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

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 10 different colors. For each of these colors, a number of variations are then automatically created by Microsoft PowerPoint. Look at the color theme below for instance. The blue currently selected is part of the color theme. Below it, you can see 5 variations of blue that are either darker or lighter which were automatically created by Microsoft.

That's great, but how do I change the color theme?

Changing the color theme is quite easy. It is done from the slide Master, in the View tab. There is a Colors menu, and at the very bottom, you can choose "Customize Colors..." (see below).

When you click Customize Colors, this opens a window where you can see each of the colors in your current color scheme. You can change each of them as you want to define a new color theme. The dark and light variations will be automatically changed as well for your new theme.

The color theme is made of colors for text and background, for accentuation and for hyperlinks. Once you have defined your theme, you can name and save it so you can reuse it later in other presentations.

How to make a smart use of color themes?

Colors in the color theme are not like other colors. The color theme is used as the reference for your entire presentation. This means that when you insert a shape, the default color will be from your color theme. When you create a chart with PowerPoint, the colors for each series in the chart will be based on the color theme of the presentation. Do you understand what it means? It means if your color theme matches your company colors for instance, you won't have to change the colors of the charts you create, they will be created directly in these colors. Having the right color theme will make it significantly faster to create a presentation, since you won't have to recolor every new shape to match your brand color.

Now let's say you have 100 blue shapes in your presentation. If you need to change them to red, you will have to change the color of shapes one by one, a 100 time (unless you are using the Replace Colors feature of the Power-user add-in). But if your 100 blue shapes are in a a "color theme" blue, you can change the color theme from blue to red, and all 100 shapes will turn from blue to red. Sounds much faster right?

If your presentation was built using colors from the theme, changing the theme will change the entire presentation

Now imagine you are designing a presentation for a client. Your client has a blue logo and you want your presentation to have a blue color, so that it show your client that your presentation was custom made for him. That's a nice effort. But what about the next client, who happens to have a red logo? Are you really going to change to red each of your dozens of slides? Well, you guessed the answer: no way! Just change the color theme and the entire presentation will adjust, like in the illustration above.

So remember: if you use colors for your shapes that are not from the color theme, that's not something you will be able to change centrally later on. So ask yourself if it should be a fixed color, or if it's possible you have to use the slide for another presentation or another client later on. If so, make sure you add it to your color theme.


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