How to Insert Linked Drawings into an Origin Graph

While Origin offers some basic drawing tools, many users still prefer to create drawings using other software, then insert their drawings into their graphs and layouts in the Origin environment.

This blog post will look at two options for inserting drawings created in other software, into your Origin graphs and layouts.  The post will also show you how to link the inserted drawing so that edits made in the other software will be passed to Origin. We will be using Microsoft PowerPoint© as our “drawing software” since most are familiar with it and it is widely available. 

Inserting a linked PNG image to Origin

Most users will find the first method to be the easiest to work with as it does not depend on Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) to maintain a “live” link. The basics go like this:

  1. Create your drawing using PowerPoint (or your preferred drawing/diagramming software) and save the drawing to a PNG file. The PNG format, while not perfect, supports transparency and can be opened in Origin’s Image Window (more on why that is desirable in a moment).

  2. Create your Origin graph, allowing for whatever white-space you need to insert your drawing.

  3. With the graph or layout window active, use the main menu to Insert: Image from File…. When you do this, you’ll see a reminder message that suggests that “to reduce project file size, double-click the image to open image window, then right-click and choose Linked File.” This message is to inform you that by saving a link to an external image — as opposed to saving the image inside the Origin project itself — you will reduce project file size. In our user-story, there is an added benefit to linking: It allows us to create a live link to our saved PNG image. If and when changes are saved to the named image file, those changes are then passed to the Origin project.
  4. After inserting the image in Origin, drag it to the desired location, then double-click on it to open it in an Image Window.
  5. If you want to trim unneeded white-space from the inserted image, right-click on the Image Window image and choose Add ROI. Using the selection handles, reposition and resize the ROI to fit only the area that you want to keep, then right-click and choose Clip.

  6. Once again, right-click inside the Image Window and choose Link File. This creates a link to the image file but the image itself, will not be saved in the Origin project (when you open the project file, the image is fetched to the project).

  7. Click the Close button on the Image Window to re-insert the clipped image to your Origin graph or layout.
  8. You can now resize the inserted image, as needed, and do final positioning of the image object.

    Note that resizing a very small inserted image will degrade the image. Earlier, it was mentioned that the PNG format was less than ideal and this is where you may have to make adjustments. Raster images simply don’t scale well so be sure, when making your drawing in your external application, that you make the drawing as close to the final size as possible. We hope to see infinitely-scalable SVG (vector) image support for Origin’s Image Window in an upcoming version, but for the time being, PNG remains the best option.

  9. As mentioned, the reason for linking your inserted image to an external file was to allow updates to the externally-saved image file to update the image inserted to your Origin project. To see this work, return to the source application for your drawing and make whatever adjustments are necessary. When finished, resave the PNG file. Since it is linked, any changes to that file will be passed to the Origin project (hint: if you don’t immediately see the change in Origin, click the Refresh button on the Standard toolbar).

Inserting an OLE Object to Origin

This is another option for creating a “live” link between your Origin project and an externally-created drawing. It is a bit more cumbersome to work with and doesn’t offer the editing capabilities of Origin’s Image Window. However, if your external drawing isn’t in need of editing, trimming, etc. and it is created in a program such as Microsoft PowerPoint, which supports OLE, you should find it to be a workable solution.

  1. Create your drawing using PowerPoint (or other OLE-supporting software) and save the drawing to the program’s native file format (e.g. PPTX).
  2. Create your Origin graph, allowing for whatever white-space you need to insert your drawing.
  3. In Origin, right-click in the white-space and choose Insert OLE Object: OLE Object.

  4. In the Insert Object dialog, click the Create from File radio button (you could actually initiate your PowerPoint drawing session by choosing Create New but we will leave that exercise to the more adventurous) , Browse to your saved PowerPoint file, check the Link box, then click OK.

  5. Once you’ve inserted the drawing as an OLE object, you’ll edit the the drawing in your Origin session by right-clicking on the object and choosing Properties, then click the Link tab and choose Open Source. This launches the object’s native application (e.g. PowerPoint) where you can make further edits, as needed.

Note that trimming extra white space in Origin isn’t possible with the OLE option, so you’ll have to take care of that in PowerPoint (or other OLE-compliant application). However, you do have the advantage of not having to export a separate image file from the drawing application.

As was the case with the linked PNG file, this inserted image is linked to a saved file (to a PowerPoint file via the Link check box that you selected in the Insert Object dialog). Thus any changes to the saved PowerPoint file are passed to the Origin project.


We’ve outlined two methods for inserting an externally-created drawing into your Origin project and creating a live link between Origin and the drawing. This is very helpful when — as we all tend to do — you think of that “one more thing” that the drawing needs to make it perfect. We encourage you to give these methods a try and let us know what you think.

As always, if you are not an Origin user, we encourage you to download the software and take advantage of our 21-day free trial. Find out why over 500,000 registered users across corporations, universities and government research labs worldwide, rely on Origin to import, graph, explore, analyze and interpret their data.


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