

Why would you want to use crosshatch patterns instead of colors? If you are printing to a black and white printer, the different shades of grey that PowerPoint uses to substitute for the colors of your graph end up being hard to distinguish on the printout. By using crosshatch patterns, the pie wedges or columns are easy to distinguish because the pattern is different.

Since Microsoft removed the ability to fill a graph element with one of the crosshatch patterns, you have to work around this limitation to get this feature back. As I explained in the workshop to the accountants, the approach is to use the ability to fill an element with a picture. If the picture is a crosshatch image, the elements look like they are filled with the patterns that were available in previous versions of PowerPoint. By adding a solid border around each element, it has a boundary that makes interpreting the size of the shape easier.

I have created seven patterns as small image files that you can download and use to fill your pie wedges, columns or bars. There are a few tricks to getting the patterns to work in PowerPoint graphs, so all the instructions and links to download the image files are on my website at www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com/crosshatch.htm. The explanation includes screen captures and examples that would have been too large to fit in this newsletter, so the page on my site is a permanent spot you can refer to and share with others.

If you present financial information and have been wanting to use crosshatch patterns in PowerPoint 2007/2010, you now have a method for doing so. And if you want to learn more about presenting financial data effectively, join me in Toronto on October 18 by registering here, in Edmonton on November 14 or Calgary on November 17 by registering here.