Creating Banner Images in PowerPoint: Getting the Pixels Right

One of my favorite tasks when helping instructors develop their online courses in Blackboard is creating the course banner image. Though I’m no graphic design or creativity guru, I really enjoy the challenge of designing an image that may initiate interest or curiosity when students first enter the course site.

I typically create these banner images using Microsoft PowerPoint. PowerPoint’s versatility in this regard is more than sufficient and allows for easy editing later if I’m using a computer that doesn’t have a “full-time” image-editing application installed. Once I’ve completed my image, I just save it as a .png file and upload to the Blackboard course site.

The one issue I’ve had with creating and saving images in this way is that PowerPoint does not use pixels for its slide dimensions; rather, the dimensions are determined in print-based measurement units, such as inches. If I want to create a banner image of a specific width and height in pixels, I’m never quite sure how to convert those pixels to inches such that, when I save the image using PowerPoint, it will “re-convert” to exactly the pixel dimensions that I want. However, just this weekend I found a resolution to my dilemma upon discovering two tools that make that possible and simple. Here are the steps, with links to these two tools:

  1. The first step is determining the dimensions, in pixels, that I want for my image. That is just up to my own judgment: let’s assume that I want a banner image that is 800 pixels in width and 300 pixels in height. Along with these dimensions, I need to decide on the resolution at which to produce the image: that is, the “dots per inch” (DPI) or “pixels per inch” (PPI). This piece of the puzzle—the resolution—is a factor I did not earlier realize was so significant in converting my pixel dimensions to inches. Two hundred DPI (200 dpi) should be more than necessary for Web use, so I’ll go with that.
  2. Using the numbers just noted, I can determine the width and height in inches to use in PowerPoint with a wonderful tool I found on the FinerWorks website (http://finerworks.com/theo/blog/working-with-digital-images/convertpixelstoinches/). Just scroll to the bottom of this page, and click on the “Open Converter” button to find a Flash-based pixel-to-inch converter, as shown below. Using this tool, I’ll add “800” as my width, “300” as my height, and “200” as my ppi. Upon selecting “Calculate,” my resulting dimensions in inches are 4 in wide and 1.5 in high.

    Pixel to Inches Calculator from FinerWorks
    Pixel to Inches Calculator from FinerWorks
  3. Knowing the dimensions to use for the banner image in PowerPoint, I open PowerPoint (I am currently using PowerPoint 2010) and adjust my “canvas” to those dimensions:

    Change PPT slide dimensions
    Change slide dimensions in PowerPoint to those created in the converter.
  4. I then design my banner as desired. (Note: The design below is not at all what I would provide. It’s just a sample for this blog post. I’m not that dull!)

    Banner Image in PowerPoint
    Create the banner image.
  5. Now, you may think that at this point you can save the image created and the pixel dimensions will be correct. This is not the case. To understand why, refer to the website from PPTools (see the link below), which provides an explanation much more effectively than I could ever do. As you’ll see, saving the image in the correct pixel dimensions requires inserting a macro into my PowerPoint file, and the PPTools folks provide the generic Visual Basic code necessary, which I copy to the clipboard: http://www.pptfaq.com/FAQ01028_Pixel-accurate_drawing_in_PowerPoint-_measuring_in_pixels.htm. (Thank you, PPTools!)

    Copy VBA code from PPTools website to clipboard.
    Copy VBA code from PPTools website to clipboard.
  6. Now I access the Developer tab in PowerPoint (if you do not see “Developer” in your ribbon, follow the instructions athttp://office.microsoft.com/en-us/powerpoint-help/show-the-developer-tab-or-run-in-developer-mode-HA010173052.aspx
    to make it available), and then I select “Macro,” name my new macro, and then select “Create.”

    Begin to create macro through the Developer tab.
    Begin to create macro through the Developer tab.
  7. In the window that appears, I remove the lines of code that have automatically been inserted and paste the code from step 5. I also make two adjustments to this code (see the yellow-highlighted areas in the image below). The first adjustment is to state where to save my image file: I ask PowerPoint to save it in My Documents and to save it as “bannerimage.png.” (Your path will be different, and you may select any filename you want.)The second adjustment is to make the “lwidth” and “lheight” equivalent to the pixel width and height used in the calculation in step 2 above; in my case, I use 800 and 300 pixels, respectively.

    Modify the code information to match that from the pixel-to-inches converter.
    Modify the code information to match that from the pixel-to-inches converter.
  8. In the menu, I select “Run” and then “Run Sub/UserForm.” A “Macro” window appears, and I choose to run the ExportAnImage macro. (I can then close my windows for creating and running the macro.)
    Run the macro (1).
    Run the macro (1).

    Select the specific macro to run.
    Run the macro (2).
  9. Upon reviewing My Documents, my banner image, with desired dimensions in pixels, appears, and I am ready to upload it to my Blackboard course site!

    The banner image appears in the appropriate folder, with appropriate dimensions.
    The banner image appears in the appropriate folder, with appropriate dimensions.

6 comments:

  1. I went through the steps above and created the macro but when I went to runn it, I get a run time error
    2147 188160 (80048240): I used pixel 960 x 265 which is 4.8 x 1.33 in inches.

    When I debug this it highlights this line With ActiveWindow.Selection.SlideRange(1)
    I copied and pasted it and only changed the 2 items you mentioned.
    Do you know why it won’t work? Is it my dementions?
    Any help would be appreciated
    Thank you
    CIndy Eidahl
    cwp212000@yahoo.com

    ps. This is for a header for my blog which the pixel dementions are 960 x 265

    1. Hello, Cindy. I would have to first ask: what version of PowerPoint are you using, are you using a PC or a Mac, and is your PowerPoint file located on a local drive (i.e., your computer’s hard drive and not a network drive)? I’m also curious as to what is on the slide you have created: are the elements simply images, text boxes, etc.? Or are there any hyperlinks, transparencies, etc.? Can you provide a screenshot of the slide and note what each element in that slide is? Last, you might want to try the “universal” solution when errors occur: simply shut down the PowerPoint program, shut down your computer, start it up again, open the PowerPoint file again, and try the macro again.

      It’s really hard to say what would be causing such an error without having the PowerPoint file in hand to look at.

      I hope this helps!

  2. Hi Jen,
    Thanks for posting these instructions. I’m running into a bit of trouble. The VB Script is throwing an error here:

    .Export fileName:=sExportFile, filtername:=sExportType, _
    ScaleWidth:=lwidth, ScaleHeight:=lheight

    I’m using a Mac with local copy of PPT. Any suggestions.
    Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi, Ben. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered from others that these instructions work only for Microsoft PowerPoint on a PC. Sorry about that!
      Jen

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