It’s 4 PM, and out of the blue, you need to build a presentation. Fast. On the upside, PowerPoint’s standard themes will make it easy. On the downside—standard themes will make it look PowerPointy. And you may need to harmonize the presentation with other materials (say, for a particular campaign), but there’s no time to create something from scratch.
Fortunately, it’s easy to make quick changes that will freshen up a theme. And with the right approach, you can even give do a complete makeover in record time. Just start with this basic concept:
In PowerPoint 2007, design features are divided into several parts. If you put all of these parts together, you have a template. The template will manage elements that should appear on every slide, keeping the look consistent throughout the presentation and making it easier to do global changes. Your view of the template is called the slide master.
Every standard template is based on a theme, and the theme is made up of several parts:
To get a fresh look fast, you just have to tweak the theme. So start by going to the Design tab and picking a theme that is close to what you want, or at least has some aspects that will work. Let’s use the “Equity” theme to create an example:
Now we’ll change the Background Style for a dramatically different look:
Next, a new set of Colors:
Both these changes are easy to make. Just choose the Design tab from the Ribbon, then click on Colors (to see all the different palettes available) or Background Styles (to see a selection of solids and gradients that go with the theme):
As you mouse over the choices, each selection will preview on the slide, so it’s easy to find the right look fast. And when you change the Background Style, the text color will change automatically (i.e., from dark on light to light on dark, or vice versa) where necessary for contrast.
Third step in the makeover is a change of Fonts. Just click the text boxes and apply the new fonts:
Quite a difference! We’ve gone from the formal, business-like appearance of the original Equity theme, to a casual “blackboard” look–in just three easy steps.
But here’s where it gets a bit more complicated. The first two steps (Background Style and Colors) can be applied to all slides at once if you choose. But they do not change the template. They only change the slides.
Font changes, on the other hand, apply to selected text. So a new font can be applied to all slides at once only by changing the template. Otherwise, you have to change each slide individually. Any changes to graphic elements that belong to the theme must also be done on the template.
It’s a good idea to make your design decisions on a slide instead of on the template, so you can try out different kinds of content, easily move things around on the page, etc. You need to get an idea of how the slide design will work with real content.
Once you have the right design, transfer the new look to the template: Go to the View tab and choose Slide Master. Apply the changes you’ve decided on, using the steps shown above. Close the Slide Master view and you’re done. Existing slides will update to the new design, and new slides created from now on will follow the revised template.
Important note: In Slide Master view, the outline pane will have one “master master” at the top, with masters beneath it for different slide layouts. Be sure to apply your changes on the top slide master. All masters beneath will inherit the changes.
In Slide Master view, you can also work with the graphic elements that are part of the theme design—for example, you can change a circle to a square, make a rule fatter or thinner, etc. You can even remove or replace graphic elements, and add a logo, photo or other image that you want on every slide.
There are some additional considerations about managing background graphics, but I’ll leave that for another post. In the meantime, these basic strategies should give you more power over PowerPoint!