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How a smart use of color themes can save you hours on PowerPoint

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Most people don't know how color themes work in PowerPoint. And that they are actually a very powerful thing that can save you hours if you know how to use them.


What is a presentation's color theme?

Color themes (or schemes) work like a central set of colors.

A color theme contains 12 different colors:

  • 2 text colors (light and dark)

  • 2 background colors (light and dark)

  • 6 accent colors

  • 2 colors for hyperlinks and followed hyperlinks

The 2 colors for hyperlinks are not visible from the normal view in PowerPoint, because they are applied automatically when hyperlinks are created and clicked.

For each other color of the theme, a number of variations are then automatically created by Microsoft PowerPoint.

Look at the Power-user color theme below:

  • The orange currently selected is part of the color theme. So are all 10 colors highlighted in the first row.

  • Below, you can see 5 variations for each color of the theme. These variations are either darker or lighter, and are automatically created by Microsoft.

What are theme colors (or scheme colors) in Microsoft PowerPoint
The theme colors are shown at the top

How do I change the color theme in PowerPoint?

To change the presentation's color theme you sould go to the Slide Master:

  • Click the "View" tab and then click "Slide Master".

  • Look for the "Colors" menu, and click the arrow to expand it.

  • At the very bottom of the list, click "Customize Colors..." as illustrated below.

How to change the color theme (or color scheme) in Microsoft PowerPoint
How to change the color theme in PowerPoint

  • A window will open where you can see each of the colors in your current color scheme. The color theme is made of colors for text and background, for accentuation and for hyperlinks.

  • Make the desired changes to each color, give your new theme a name at the bottom and save it.

  • The new theme will be applied and will become visib in the list of themes from future presentations as well, so you don't have to go through the same steps for each presentation.

How to change the color theme (or color scheme) in Microsoft PowerPoint
Change the colors in the theme and save it with a new name

How about changing the theme in Excel or Word?

The same logic applies not just to PowerPoint, but also to Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word. The only difference is that these applications don't have a Slide Master.

  • For Excel, the theme can be changed from the "Page Layout" tab

  • For Word, the theme can be changed from the "Design" tab

How to make a smart use of color themes?

✅Using the color theme for default colors of shapes and charts

The theme is used as the default set of colors.

  • When you insert a shape, by default it will be created with the "Accent1" color from the theme.

  • When you create a chart, the chart series will be created with the different colors of the theme, starting with "Accent1" to "Accent 6".

If your color theme has been properly set up, this means that:

  • There is no need to recolor every new shape you create, they already have the "Accent1" color which should be the one most frequently needed for your shapes.

  • There is no need to recolor charts manually, they should be created with the proper set of colors ("Accent1" to "Accent6"). This saves a lot of time!

👉Having the right color theme will make it significantly faster to create a presentation, and will ensure that your brand color is applied automatically (the marketing team very happy!)

✅Using the color theme to make reusing slides very easy

Colors that are part of the theme do not behave like standard colors. All objects that use a color from the theme are "linked" to the theme. If the theme changes, the colors of these objects will also adjust automatically.

Let's say you have 100 blue shapes in your presentation. If you need to change them to red, you don't want to select them and recolor them one by one!

If your 100 blue shapes are using the blue from your theme, then you just need to change the color in the theme from blue to red and all 100 shapes will be converted to red. Sounds much faster right?

PowerPoint color themes variations automatically convert slides to new set of colors
The same set of slides is automatically converted to different colors by just changing the theme

Now imagine a consultant designing presentations for a client. Some of the slides will be reused for different clients, who have different sets of colors for their brand.

As long as you made sure to color each shape and chart using colors from the theme (and not standard colors)n, there is nothing easier. Paste a slide in another presentation, and the slide colors will automatically adjust to the new theme, recoloring your entire presentation.

👉This good practice will save you hours not just on your current presentation, but also later when your slides will need to be used for a different theme or client.

What if the presentation was not created using the theme?

If your slides were not designed with theme colors but with standard colors, unfortunately everything will have to be done manually.

But if you have installed the Power-user add-in, you can use the Replace Colors feature to recolor in bulk all your shapes, texts, charts etc. with the set of colors of your choice.


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