Try Using the Pen and Highlighter Ink Tools to Draw on Slides and Focus Attention during PowerPoint Shows

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated April 15, 2021

Applies to: Microsoft® PowerPoint® 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 and 365 (Windows)

You can access PowerPoint's ink annotation tools including a pen and a highlighter during a slide show to focus attention or write on slides. These tools have been around for a while and you can use them in previous versions of PowerPoint.

Using the ink annotation tools, you can create an interesting digital whiteboard or blackboard effect with the pen and/or highlighter. Simply press B for black screen or W for white screen during a show and then use the ink annotation tools.

These slide show tools can be used on the fly during a slide show. If you want to use similar effects every time you run a specific presentation, consider creating drawing objects and animating them or use the annotation tools in the Draw tab in the Ribbon in Normal View.

After you display the Pen or Highlighter during a show, if you want to return to the Arrow pointer, press Ctrl + A or press ESC.

Recommended article: How to Insert a Video in PowerPoint (from a File on Your PC or Shared Drive)

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Drawing on slides using the Pen during a slide show

You can use the Pen to draw on slides during a slide show. It's easily accessed through the context menu (below) during a slide show:

PowerPoint menu to access the pen tool during a slide show.

To use the Pen and draw on a slide during a slide show:

  1. Open an existing presentation.
  2. Click Slide Show on the bottom right to run the show (or press F5).
  3. In Slide Show Mode, right-click to display the context menu (or press Shift + F10).
  4. Click Pointer Options and then select Pen. The cursor changes to a small colored dot (the default color of the Pen tool is red).
  5. Drag to draw or write on the slide.
  6. Press ESC when you're finished using the Pen.

You can also press Ctrl + P to display the Pen when you're running a show without using the drop-down menu. Ctrl + P will also turn the Pen off.

Changing the color of the Pen

To change the color of the Pen:

  1. In Slide Show Mode, right-click to display the context menu (or press Shift + F10).
  2. Select Pointer Options from the drop-down menu.
  3. Select Ink Color from the sub-menu and then select a color. There are two types of colors – Theme Colors and Standard Colors. Theme colors may differ as they are affected by the Theme for the presentation but Standard Colors will always contain the same 10 colors for all presentations.
  4. Display the pen and draw as usual.

Drawing on slides using the Highlighter during a slide show

The Highlighter is different from the Pen. It creates lines that start out in yellow, are semi-transparent and are thicker than lines created with the Pen tool. You can access the Highlighter using the context menu (below) during a slide show.

PowerPoint menu to access the highlighter during a slide show.

To use the Highlighter and draw on a slide during a slide show:

  1. Open an existing presentation.
  2. Click Slide Show on the bottom right to run the show (or press F5).
  3. In Slide Show Mode, right-click to display the context menu (or press Shift + F10).
  4. Select Pointer Options and then Highlighter. The cursor changes to a yellow line (the default color of the Highlighter tool is yellow).
  5. Drag to draw or write on the slide.
  6. Press ESC when you're finished using the Highlighter.

You can also press Ctrl + I to display the Highlighter when you're running a show without using the drop-down menu. Ctrl + I will also turn the highlighter off.

Changing the color of the Highlighter

To change the color of the Highlighter:

  1. In Slide Show Mode, right-click to display the context menu (or press Shift + F10).
  2. Select Pointer Options from the drop-down menu.
  3. Select Ink Color from the sub-menu and then select a color. There are two types of colors – Theme Colors and Standard Colors. Theme colors may differ as they are affected by the Theme for the presentation but Standard Colors will always contain the same 10 colors for all presentations.
  4. Display the highlighter and draw as usual.

Erasing or hiding ink annotations in Slide Show view

When you are working with ink annotations with the Pen or Highlighter in Slide Show Mode, you can use the following shortcuts to erase or hide ink annotations:

  • Press E to remove all annotations on the slide.
  • Press Ctrl + E to change to the Eraser tool and then drag over annotations to erase them. Press Escape when you're finished using the Eraser.
  • Press Ctrl + M to show or hide all annotations.

You can also use the menus you used earlier to select the Eraser.

Keeping or discarding ink annotations

When you press the ESC to end a show, a message will appear asking if you want to keep your annotations:

Prompt to keep or discard ink annotations in PowerPoint.

It's a good idea to click the Keep rather than the Discard button since there's no way of recovering annotations if you choose Discard. If you keep annotations, PowerPoint refers to them as ink.

Deleting ink annotations in Normal View

If you decided keep ink annotations, they become objects on your slides.

To delete them in Normal View:

  1. Click the Review tab on the Ribbon.
  2. Click Delete in the Comments group and then select an option from the drop-down menu. If you choose Delete All Markup on the Current Slide, PowerPoint deletes all ink on the current slide. If you select Delete All Markup in This Presentation, PowerPoint deletes all ink on all the slides in your presentation.

Delete ink annotations in PowerPoint in Normal View.

Formatting ink annotations in Normal View

If you have chosen to keep annotations, you can format them in Normal View:

  1. Click an ink annotation.
  2. Click the Ink Tools Pens tab in the Ribbon.
  3. Click Select Objects.
  4. Select the ink object(s) you want to format.
  5. Choose the desired options from Ink Tools Pen tab in the Ribbon.

Ink annotations are easy to use in presentations but you may have issues if the slides have animations on them.

This article was first published on April 16, 2016 and has been updated for clarity and content.

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More resources

How to Compress Images in PowerPoint (10 Ways)

Where to Find Free Images for Your PowerPoint Presentations

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