Author: Robert Lane
Robert Lane is a presentation design consultant specializing in visually interactive communication techniques and is the primary contact person for this article. References, visual examples, and additional resources are available here on the Aspire Web site.
Interestingly enough, the process of combining colors is much more forgiving when using gradients—colors that fade into
each other. PowerPoint 2010 offers a greatly improved, user-friendly interface for making gradients, by the way
Figure 8: Adding a gradient to a shape
Because nature regularly blends colors this way (think of a sunset), we are used to seeing colors gradually transition from one hue to the next, meaning that you can get away with combining just about any color set and still end up with a reasonably attractive and professional look. Just make sure the transitions are gradual.
Try blending colors to make a custom-designed slide background, a decorative shape—perhaps for a sectional background
(Figure 9) or navigation button (Figure 10)—or even jazzy, 3-D text (Figure 11
Figure 9: Purple, gold, and gray gradient inside a shape
Figure 10: Gradient-filled shape used as a navigation button
Figure 11: Gradient-filled PowerPoint text
Going back to the issues of color quantity and contrast (black dots on the white background), those considerations are especially important when slides contain text. Unless such text exists in a navigation button or is purely decorative, generally the goal is for audience members to be able to read it, right? Therefore, opting for a simple background that contrasts sharply with the text color helps the message pop out and attract attention (Figure 12).
Figure 12: Text color should contrast sharply with a background
Placing text on top of pictures is popular but can be tricky because controlling the contrast then becomes more difficult. The solution, again, is to make sure the text color contrasts as much as possible with a majority of the picture’s colors and then add a distinct shadow or glow to the text (Figure 13).
Figure 13: Shadow on text helps it appear more distinct on top of a picture
Here are a few additional PowerPoint-related color tips we’ve discovered over the years:
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