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How to Choose a Brilliant Background for your PowerPoint Presentation

by Adam Noar

PowerPoint design tips - How to create awesome backgrounds for presentations

A set of nice background images can really make your PowerPoint design come to life. These images help to draw attention and add interest to your presentation.

So what exactly is a background image? It’s basically any image the fills up the entire slide (like the one seen above). There are many different background styles available for presentations.

Background images are essential to good PowerPoint presentations and by understanding what makes a good background image you will significantly enhance your presentation’s design. When choosing a background image, it’s important to think about how the image will play nicely with other elements that you add to the slide such as text, fonts, and color.

In this post we are going to provide you with some important tips on how to choose great background images. We will also be talking about how to manipulate these images (if needed) so they work with other elements on your slide.

Let’s begin!

Look for Backgrounds with Plenty of Whitespace

PowerPoint design tips - How to create awesome backgrounds for presentations

In the world of presentation design, whitespace (i.e., dead space) is golden. If you have been following Presentation Panda for a while now you have probably heard me talk about whitespace quite a bit. Whitespace allows all the elements on a slide to “breathe” which is key to creating a good composition. Without whitespace your slides will most likely look cluttered and complex.

Backgrounds with plenty of whitespace allow the text to be read clearly while still providing plenty of visual interest. Images that have good use of “whitespace” are ideal for adding text to the image. When applying text into the whitespace of a background, make sure that you are going with the natural flow of the image. You never want to add text over important parts of an image, such as the main action in a photo or the product that you are trying to showcase.

Look for Blurred Areas 


Blurred (i.e., out of focus) areas of images are great places to place text, so keep an eye out for these blurry areas when searching for background images. As you can see in the image above, the trees in the background are blurred, which makes the words “look for” easy to read. If the trees were not blurred it would be more difficult to read that text.

Sometimes you will stumble upon a really nice background image for your presentation and then realize that adding text to the slide will make the slide look way too busy (i.e. unreadable). One solution is to apply your own blur to your chosen background image. This will allow your text to stand out instead of getting drowned in the details of the background. You can apply a blur to the entire image or to a particular part of the image. Just play around and see what looks best.

How do you blur an image? you might ask.

PowerPoint includes several “artistic effects” that you can use to edit your images. The “blur effect” softens an image to obscure it, blurring the picture strongly or weakly depending on the options you set. To apply a blur, click the “Format” tab on the ribbon and click “Artistic Effects” in the Adjust group to open a drop-down menu. Then, click “Artistic Effects Options” to open the Format Picture dialog box. Once that is opened, click on the “blur” effect to blur the image.

Note: You can increase or decrease the strength of the blur by clicking on “Artistic Effects Options” and then dragging the radius bar to the right or to the left .

Note: When you want to blur a background image and apply text, be sure to provide plenty of contrast. It helps if the text varies in color enough to be seen in combination with the background image. For example, if you have an image with a dark background, go for a light colored text (e.g., white) as pictured above. Conversely, if your photo has a light background, go with a dark colored text (as seen in the image above). If viewers have to strain their eyes to read anything, you’ve done something wrong.

Look for Natural Gradients (or Create your Own)

PowerPoint design tips - How to create awesome backgrounds for presentations

When searching for background images, keep an eye out for images with natural gradients. Images with natural gradients can be helpful because they create whitespace for your text and other elements.

What exactly is an image gradient? An image gradient is a directional change in the intensity or color in an image. As you can see from the example above the image starts out really bright in the upper right hand corner and gradually gets darker as you move toward the bottom left hand corner. As a result, any dark color text that you add to the upper right hand corner will be much easier to see than if you added the same text to the bottom left hand corner.

Alternatively, if you can’t find an image that has a natural gradient (like the one shown above), you can always create your own gradient effect.

In PowerPoint you can apply a gradient fill to shapes, text boxes, and SmartArt graphics. A gradient fill is a shape fill that gradually changes from one color to another across the surface of the shape. When customizing the gradient, you can adjust the transparency from zero to 100 percent  with zero percent being completely visible and 100 percent completely invisible.

Textures Make Great PowerPoint Backgrounds


A simple way to create a good looking PowerPoint background is by simply using a nice texture image. Textures make excellent backgrounds because they are less likely to distract the text on your slide. They are also a great way to give depth and originality to your PowerPoint designs and go hand in hand with vector-based graphics. Even better, there are thousands of free background textures available to download from the web with little fuss.

While there are many types of textures to choose from, a great place to find free textures for your slides is Texture King. Texture King offers a lot of interesting textures such as wood, concrete, and bark. Once you view this site, you’ll start to see countless possibilities in the ways these free background textures could be used in your PowerPoint slides.

Another great place for finding free background textures is Lost and Taken. This site provides a nice selection of textures to choose from and you have the choice of downloading individual textures one by one or downloading them all in a zip file at the bottom of the post (which can be a huge time saver).

Note: PowerPoint comes with some built in textures you can use. I would recommend staying away from these as you can find much better looking textures online.


Follow the techniques mentioned above and you will be better equipped at choosing and enhancing background images for your next PowerPoint presentations.

For best results, stick to the time-tested presentation design advice of “keeping things simple.” This means selecting background images with simple fonts and a straightforward image. Remember, your goal is to underline your message effectively by highlighting important parts of the image without any confusion or obstruction.

We hope that you have found these PowerPoint design tips helpful!

Here’s my question for you … Which of the above techniques are you most interested in trying out? Is there a particular technique that you use that wasn’t been mentioned above? Leave me a comment below!

Image Credits

Flickr – Ellen Van Deelen – Texture 69

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