How to Create Color Themes for PowerPoint Presentations

When creating PowerPoint decks you need to know how color themes work in PowerPoint, how many and what colors you need for your custom color theme, as well as how to quickly add more colors. A great PowerPoint color theme that is properly saved can be reused across your slide decks – and even in your Word and Excel files.

The structure of a PowerPoint color theme.

A PowerPoint color theme consists of 10 colors; four text and background colors and six accent colors. The colors should be used as intended – don’t define accent colors as the first four text/background colors and make sure you have six distinctive colors as your access colors.

The PowerPoint Color Scheme
coloe snip 2

The order of the ten colors is important. The order of the text and background colors defines what color will be used as the default text color and default background. Light 1 and Light 2 should always be light colors and Dark 1 and Dark 2 should always be dark colors. The text and background colors also define the automatic background styles available in PowerPoint. Good practice is to keep white and black among the first four text and background colors. You will most likely need to use white or black at one point when creating your PowerPoint, so keeping them handy is a smart move. If another color than black is defined as a default color (maybe you are using a dark gray or a significant brand color as your text color (Dark 1)), make black the Dark 2 color to keep it accessible.

The order in which you add accent colors to the color template is equally important. The order they are added is the order in which PowerPoint will automatically use them in charts and smart arts. Most organizations set their main brand color as the Accent 1 color. However, when you use SmartArt, for some reason the Accent 1 color is not used. So if you do a lot of SmartArt and want the main brand color to be used, avoid setting it to Accent 1. Custom shapes and lines are automatically using the Accent 1 color. You can, however, change this if you don’t want to overuse your Accent 1 color.


Creating colors for PowerPoint – the order of the PowerPoint theme colors

If you need more than six accent colors, you can add custom colors to your color theme by adding them to the XML code or using an add-in (this book is a great resource on how to add custom colors to PowerPoint).

PowerPoint automatically generates tints and shades in the 10 colors. You cannot control how the tints or shades are defined, but you can adjust them by using the HSL color settings to alter the RGB code (this is a link to a great article on how to do this). Sometimes the automatically generated tints (color + white) can be too “neonish”.


Creating colors in PowerPoint – the automatically generated shades and tints

How to add colors to PowerPoint?

So knowing the basics of a PowerPoint color theme, how do you add your own colors to PowerPoint to be used in your next deck? Here are three ways of adding colors:

  1. Use the standard color palette
    • PowerPoint’s built-in standard color palette gives you 127 colors, plus white, black, and shades of gray to choose from (to read more about combining colors, read this article).
  2. Use the RGB color model
    • PowerPoint uses the RGB model to define colors (as PowerPoint was designed to be shown on a screen). Each RGB color has three values, each ranging from 0-255, where BLACK is 0-0-0 and WHITE is 255-255-255. By adding RGB numbers into PowerPoint, you can add your own colors.
  3. Use the HSL color model
    • You can also create colors in PowerPoint using the HSL model. The HSL model is available under the custom dialog box. Using the HSL model you can create colors by defining the hue, saturation and luminosity of a color.


Click here to read more about the color models.

How to add and save a custom PowerPoint color theme?

Once you have your colors, you need to define them as theme colors. You need your four text and background colors and six accent colors. You also need to define the colors for hyperlinks and visited hyperlinks.


How to add and save a custom                                            PowerPoint color theme

This is the procedure to add your colors to your color theme in PowerPoint (using PowerPoint 2013 or 2016 for PC as demo):

  1. Open the Customize Colors dialogue box clicking on the “Design Tab”, “Variants menu”, “Colors drop-down arrow” and then go all the way down to “Customize Colors… “
  2. Define each color in the color theme by using the drop down boxes for each of the ten + hyperlink colors (using one of the three methods for adding colors described previously).
  3. Name your new color theme and save.

Your color theme is now saved as a custom color theme (an .xml file) locally on your computer. It will be available in the colors menu as a custom color theme throughout Office (PowerPoint, Word and Excel) and you can apply this color theme whenever your want. The colors will “travel” with your file, so anyone opening it will see the colors you defined. If you save your PowerPoint as a theme/template, the color theme will be saved with the theme/template as well.

Need more accent colors quickly?

You can add custom colors to a color theme – but if you quickly want to use more accent colors, here are four quick ways to use your six accent colors in multiple ways.

1. Use automatically generated tints & shades

Use the already defined tints and shades of your accent colors. PowerPoint will give you five tints and hues for each color.



2 Use the custom RGB color settings

Use the RGB color settings to quickly generate your own tints and shades by adding white or black to a hue. Click on Custom colors in the Colors dialog box and Drag the tint/shade arrow up for a tint and down for a shade.


3 Use the HSL color model

Use the HSL color settings to create more colors by adjusting the hue, saturation and luminosity. Click on Custom colors in the Colors dialog box and choose the HSL color model. Move the cross hair horizontally to create a new hue, vertically to create a new color by adjusting saturation. Move the vertical bar up (add white) or down (add black) to add or decrease luminosity to a color.


4 Use the transparency bar

Use the transparency function to add a transparent white or black object on top of a hue.


What if I want an even faster way to create a color theme?

If you don’t have time to create a color theme, PowerPoint has a number of built-in color themes. You apply these color themes via the Design Tab, Variants menu, and the Colors Drop-down.

Click here to get an overview of all built-in color themes in PowerPoint 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2016.

Example of PowerPoint color themes


What if my favorite colors or brand colors are HEX or CMYK?

PowerPoint can only handle RGB codes (and HSL codes, but those are not as widely used when it comes to defining hues). If your brand book defines colors as CMYK or if your web guidelines use HEX, you need to convert them to RGB. There are multiple services online that can help you with this – just Google.

Click here to read more about the relationship between HEX, CMYK, RGB and HSL.

A quick summary of how to create your own color theme for PowerPoint:

1. Define 6 accent colors in RGB
2. Define 2 light + 2 dark colors for text & background in RGB
3. Define hyperlink colors in RGB
4. Add color theme to PowerPoint using Design Tab
5. Name and apply color theme
6. Use shades and tints to create more colors

jr_300JOHANNA REHNVALL is the Founder and CEO of Presentitude™ and was born curious. She is passionate about visual communication and has helped organizations structure their information into strategic presentations for almost 18 years. She was most recently one of the original Partners of the communication agency Prime International, the most awarded independent communication agency in the world. She is also the founder of the communication and insight agency VisionJar™.

How to Insert Audio Clips in PowerPoint 2010

When you insert an audio clip into a PowerPoint slide, you can control its volume, set it to play looped, or even hide the audio icon. These are some of the advanced options available for any inserted audio clip in PowerPoint. Remember that these advanced options only exist so that you can use them when they are required, rather than using them just because they exist!

Let me now explore these options:

  1. Open your presentation, and navigate to the required  slide where you have already inserted an audio clip. Select or double-click the audio clip to bring up the two contextual Audio Tools tabs in the Ribbon. These two tabs are Format and  Playback — click the Playback tab to activate it, as shown  highlighted in red within Figure 1.Fig 1 Geetesh March
    Figure 1: Audio Tools Playback tab of the Ribbon2. Within the Audio Tools Playback tab, locate the Audio Options group, as shown in Figure 2.

Fig 2ab Geetesh march

Figure 2: Advanced audio options within the Audio Tools Playback tab

Within this group you’ll find the advanced audio options. Let us explore them as marked in Figure 2 above:

A. Volume:  This button enables you to set the volume for your audio clip. Click the downward arrow within the Volume button to open the Volume drop-down gallery, as shown in Figure 3. Within the Volume drop-down gallery choose one of the following options: Low, Medium, High, and Mute.

Figure 3 Geetesh March

Figure 3: Volume drop-down gallery

Note that you are restricted to set the volume at only the Low, Medium and High levels within the Volume drop-down gallery. On the other hand, you can set the volume to whichever level you want by clicking on the Volume button on the Player Controls bar below the actual audio clip on the slide, as shown in the bottom right of Figure 4, below.

Figure 4 Geetesh march

Figure 4: Volume button in the Player Controls bar

B. Start: Here you can specify how you want your audio to start during your presentation. Click the Start list to bring up a drop-down list, as shown in Figure 5.

figure 5 Geetesh march

Figure 5: Start drop-down list

There are three options within the Start drop-down list:

1) Automatically: Play your audio when the slide (containing the audio) appears in Slide Show view, automatically.

2 ) On Click: Plays your audio by clicking on the audio itself in Slide Show view.

3) Play across slides: Plays your audio across the slide. You can learn more about this option in our Sound Across Slides in PowerPoint 2010  tutorial.

C. Loop until Stopped: Plays your audio repeatedly and continuously when the  active slide is shown.

D. Hide During Show: Select this check-box to hide your audio clip graphic in Slide Show view. This option makes sense       only if you set the Start option for the audio to be Automatically or Play across Slides. On the other hand, if you choose On  Click, you should never pair that with selecting the Hide During Show check-box — if you do so, you won’t be able to see anything you can click!

E. Rewind after Playing: Select this check-box to rewind your audio once it has played during your presentation. This can be useful if you need to play an audio clip more than once while you are still presenting the same slide which contains that audio clip.

3. Choose options based on your requirements. Make sure  you save your presentation.

About the Author:

Geetesh Bajaj has been designing and training with PowerPoint for 15 years and is a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional.) He heads Indezine (  a presentation design studio and content development organization based in Hyderabad, India. The site attracts more than a million page views each month and has thousands of free PowerPoint templates and other goodies for visitors to download. He also runs another PowerPoint-related site ( that provides designer PowerPoint templates.


How to Remove Backgrounds in PowerPoint 2010

By Geetesh Bajaj

Among PowerPoint 2010’s newest and most magical abilities is the Remove Background option that lets you remove the background from an inserted picture. This can be a great feature if you want to remove a sky, a wall, a backdrop or something else in a photograph so that the slide background shows through within the removed parts of the picture.

Follow these steps to learn how the Remove Background option works:

1. Before you start, we assume you already have a picture on your slide. It helps if the parts of the picture you want to remove are fairly different in color than the rest of the picture, although as you get more proficient with PowerPoint’s Remove Background option, you’ll be able to work with more complicated compositions.

Look at our sample picture, as shown in Figure 1 — you will notice that the color of the sky is  distinctly different than the rest of the picture.




Figure 1: Picture with a fairly distinct background and foreground areas

2. Select the picture to display the Picture Tools Format tab (highlighted in red in Figure 2) of the Ribbon. Activate this tab by clicking on it — locate the Adjust group which includes different options to remove the background from a selected picture. Now click the Remove Background button (highlighted in blue in Figure 2).

Figure 2: Remove Background button within Picture Tools Format tab of the Ribbon

Note:  The Picture Tools Format tab is a contextual tab. Contextual tabs are special tabs in the Ribbon that are not visible all the time — they only make an appearance when you are working with a particular slide object which can be edited using special options.

Once you click the Remove Background button, PowerPoint makes a guess and shows the areas that it ascertains you want to remove (see Figure 3). In addition, note these behaviors:

a. You will see a selection box, indicated by the eight handles shown in Figure 3. Four of the eight handles in the selection box are corner handles. The other four are side handles. You use these handles to resize the selection box.

b. You have the new Background Removal tab on the Ribbon, highlighted in green in Figure 3 — we will explain the options in this tab later within this tutorial.

c. The active slide within the Slides Pane will show a preview of the picture with the background areas removed, as shown highlighted in blue in Figure 3. Don’t worry — nothing is removed as yet — this is just a preview.

Figure 3: Background Removal tab on the Ribbon

Figure 4 shows a zoomed in part of the picture — you can see that a major portion of the picture has been covered with a pink overlay. This pink overlay indicates the background areas to be removed. Only those areas that still show the original colors of the picture will be retained. Unfortunately, in this example you see that the man loses his head and both his palms as a part of the background removal.

Figure 4:
Pink overlaid areas indicate the background selected for removal

At this stage, you have two options. The simpler option is to drag the handles of the selection box to help PowerPoint decide the areas of the picture you want to remove or retain:

d. You remove more areas by resizing the selection box smaller. Click on any of the handles and drag inside the picture area — wait for a while for PowerPoint to add more pink areas to your picture.

e.You retain areas by making the selection box larger. Click and drag any of the handles outwards — again wait for a while thereafter for PowerPoint to reduce the pink areas within your picture.

For simple pictures, this is all you need to do. If you are happy with the results, go ahead and click the Keep Changes button within the Background Removal tab of the Ribbon. Alternatively, you can click anywhere on the slide outside the picture area to remove all pink overlaid background areas of the selected picture.

3.The second, and more involved option is to manually fine-tune the selection using the options within the Refine group of the Background Removal tab that you can see in Figure 5.

Figure 5:
Refine options within the Background Removal tab

These options are explained below:

1.Mark Areas to Keep: Click this button and draw lines by dragging within the areas that you want retained in the picture. Lines you draw will be indicated with a plus label (see Figure 6). You can always undo your last few markings by pressing the Ctrl+Z key.

2.Mark Areas to Remove: Click this button and draw lines by dragging to mark the areas you want to remove from the picture. Lines you draw will be indicated with a minus label (see Figure 6). You can always undo your last few markings by pressing the Ctrl+Z key.

Figure 6: Plus and minus labeled lines indicate the areas to be retained and removed respectively

3. Delete Mark: If you need to remove any of the plus or minus lines, click the Delete Mark button, and click on the line to remove it completely.

You will see how the Refine options influence the selection — all areas to be removed have a pink overlay that is updated dynamically.

4. Now, you can either abandon your selections, or remove the background:

a.If you want to start all over again or abandon the Background Removal process, click the Discard Changes button within the Close group in the Background Removal tab.

b.If you want to go ahead with the Background Removal, click the Keep Changes button in the Background Removal tab of the Ribbon. Alternatively, you can click anywhere on the slide outside the picture area to remove all pink areas of the selected picture.

In the example above in Figure 7, you can see the picture with only the sky area removed. In the picture below it, you can see the same picture with everything removed except the man. Compare it with Figure 1 above and see the difference.


Figure 7: Two variations of the same picture showing the different areas removed

Tip: The Remove Background works with pictures, as explained in this tutorial. In addition, this feature also works with any picture that is a fill for a shape.

About the Author:

Geetesh Bajaj has been designing and training with PowerPoint for 15 years and is a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional.) He heads Indezine (  a presentation design studio and content development organization based in Hyderabad, India. The site attracts more than a million page views each month and has thousands of free PowerPoint templates and other goodies for visitors to download. He also runs another PowerPoint- related site ( that provides designer PowerPoint templates.

Geetesh also is the author of the best-selling book Cutting Edge PowerPoint for Dummies and three subsequent books on PowerPoint 2007 for Windows and one on PowerPoint 2008 for Mac.

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