How to Draw and Manipulate Arrows in Microsoft PowerPoint

Whether you need to point to an image or chart for emphasis, show movement, or demonstrate a process flow, PowerPoint offers a wide range of arrow shapes. Here’s how to use them.

Drawing a Basic Arrow Shape

First, let’s review the steps on how to draw a basic arrow. On the Insert tab, click the Shapes button. In Lines group on the drop-down menu, click the Line Arrow option.

A crosshair symbol will display. Press and hold your mouse button, then drag to draw the arrow. Release the mouse button to finish drawing the arrow.

Here’s the result:

Resizing, Rotating, and Changing the Color of Arrows

Need to customize your plain looking arrow? No problem. If you don’t change a thing, your arrow will default to the normal settings, which is black for the color and 3/4 pt for the width. But maybe you need a thick, short, dark red arrow, or a long, thin green arrow. You can make changes it in a snap.

Resizing an Arrow

You can change the length of your arrow by clicking and dragging the handle on either end of the arrow. If you don’t want the arrow to rotate while you resize it, hold the Shift key down while clicking and dragging.

Changing the Color of an Arrow

To change an arrow’s color, first, click to select the arrow. On the Format tab, click the Shape Outline button and then click the color of your choice.

Changing the Thickness of an Arrow

To change the thickness of the arrow, click the same Shape Outline button, point to the Weight menu, and then click on the thickness you want.

Rotating an Arrow

You can rotate an arrow by clicking and dragging the handle on either end of an arrow. That’s the most useful option if you need to have the arrow point at a specific object in your presentation.

There are some more rotation options available, though. Select the arrow and then switch over to the Format tab. Click the Rotate button and choose a rotation option. Hovering over each option lets you preview how your arrow will look.

For even more rotation options, click the More Rotation Options command. In the Size options in the Format Shape pane, you can specify an exact rotation in degrees.

Using Block, Curved, and Connector Arrows

You don’t have to settle for just a straight arrow. There are many more arrow types available including block arrows, curved arrows, and connector arrows. Let’s take a look.

How to Create a Block Arrow

On the Insert tab, click the Shapes button. In the Block Arrows section of the drop-down menu, click the arrow style you want. In this example, we’re using an upward block arrow.

Your pointer turns into a crosshair symbol. Click and drag to draw the arrow to the size you want and release the mouse button to finish.

You can use the same formatting tools we talked about in the previous section to change the color, outline, and so on. Also, you can grab any of the eight white handles to resize the overall arrow. Grab the yellow handles to reshape the arrow’s head and shaft separately.

How to Create a Curved Arrow

On the Insert tab, click the Shapes button. In the Lines section of the drop-down menu, click one of the curved arrow shapes. You’ll find one with a single arrowhead, one with two heads, and a simple curved line with no arrowheads.

Your pointer turns into a crosshair symbol. Click and drag to draw the arrow. Release the mouse button to finish.

After drawing the curved arrow, you can change the curve by dragging the yellow handle in the center of the arrow. Here, we’ve dragged it out to the right to make a more sweeping curve.

For even more curved arrow options, check the curved arrows in the Block Arrows section.

And remember, just like with any other shape, you can use the standard formatting tools to change the color, outline, and so on.

How to Create a Straight Connector Arrow

Finally, there’s the connector arrow. These are great for connecting the kinds of shapes you’d use in flowcharts or organizational diagrams.

On the Insert tab, click the Shapes button. In the Lines section of the drop-down menu, choose one of the connector arrows. As with curved arrows, the difference is how many arrowheads you want.

Your pointer turns into a crosshair symbol. Click and drag to draw the arrow. Release the mouse button to finish.

After drawing the connector arrow, you can grab the yellow handle to change the shape of the arrow. Use the white handles at either end to change the length of that portion of the arrow.

How to Snap Arrows and Shapes Together

If you add arrows to existing shapes, keeping them together may be helpful when you need to move them, manipulate them, or align them on a slide. To keep arrows and shapes connected, you can snap them together. This also helps make arrows connecting shapes on something like a flowchart look more seamless. Let’s see how it’s done.

Let’s say we have two rectangle shapes and we want a connector arrow running between them.

On the Insert menu, click the Shapes button and then choose a connector arrow from the drop-down menu. We’re going with a simple, single-headed elbow arrow.

Hover your pointer over the shape you want the arrow coming from, and you’ll see the four handles on the edges of the shape turn gray.

Click and hold one of those gray handles and drag to start creating the arrow. Move your pointer over the shape to which you want to connect the other end of the arrow, and you’ll see the gray handles appear there, too. Position your pointer over one to snap the arrow to it and then release your mouse button.

You’ve now connected two shapes with an arrow.

The real beauty of having connected shapes is that if you decide to move a shape, the arrow stays connected. There’s no need to reposition the arrow afterward.

And, of course, you can use any of the formatting or repositioning tricks we’ve talked about in the rest of this article on your connected arrow,  all without breaking the connection.