How To Create a Long Shadow effect for PowerPoint Icons

Flat and Materialistic design (derived from Google’s Material Design guidelines) are becoming incredibly popular. Presenters, Marketers, Bloggers and Content writers are creating visually appealing content decorated with modern shapes based under this principles to engage their audience. One of the most popular techniques in PowerPoint for decorating presentations and content is the usage of Professional PowerPoint Flat Icons in order to enhance the visual message. Flat Icons visual impact can be improved with the usage of the Long Shadow effect. Long shadows are a flat design effect that generates the perception of light and shadow over solid surface. In this posts we will describe a step by step tutorial on How-To create long shadow effects for PowerPoint Icons.

Long shadow Tutorial for PowerPoint

PowerPoint Icons

In order for this tutorial to work, it is important that the shapes involved are created as PowerPoint Shapes. At SlideModel, all our PowerPoint Icons are created as PowerPoint Shapes, this means that all their properties are editable, even the shape outline itself. This professional design technique will not work for shapes created by images.

Selecting the Icons from the Gallery

At constantly growing PowerPoint Icons Gallery, subscribers can select from a wide range of icons. Every Icon is created as vectors, so users can manipulate them as native PowerPoint Shapes.

Professional Icons for PowerPoint


For this example, we have decided to use the PowerPoint Icons from the Template Creative Flat Shapes for PowerPoint. We selected the Target Icon, a very popular icon for business presentations.

Target Icon for PowerPoint


Step 1 – Open the Template and Copy / Paste Icon

Open the selected template that contains the PowerPoint Icon you will edit. Just copy the Icon to the Clipboard, create a new presentation (File>New) and in the first slide just paste the Icon. When pasting in a new presentation, remember to paste the icon with the option Keep Source Formatting. This option will import the color palette from the previous template.

Arrow and Target Shape for PowerPoint

Step 2 – Ungroup the PowerPoint Icon Shapes

Generally Clipart and PowerPoint Icons are created as a composite of PowerPoint shapes. For this tutorial to work, you will need to select the icon and ungroup its shapes. In order to ungroup, right click over the PowerPoint Icon, select the menu option Group>Ungroup.

Ungrouping Target Icon for PowerPoint

After the Ungroup is executed you will see all the elements of the shape selected.

PowerPoint Shapes of Target Icon

As a side comment, whenever you try to apply this technique, check that the icon you are using is a PowerPoint Icon. In order to check, just right click in the shape and selected the Edit Points option. If the option is grayed out, then the Icon is not a PowerPoint Icon, and the technique will not be applicable. When you apply the edit points menu option, the anchor points of the shape outline will appear in the screen:

Target Icon Edit Points Menu Option

Creating The Long Shadow

The technique to be applied in this tutorial to create the long shadow effect, consists of generating a dark PowerPoint Shapes, based on the PowerPoint Icon Outline, duplicating the shape with a 45 degrees angle and 2px spacing and merging this shapes to generate the long shadow.

Step 1 – Duplicate the PowerPoint Icon

The first step consists of selecting all the shapes that are part of the Target PowerPoint Icon and duplicate it over the same slide. The user can just copy and paste the selected shapes.

Target Icon for PowerPoint Duplicated

Step 2 – Combining PowerPoint Shapes

In order to create a perfect match shape outline from the PowerPoint Icon, this technique uses an advanced feature of PowerPoint, which is called Combining Shapes. In PowerPoint, when working with PowerPoint Shapes (or any shape created as PowerPoint vectors) the user can apply this features and combine shapes with the traditional set functions. In this tutorial the Union feature is applied, which combines the selected shapes into one shape. The Combine Shapes Menu is not under the traditional PowerPoint 2010/2013 ribbons, you should add the option through the Add Menu Option at the  Preferences screen. For the simplicity of this tutorial we already added the menu to our quick access toolbar. Select the shapes that are part of the Target PowerPoint Icons and apply the Combine Shapes>Union option from the menu.

Union of Shapes for PowerPoint

The final result is a perfect PowerPoint Shape with the Target Icon outline:

PowerPoint Target Icon Shadow Outline

Step 3 – Customize the Shadow Appearance

Depending on the background of the PowerPoint Slide where the icon is to be placed, or the lighting effect the user desires, it is necessary to customize the shadow background color and transparency. For this, the user can edit the new shape color and line properties directly from the traditional PowerPoint Shapes Menu. In this specific example, a grey background is selected.

PowerPoint Shape Color Fill Selection

Step 4 – Duplicate the Shadow Shape

In order to create the long shadow angular light effect, this technique duplicates the base PowerPoint Icons outline several times in the same angle and length. The duplicate functionality is built in in PowerPoint 2010 and PowerPoint 2013. The beauty of this feature (that can be replicated with the Copy and Paste features from the clipboard) is that when the user duplicates a PowerPoint Shape, following applies a simple transform, and immediately after duplicates the shape again, the last duplicated copy inherits all the transform applied to the first duplicate. The user can then continue duplicating copies with the same transform. Is this handy feature that this techniques takes advantage of.

So for this step to work, the user needs to follow the instructions:

  1. Select the Shadow Shape
  2. Duplicate the shape throughout the Edit>Duplicate Option, or using the shortcut on Ctrl+D (or Command+D in Mac).
  3. Select the duplicated shape and Locate dragging it with the mouse in a 45 degree position (2 pt right and 2 pt down in the slide)
  4. Duplicate the shape fifteen (15) times through the Edit>Duplicate Option, or using the shortcut on Ctrl+D (or Command+D in Mac).

PowerPoint Target Icon Shadow Duplicate

Step 5 – Combine Shadow Shapes to Create Long Shadow

As the reader may have deduced at this point, the next step consists on selecting the set of duplicated shadows and combine them with the Union Shapes operator. With this action, the visual effect is the one desired of the shadow lighting effect (from let to right) in 45 degrees.

PowerPoint Target Icon Longshadow Union

Step 6 – Locate the Long Shadow Behind the Original Icon

This step consists of locating the new long shadow shape behind the existing icon. As the shape was created from the original outline, the match is pixel perfect.

PowerPoint Icon Longshadow Effect

Step 7 – Customize the Long shadow transparency

For the Icon and the long shadow to smoothly integrate, SlideModel recommends to set a certain level of transparency in the shadow and to place it behind the Icon layer. In this way the lighting effect is sensed as more natural over the solid Icon shape.

PowerPoint Icon Upate Transparency

Step 8 – Group All Shapes and the Long shadow

The last step consists of grouping all the composite shapes into the final Material Long Shadow Design Arrow and Target PowerPoint Icon.

PowerPoint Icon Shapes Grouping

Step 9 – Decorate the Icon with a Flat Pastel Color Background

In order to give the flat icon a powerful visual impact, decorate its background with an opposite pastel color (you can check the chromatic wheel to find opposing colors).

Flat Design Target Icon for PowerPioint

Step 10 – Resize and Reuse in your PowerPoint Presentations

Finally, you can group the background and icon and reuse it in your PowerPoint presentations. As the PowerPoint Icons and the added shapes are vectorial, changing the size will not affect the visual quality and resolution.

Create a PowerPoint Icon Longshadow


In this tutorial it was described a simple 10 steps process to create professional PowerPoint Long shadow effects for PowerPoint Icons. It was described how to customize the icons appearance, how to create the long shadow and effect and how to work with built in PowerPoint features as the Combine Shapes and Duplicate features.

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