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How To Pick Colors For Your PowerPoint Presentations

by Adam Noar

PowerPoint Tips - How to pick colors for your presentations

Have you ever seen a presentation where you could barely make out what was on the screen because the presenter used colors that made it hard to tell what was text and what was background? What about a presentation that clearly had no color theme whatsoever?

That’s because color choice matters!

In fact, the choice of colors for your PowerPoint slides is one of the important decisions that must be made when you begin designing your slides. Some businesses today mandate a corporate template with set colors that must be used for all presentations as part of a branding initiative. In that case, you may not have no choice in the colors.

However, with many presentations you have the freedom to choose your slide colors. So how do you choose? Here are some ideas to keep in mind when picking colors for your next presentation.

Pay Attention To The Wheel

Remember learning the color wheel from art class in grade school?

The color wheel presents the primary colors: blue, red and yellow; the secondary colors: green, orange and violet; and the tertiary colors that exist between them in an arrangement that highlights their relationships with one another. Choose colors opposite one another, such as yellow and violet to create dramatic contrast. Colors immediately adjacent to one another, on the other hand, result in a softer, more understated feel.

Here are three solid methods to approach the color wheel when selecting your palette.

The first is the Triadic Color Scheme, which is made up of three colors on separate ends of the color wheel (forming a triangle … hence the name). This method ensures that the colors are equally vibrant.

The second is the Compound Color Scheme, in which two colors are chosen from opposite ends of the spectrum.

And finally, the third method is known as the Analogous Scheme, which selects three colors next to each other on the color spectrum.

Adobe Kuler is a great place to play around with the three color schemes mentioned above and also explore some nice themes created by other users.

powerpoint tips - how to pick colors - adobe kuler

Use High Contrast

One of the most common mistakes in selecting colors for presentation slides is not using enough contrast between the colors chosen for the background and the text or graphics. So, strive for maximum contrast for maximum effect. If viewers have to strain to read anything, you’ve made a poor choice in colors. If you have a dark background, use the lightest font possible in your scheme. If you have a light background, don’t ever use a yellow font or anything lighter. Your color scheme may hurt you in this regard, especially if you are hoping to keep with complimentary colors that are too close. In that case, choose a different font color to ensure that everyone can read without pain.

Create A Color Scheme From Your Title Slide (Or Any Picture In Your Presentation)

If you’re not sure what colors to use in your slides, you might want to create a color theme from the image you included in your title slide (if you included one).

If you’re not sure what the exact colors are in your image, you can use a color extraction tool like Color Cop. Check out Slides Made Simple for more details on how this tool works.

Use No More Than 3-4 Colors In Your Theme

Unless you are giving a presentation about rainbows, all of the colors in the wheel don’t need to be represented. Keep it simple and stick with 2-4 colors throughout.

Learn The 60-30-10 Rule

If you’ve selected three colors, a good way to balance them on a slide or throughout the presentation is the 60-30-10 rule. This means that the primary color takes up 60% of the space, the secondary takes up 30%, and the accent color accounts for the final 10%. This rule is all about creating balance, and is a great place to start if you’re staring down a blank slide.

Even though there can be times when you can break the rules when choosing colors, sticking to some initial guidelines can keep you from being overwhelmed by options. Sometimes it’s cool to follow the rules.

Pay Attention To A Color’s Meaning

Studies have shown that different colors evoke different general feelings in many people. This can be important when selecting colors for your presentation slides since you will want to avoid colors that will negatively impact the message you are delivering. For example, black can evoke feelings of being highly technical, formal, and death while red can promote feelings of passion, excitement, and aggression.


I hope that you found these PowerPoint tips useful. Once you get the hang of using color your PowerPoint or Keynote presentations will improve greatly.

Let me ask you this …

Do you have a friend that could use some help picking colors for his/her PowerPoint presentation. If so, make sure to send them a link to these presentation tips. I’m sure they will return the favor one day!


Do you think you will try these color picking tips yourself? Leave me a detailed comment below! I make sure to read each and every one!

Image Credits

Cover Photo (Remixed by Adam Noar) by Teresa Williams

Presentation tips  - Check out my ebook Slides Made Slimple Now!

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