How to Create a Slide Master (or Two) in PowerPoint

By Ellen Finkelstein

I’ve discovered that many presenters don’t know how to use PowerPoint’s slide master. As a result, they create all sorts of workarounds like putting full-slide images on every slide (which makes for a HUGE file). This especially becomes difficult when they want more than one background. Let’s go through the process of creating a presentation with two backgrounds.

Before I start, I want to refer you to another tip of mine, “Create a better PowerPoint template.” That’s because I’ll use that template (actually a PowerPoint 2007/2010 theme) as the starting point. But you can start with the default template or theme if you want.

1. If you’ve saved a “better” theme or template, apply it. In PowerPoint 2003,  click Design on the Formatting toolbar to open the Slide Design task pane. You may need to click Design Templates. Then choose your template.

In PowerPoint 2007/2010, you would probably save a theme. To apply it, click the Design tab and select it from the Themes gallery.

2. Choose a color scheme or theme colors. “Try design variations” explains how.

3. Press Shift and click the Normal View icon at the lower-left (2003) or lower-right (2007/2010) corner of the screen to go into Slide Master view.

4. In 2003, start by formatting the Title Master if you want it to be different from the Slide Master. Then move on to the Slide Master. If you’re using 2007 or 2010, click the larger layout thumbnail – it looks like the Title & Content layout if you want your changes to apply to all layouts. Otherwise, apply changes to the layouts individually.

5. Make the changes you want to the background. You can right-click and choose Format Background or insert content on the Slide Master.

6. To create a second slide master in PowerPoint 2003, choose Insert>New Slide Master. If you don’t get a Title Master, with the new Slide Master selected in the left pane, choose Insert>New Title Master.

To create a second slide master in PowerPoint 2007/2010, from the Slide Master tab (which appears only when you are in Slide Master view), in the Edit Master group, choose Insert Slide Master. You’ll see a new, full set of layouts in the left pane.

7. I like to get rid of clutter, so I recommend deleting layouts that you won’t use in PowerPoint 2007/2010. Right-click a layout and choose Delete Layout. You can choose a new color scheme/theme colors for the second Slide Master if you want.

8. Repeat the process of designing your template or theme for the second Slide Master.

If you like the result, you might want to save it for future use with these steps:

Return to Normal view by clicking the Normal View icon.

–In PowerPoint 2003, choose File> Save As. From the Save as Type drop-down list, choose Design Template (*.pot). Usually, this puts you in the “official” Templates folder automatically. Then name the template and click Save.

–In PowerPoint 2007 & 2010, click the Design tab and expand the Themes Gallery. At the bottom, click Save Current Theme. Again, you should be in the “official” Document Themes folder. Name the theme and click Save.

See Step 1 for instructions on using your new template or theme for future presentations. To access both Slide Masters:

–In PowerPoint 2003, open the Slide Design task pane, where you can choose either of the Slide Masters for any slide. Select the slide, click the down arrow next to the Slide Master that you want, and choose Apply to Selected Slides.

–In PowerPoint 2007 & 2010, you’ll see both Slide Masters in the Design Gallery, so you can easily choose which one you want for any individual slide. Select the slide, right-click the theme in the Design Gallery, and choose Apply to Selected Slides.

About the Author:

Ellen Finkelstein is a noted presentations skill consultant and author of How to Do Everything with PowerPoint 2007 (and 2003), 101 Tips Every PowerPoint User Should Know, 101 Advanced Techniques Every PowerPoint User Should Know and PowerPoint for Teachers: Dynamic Presentations and Interactive Classroom Projects.  Her web site,, offers the free PowerPoint Tips Newsletter, a PowerPoint Tips Blog and many ideas that help PowerPoint users create more effective presentations.

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