by Adam Noar
Like an elegantly crafted ham sandwich, cheeseburger, or croque monsieur, a good PowerPoint presentation is filled with yummy details that accentuate your talking points and keep your audience perked up and salivating to learn more.
This is why it’s so important to consider not only the content of your presentation, but also the way in which it is presented. Ever endure a monochrome presentation at a conference before? Even if it was about an interesting topic, chances are that you probably felt bored within a couple minutes. A well-thought out presentation design will make a ton of difference in captivating your audience and ensure that you don’t hear snoring during your presentation.
Lucky for you, there are tons of FREE PRESENTATION TOOLS at your disposal to enhance your slides and turn them from boring to awesome. Here at Presentation Panda, we’re all about finding clever hacks to pimp out your slides in record time. Whether it’s coming up with gorgeous backgrounds for your slides, selecting complimentary font styles, or innovating with screenshots and other images, it’s little things like this that will take your presentation from good to great. That’s why you’ll love these five presentation design tools: they’re free, easy to use, and will make your next presentation look fantastic.
Presentation Tool #1: The Pattern Library
The Pattern Library is a free project started by graphic designers Tim Holman and Claudio Guglieri. Navigating the site is simple: you scroll endlessly through rich images custom designed by graphic designers from all over the web, and when you find one you like you hover your mouse over the title of the image in the upper left corner and then click to download.
One of the lovely features of Pattern Library is that its seemingly infinite collection of images fit just about every scenario, palate, and topic imaginable. Themes such as “White Wood” and “Leather Nunchuck” hew towards minimalist Scandinavian aesthetics, while whimsical themes such as “Ahoy” or this mouth-watering “Fried Chicken and Waffles” background present a lighter tone for your presentation. You can also find color-based themes, ethnic/cultural themes, and more.
These free patterns can easily be used within your designs to pep them up, or simply as some inspiration if you’re not quite sure what to make your presentation about. Since Pattern Library is open source and literally any designer can contribute his or her creations to the project, it doubles as a great way to search for talented designers who might be able to help you with other design-related projects you have in the works.
Of course, maybe the kind of topic you’re presenting on, or the audience you’re presenting to, isn’t interested in seeing slides with loopy science-themed graphics (which is a darn shame, because we’re all about making slides fun). In that case, another great database full of more SUBTLE patterns to use on your slide is the aptly-named Subtle Patterns, which is much less in-your-face than Pattern Library but no less beautiful.
Like Pattern Library, Subtle Patterns features open-source, downloadable content from designers all over the world. Unlike Pattern Library, instead of bright colors and richly-detailed themes, the ones here skew towards cream, off-white, beige, gray, and occasionally black. The grayscale chromatics are complimented to perfection by more subdued details, such as swirls, chevrons and other geometric patterns, and the patterns sometimes feature tongue-in-cheek names such as Honey I’m Subtle. That said, you can still find less conventional design details in the Subtle Patterns library, such as wild flowers. What all of the Subtle Patterns designs have in common is a focus on muted tones and colors, allowing your presentation’s content to really pop forward.
Presentation Tool #2: Type Genius
Ah, Type Genius. It doesn’t get any simpler, creative—or genius—than this. Need to pair two fonts together? Type Genius finds the perfect match for one font type, and gives you a live example of the two fonts working together. This site lets you peek over the shoulder of other designers to see which fonts look great together.
Even the biggest design n00b in the world can figure out how Type Genius works in approximately 2 seconds, which is one of the reasons it’s such a great design tool for presentation slides, not to mention any other type of design work involving complimentary fonts. First you select a starter font, which is probably the single most challenging part of using this great design site. And really, it’s only difficult because of the dizzying array of 53 font choices at your disposal.
If you’re in the mood for something bold and eye-catching, especially if it’s a header, a font such as Bebas Neue might be exactly what you’re looking for. But what, pray tell, should you do with the body text in your presentation slide? This is where Type Genius comes in and does the heavy lifting for you. It curates a shortlist of perfectly complimentary typesets and fonts that will look great alongside your starter font, saving you from the headache of having to figure it all out yourself.
Each complimentary font in the shortlist comes with a nifty text sample on the page so you can see what it looks like in situ. Type Genius would already be fantastically useful if it stopped here, but it doesn’t. Adjacent to the text sample is a screenshot of a real life website utilizing the starter font you originally select and the complimentary font suggested by Type Genius, so you can see what your font looks like in the wild (kind of like how watching pandas in the wild is a more authentic experience than seeing them stuck in a zoo).
Lastly, you can go directly to the font page on Adobe Typekit and download it, browse other similar fonts, view what the font looks like in various weights and styles such as bold, italics, and font size. Adobe Typekit also provides more information about the font designer, in case you want to see more work by the same creator. The next time you’re setting up a presentation and looking for the perfect font design, look no further.
Presentation Tool #3: Place It
If you like the concept of Skitch and recognize the importance of utilizing awesome screenshots, you’ll definitely love Place It. If you want to take it one step further and package your screenshot in a fun and engaging way, this is the design tool you’ve always dreamed of.
Perhaps calling it a tool isn’t really the right word; it basically contextualizes an image, screenshot, or even video recorded on your device directly onto one of over six hundred free product mockups. You can drag and drop your screenshot or other image directly into the mockup.
Pretty much any scenario you can possibly imagine is accounted for in Place It’s series of mockups. You can keep things simple with still image mockups of screenshots on a Macbook Pro and nothing else, or you can get crazy and place screengrabs from your smartphone directly into mockup scenes that run the gamut of your imagination. There are mockups scenes of a guy drinking bourbon, a woman sitting on a bench in a park, and even a woman sitting in her living room reading a book with her lapdog by her side. In other words, there’s probably a scene that’s perfect for whatever topic your presentation might be about.
The great benefit of using Place It mockups to present screenshots or video of your app in action can’t be overestimated. Nothing makes a better impact than showing your audience exactly what your product can do in real life, which is why Place It should be an integral part of your presentation design toolbox. Showing a video featuring hand gestures and engaging user videos will convey a greater sense of realism and add that extra bit of jazz to your presentation. It is worth pointing out that if you’d like a higher resolution image, you can pay per image or buy a subscription, but neither of these cost very much, and in any case the default image resolution settings are already more than acceptable.
Presentation Tool #4: Skitch
When you need to further illustrate a point in your presentation, sometimes that purpose can be served by including a screenshot. While you can always turn to Microsoft Paint to capture a screenshot and to do basic annotation, it’s a clearly limited, primitive program and can make your presentation screenshots look lackluster. There are other screen capture tools out there, but none of them allow you to annotate and customize images to a great degree. The solution to boring, plain vanilla screenshots is Skitch, an app designed by Evernote and available across just about every platform, including Microsoft, Apple, and Android.
Skitch is a super user-friendly screen capture tool—most of the reviews in the Google Store mention how easy and quick it is to use– that is designed to do just that, but it takes it one level further by allowing for richly customized screen annotations that can be saved a JPG, BMP, TIFF, or PNG files. Draw your audience’s attention by highlighting, outlining, and marking up especially important parts of your screenshot. A deep treasure trove of add-on features such as pop-up shapes, arrows, and quick sketches facilitates your presentation with fewer words, which is always a plus. And because of Skitch’s intuitive design, it is ideal for manipulating images from your smartphone or tablet.
If there is a caveat to using Skitch, it is that it is a freemium app. Most of the content is free to use, but if you want to turn notes into presentations or access notes while you’re offline you’ll have to pay either $25 or $50 to upgrade it for a year. Still, it’s an invaluable tool for adding simple-to-read screenshots on your presentations, so it’s an investment worth making.
Presentation Tool #5: Texture King
You never quite know when you need a good texture, and we don’t always have the option to go out and take a snapshot of them ourselves, so that’s where computer generated textures come to the rescue. With a huge database of meticulously organized textures, Texture King will make sure your presentations will never be devoid of rich, evocative textures again.
What makes Texture King so remarkable is that its offers a diverse field of pretty much every texture theme you can think of. Categories include concrete, wood, stone/rock, metals, fabric, paint, rust, plastic, dirt/sand, liquids, glass, plaster, and something wonderful called grunge. Besides offering incredibly beautiful themes, any design site that has a category named after music best associated with plaid shirts, long greasy hair, and Kurt Cobain is pretty awesome.
All those different textures go a very long way in giving your presentation slides a distinct and bold personality, which is something completely lacking in so many basic PowerPoint presentations. If you are delivering a presentation on contemporary architectural design trends, your choice of a distressed concrete texture theme will be a subtle nod to the increasingly popular use of industrial materials. If your presentation is about the real estate foreclosure market in California then a chipped plaster theme might give off a subtle undertone of disrepair and neglect, which is pretty much true for a lot of empty bank-owned homes.
Beyond the subtle pairing of a texture with a complimentary presentation topic, the implementation of a high quality texture background like the ones available from Texture King means that your presentations will look really, really beautiful. While content itself is king, it’s the addition of richly textured backgrounds that will shoot your presentations over the top and grab your audience’s attention.
Presentation design is all about making your design compliment your content.
Using these design tools will take you one step closer to building the perfect slides and engaging your audience as effectively as possible.
So, here’s my question to you:
After reading this article can you see how even something as subtle as font design or the way you present a screenshot can grab someone’s attention? How do you think you can utilize apps such as Skitch or Place It to make an out-of-the-box impact on your next presentation? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Lastly, do you have a friend that could benefit from learning about these presentation design tips? If so, email them the link to this post.
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Hungry for more tips? Here are a few articles you might like:
5 Presentation Font Trends for 2015
7 Presentation Design Trends You Need To Know About
10 Professional Presentation Templates That Don’t Suck
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