applied tips : april 2008

microsoft powerpoint : color schemes made easy

Enhance your presentations with color schemes.

A color scheme is like PowerPoint’s very own interior designer. A color scheme is a set of eight coordinated colors you can use as the main colors in your presentation. A color scheme determines the background, text, line, shadow, and fill colors on your slides. Instead of having to choose from more than 16 million colors, you can use a coordinated color scheme, carefully put together by design professionals.

However, if you think you have better taste in color than these so-called “design professionals”, you can always change one or more of the colors used in a color scheme, or you can even create your own custom color schemes altogether. PowerPoint stores color schemes in the template the presentation is based on, including several alternate color schemes that have been customized to work with the template’s design.

Let’s get started

Click the Design button on the Formatting toolbar and click the Color Schemes icon in the task pane. The slide design task pane will appear (as shown on next page). The task pane can only display a few colors at a time, so you will probably have to scroll down until you find the color scheme that you want to apply. In the task pane, click the color scheme that strikes your fancy. PowerPoint then applies the color scheme to all the slides in your presentation.

Editing the color scheme

So what happens if you’re happy with most of the colors in a color scheme, but that pea green color brings back painful memories of split pea and squash baby food?  No need to forget personal tastes; this is your presentation, after all.

You can easily change one or more of the colors in a color scheme by replacing them with your own.

Click Edit Color Schemes, located at the bottom of the task pane. The Edit Color Scheme dialog box will appear (as shown on next page).

Click the Custom tab and you will see a list of all the colors in a color scheme and what part of the slide each color applies to. To change a color, first select the unwanted color from the Scheme colors list and then click the Change Color button. The Color dialog box will appear, and all you have to do here is select a new color and click OK. The unwanted color is then changed to the new color you just selected.

Once you are back in the Edit Color Scheme dialog box and are satisfied with your color scheme, click Apply to close the dialog box and return to Normal View. All the slides in your presentation are now updated with the color scheme changes you just made. 

Just to make sure, select any of the text on a slide and then click the Font Color List arrow on the Drawing toolbar. The eight colors displayed in the Font Color list are the coordinating colors used in the current color scheme. Changing color schemes is like a painter changing palettes—you have eight different colors to work with each time.

Click anywhere outside the Font Color list to close the list without selecting any colors.

Color scheme options

You might have noticed a tiny downward-pointing arrow to the right of each color scheme in the task pane. This is actually a pretty important feature, so let’s figure out what it does.

Move the mouse pointer over the color scheme of your choice and click the down-arrow. A list of options appears:

By default, whenever you click a color scheme, PowerPoint applies the selected scheme to all slides in the presentation.   If you only want to apply a certain color scheme to a single slide, select the Apply to Selected Slides option from the drop-down menu. 

And that’s about all there is to applying and editing color schemes! Play around with different colors and find what works for you and your presentation. Make sure not to go color crazy…there’s nothing worse than a color-crazy presentation or one that's hard to read.

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