Using the ink pens—and I learn something new about PowerPoint

You may know that you can draw on your slide while presenting in Slide Show view. Most people don’t use this feature very much, because the results look pretty sloppy.

I used the Highlighter option in this slide. As you can see, the circle is pretty messy, but might be OK for an internal presentation when you want to spontaneously emphasize something on a slide. However, if you know in advance that you’ll want to emphasize something, I’d recommend animating a circle around it. (See my tip, Circle an object.)

First, I’ll explain how to use the ink pen and then I’ll explain what I learned that I never knew before.

How to use the ink pen

  1. Go into Slide Show view.
  2. Right-click and choose Pointer Options, then choose one of the options. Here you see the options in PowerPoint 2010. PowerPoint 2003 and 2007 have an extra option, Felt Tip. (I wonder why that option was removed in 2010.) Here you see the Highlighter option selected.

Note: You don’t have the Pointer Options menu item if you’re not using Slide Show view full screen, that is, if you chose the Browsed by an Individual option in the Set Up (Slide) Show dialog box.

  1. Right-click again and choose Pointer Options> Ink Color, then choose a color. You need to choose a color after choosing an ink type. Note that you can only choose from the theme colors/color scheme or basic colors; there’s no option to choose any color you want.
  2. Draw away!
  3. When you’re done, you have a couple of choices to move to the next slide. The problem is you don’t have an arrow pointer, so you can’t just click to go to the next slide. One option is to use the keyboard. You can press the Down arrow or the “N” key, for example. On your next slide, your arrow is automatically back. Or, you can right-click again and choose Pointer Options> Arrow. I couldn’t figure out a way to keep the pen or highlighter for more than one slide.
  4. When you’ve finished your presentation and return to Normal view, you see this dialog box. Click Keep to save the ink.

What I didn’t know

You can change the color of the ink! You can edit the ink shapes!

When you return to Normal view and select your saved ink annotations, the Ink Tools Pens tab appears in PowerPoint 2007 and 2010. In PowerPoint 2003, you can right-click and choose Format Ink. (The Format Ink dialog box looks just like the Format AutoShape dialog box, but many of the options are unavailable.)

In the Pens group, you can choose a style, or use the Color drop-down list to choose any color you want. This option gives you more color choices than you have when drawing the ink annotations. You can also use the Thickness/Weight drop-down list to change the thickness of the ink. (The tab in PowerPoint 2007 has fewer options.)

Finally, you can use the grips to change the ink’s size and you can drag the ink annotation to change its location.

I haven’t been able to find a way to create ink in Normal view.


You can create a similar effect using the Scribble shape, but you can’t format the width to be as wide as the highlighter option.

I was trying to get a line that looked as if it was drawn with crayon, and the ink tools fit the bill perfectly!

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39 comments to Using the ink pens—and I learn something new about PowerPoint

  • Great Post! Annotating slides is a great way to make presentations more interactive, and to get your audience engaged, and I haven’t seen the annotation features in PowerPoint used in this way before.

    Other ways to do this include buying something like PAPERSHOW – a pad and pen set where you can actually draw on a pad, and it shows up on screen. This sort of thing is great for really interactive, spur-of-the-moment annotations and presenting.

    For a more professional finish, different animation effects can be used within PowerPoint to highlight important features. As well as animating a circle, colour change, zoom, and transparency can be used to emphasise or de-emphasise objects and text on a slide. The advantage of these is that they are already built into a presentation, so you don’t have to worry about messing around with the pointer during a presentation.

    Thanks for this… it’s certainly got me thinking!

  • Hi Ellen,

    many thanks on this tip. i am only starting in presenting in public (it’s through work, so nothing major) and trying to find the best way to use PP. I came across your blog and I immediately felt inspired with all the great advice. Many thanks for this!

  • TUK

    why i coun’t ink how to use pen convert ink drawings to shapes in powerpoint 2010
    pls. tell me
    thank you

  • Try using the scribble or freeform shape instead.

  • Nils

    When you see the ink tools tool bar, right click a tool, then add to ribbon. Then those tools are always available.

  • Bobby Campbell

    We’re using a macro to keep the highlighter enabled throughout a presentation, as my boss likes to use a touchscreen to make the occasional markup while presenting. A new quirk of PowerPoint 2010 is that the ink tools cannot coexist alongside an active animation.

    For example, in PowerPoint 2007, we’d embed videos, repeating engineering process animations, etc., and could draw right over the top of them, while they were playing. Now, the ink cursor transforms to the regular arrow cursor for the duration of the animation. Meaning, if he accidentally touches the screen while the animation is playing, he either cancels out the animation, or proceeds to the next slide. The ink cursor returns when a “non-animated” slide appears.

    The same features (in the same files, on the same computer) work fine when opened in PPT2k7.

    I can’t find any information on this issue at all. It was a nice feature while it lasted, though.

  • In 2007, when I right-click and choose one of the pens, the animation stops. I was able to do both only by setting the animation to be on click, then choosing a pen, and finally pressing Enter to get the animation to start. Is that what you did?
    You’re right that 2010 is different, but if I start drawing first, then press Enter, I can continue to draw while the animation continues. But funnily enough, the path of the animated object (I was using a motion path) erases some of the ink!

  • Bobby Campbell

    Thanks for your reply. We choose a pen on the very first slide, and it persists throughout the presentation. That much works in 2007 and 2010, SP1. It means we’re not required to click or interact with any of the slides, other than using our MasterCue to advance the slides.

    In 2007, if an animation is set to start along with a given slide, we can continue marking up the slide, even right on top of the animation.

    In 2010, we can only markup if the animation is inactive, i.e., it’s set to start on click, and we haven’t clicked yet.

    It’s not really relevant to the issue, but we use a macro to automate choosing a red highlighter right at the start of the presentation. We thought the pen was too hard for people to see. The red highlighter is just transparent enough so that you can still see the underlying content.

  • Yuta

    a million thanks for clear and simple quidance! was really helpful!

  • OLiver

    anyone knows how to turn this on 2010 edition?

  • In slide show view, you right click Pointer Options.

  • Katy

    Anyone know how to turn off the 2 arrows and pen in the bottom corner of a slide in PowerPoint 2010 Mac. I’m doing a slide show and don’t want them on the screen when I start.

  • No, but on a PC, you can right-click and specify some settings. If you have a 2-button mouse, try it. Otherwise, try Shift+click to see if you get a menu.

  • Lisa Cummings

    I figured out how to do this in “normal” view.

    Add “pens” to your Quick Access Toolbar. Then you can select and draw in normal view. It looks a lot smoother than using Scribble. I think it might add an “anti-alias” feature. So much better!

  • Elias Bwick

    I am taking notes on powerpoint with a pen tool and afterwards I want to save my ppt as a pdf. I am running into two problems. If I print to a generic pdf converter then I lose the embedded weblink. If I use the acrobat tile to create a pdf then I lose the notes that I took with my pen. Is there a way to preseve both? Thanks

  • By using the acrobat file, do you mean using Adobe Acrobat? You can add links manually, using the Link tool. What happens if you use PowerPoint’s conversion tool? In PowerPoint 2010, it’s File> Save & Send> Create PDF/XPS Document?

  • Lisa & Nils, That is very cool! Thanks for discovering that!

  • Michael

    A small correction: when you are in ink mode and press Enter to move to a next slide the arrow is back all right, but the ink pen is still on and you can continue drawing.

  • Nola

    In reference to the October 26 posting, did anyone figure out how to save the notes you write using the Pen tools while in Normal View to be included in the pdf? Thanks,

  • Deepak Bathla

    Greetings of the day…!!

    I’m Deepak Bathla, working as an MIS Executive in Marketing Department so I want to learn new something in Ppt, because I’m interested.

    Kindly help me new features against Ppt.

    Regards/ Thanks
    Deepak Bathla

  • Do you know PowerPoint at all or do you want to learn something specific?

  • Zvonko

    Thanks for a great post!I would like to turn off all /the arrows and pen…/ in the bottom corner of a slide in PowerPoint 2007.
    Can you help?

  • Noy

    I am using ppt2010.
    What is keyboard shortcut for highlight pen?
    I know ctl+p = regular pen, ctl+a = arrow
    There is “H” showing next to the highlight pen but
    none of ctl+h or alt+h or shift+h work.
    please advise.


  • I don’t believe that there is a simple shortcut to switch to the highlight pen, but you can use the following:
    Shift+F10 to display the right-click menu, then press O (letter) to open the Pointer sub-menu, then press H to choose the Highlighter option. It isn’t as nice as a direct shortcut, though, because your audience will see the menus.

  • Anand

    I am using powerpoint presentation to record my screen through camtasia and my video through webcam. Is there a way by which I can configure the size of presentation mode and use pen feature.

    The benefit of this would be I will be shown in video adjacent and PPT adjacent to my video.

  • Yes, you can put Slide Show view in a resizable window. Go to Slide Show> Set Up Slide Show. In the dialog box, choose Browsed by an individual (window) and click OK. Then go into Slide Show view and you’ll be able to resize the window.
    Another option is Camtasia’s webcam/Picture-in-picture option which will put a small video of you on the slide, even if full-screen.

  • Jamie

    Hi Ellen. A topic came up in LinkedIn on the default pen weight and I thought I’d share a VBA macro to increase (or decrease) the pen ink weight during a slideshow as below:

    I also note your comment on a shortcut for the highlighter. I checked in PowerPoint 2013 by pressing F1 in slide show mode and clicking the Ink/Laser Pointer tab to discover that the highlighter can be activated by pressing Ctrl+I

  • Vahid

    Hi,I have a write part in the normal view of power point and all of the components from it (pen, eraser , lasso select and highlighter) except the select objects is deactivated. Anyone know how to activate them.

  • […] via Using the ink pens—and I learn something new about PowerPoint – PowerPoint Tips Blog. […]

  • Jon

    I just tried “Ink2Go,” and it appears to solve all of the problems of annotating not only on Powerpoint, but anything up on the screen : It also can record your presentation. It’s cheap, $20, and I’m using an Intuous tablet and Ink2Go to do all kinds of nifty things on my slides–draw, write, highlight, etc., all in presentation mode, and it will save it.

  • It sounds great. is a better link because it offers both Mac and PC versions. It’s interesting in that it works on all program. I haven’t tried it, though.

  • Ajay

    Is it possible to have the Pointer Options menu while choosing the Browsed by an Individual option instead of full screen slide show view? This would facilitate capturing a smaller window (running a Power Point slide show) through a screen-capturing video software. One could then keep the video software window and Power Point window side by side on the screen.

  • RT

    Does anyone know how to adjust pen thickness in the slideshow view in PP2013? The options are there in the normal view but not in the slideshow view.

  • Jackized

    I second that “Does anyone know how to adjust pen thickness in the slideshow view?” Power Point 2013

  • Dan

    I third that. “Does anyone know how to adjust pen thickness in the slideshow view?” Power Point 2013

  • Michiel

    I fourth that 🙂 “Does anyone know how to adjust pen thickness in the slideshow view?” Power Point 2013

  • vivek.venki

    I just couldn’t use the wacom Pen on the Powerpoint presentation. once i start powerpoint slideshow, i just select pen option and start writing,once i finished writinf this slide and just switch on to next slide its the “Pen” Option is getting changed to “Arrow” Option, so kindly help meon how clear this issue asap.

  • Rita

    I just bought Wacom tablet yesterday. The pen works fine on powerpoint. Not sure why yours does not work. You need to right click with your mouse to select the options first and then the Wacom pen works.

  • […] the laser pointer on the same menu is the pen tool to highlight areas of the screen or to make annotations on your […]

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