When we’re designing e-learning courses, we’re always looking for ways to make them look fun and visually appealing. To do this, we typically rely on graphics and images.

Every e-learning designer has spent hours poring over image sites, searching for that perfect graphic or the ultimate icon set. What many Articulate Storyline users don’t realize is that they already have the right tool to create a huge number of graphics and icons: Storyline shapes!

Here’s a few examples of graphics (which are available for download) created directly in Storyline, simply using shapes:

View Download 1 | View Download 2

You can even create entire icon sets with symbols using Storyline shapes. Here’s a colorful example I created and shared in the Downloads section of the E-Learning Heroes Community:


View Download

You can even make backgrounds for the illustrated characters that come with Storyline. Here’s an example where the background (bulletin board and doors) were created using Storyline shapes.


Get Download

Wondering how to create such cool-looking graphics using just shapes in Storyline? Let me illustrate my four-step graphic creation process with an example:

Let’s say I’m building a sun safety course and need a graphic of a sunhat. Of course I can hit the stock photo sites and dish out some cash for a pre-made graphic, or spend tons of time perusing the web in hopes of finding that perfect free illustration. Or I could just create my own custom sunhat graphic in just a few clicks.

Step 1: Search for an Inspiration Image

My first step when I need to create a custom graphic is always to do an image search on the web to find a graphic that I can use as my inspiration or starting point.

In this case, I’m looking for images of sunhats to inspire me, to use as a guide when I create my graphic. To do this, I search the keywords “sunhat” and “graphic.” My results might look like this:

Now I’m getting some good ideas for how to design my sunhat graphic. Let’s be clear: we don’t want to steal the graphics we find when we do this web search, we just want to use them as a rough guideline to creating our own custom graphic design.

Step 2: Insert and Place Shapes

Now that we’ve got some inspiration for our hat graphic, we can insert the appropriate shapes on our slide. I’m going to use an elongated oval for the brim, a pie shape for the crown, and an upside-down block arc as the ribbon. I’m also going to play around with the colors of my shape; beige for the hat itself, dark blue for the ribbon around the brim.

When I lay out my shapes individually on my slide they look like this:

The magic really happens when I bring the shapes together:

All I had to do is place the objects on top of each other, and resize the shapes to be the right size using the corner anchors on the shape objects. In a few clicks I’ve gone from a slide with three individual shapes to one nice custom graphic of a sunhat.

Step 3: Group Items

Once all of the items are placed where they belong, it’s a good idea to group them. To do this, select all the items at the same time, right-click, and select “Group” from the menu. This will make the objects appear as one item on the timeline. You can rename the group on the timeline to a descriptive title. You’ll also notice a little arrow to the left of the group on the timeline, which you can click on to expand the group and look more closely at the objects within it:

Grouping the objects is a good idea for a few other reasons as well: for one, it will make it easier to move or rotate your graphic around on your slide, if need be.

Step 4: Save Item as Image (Optional)

The final step, which is optional, is to save the graphic as an image file. To do this, right-click on a corner anchor from the group and select “Save as Picture” from the menu. You can then save the graphic to a variety of formats, including .JPG and .PNG. Some people prefer to work with an image file versus a group of shapes. This also gives you the ability to reuse the graphics outside of your project in other applications.

Well, that’s all there is to creating custom graphics with Storyline 2—as easy as 1-2-3, and maybe 4. Have you ever had to use Storyline to create custom graphics or icon sets? If so, how did it turn out? Do you have any tips or tricks to share from your experiences? If so, please leave a comment below!

Want to try something you learned here, but don't have Articulate software? Download a free trial, and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.