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    Color Scheming

    Ever wondered how PowerPoint decides what color to use for items in your presentations? Here's your answer: The presentation color scheme. This article covers what the colors in your color scheme are used for, how to change them, how to prevent items from being changed, and how to delete schemes you don't want any more.

    Every presentation created in PowerPoint has one or more color schemes associated with it. These schemes can be viewed by right clicking on a slide and selecting "Slide Color Scheme" if you are in PowerPoint 2000 and earlier. You will see the "Color Scheme" window open in the middle of your screen. This window has two tabs. The "Standard" tab shows minature slides with the various color schemes already set for this design. The "Custom" tab shows the color catagories and the current scheme color for each category.

    If you are in PowerPoint 2002, you can reach the color schemes by right clicking and selecting "Slide Design". A new pane will show on the right side of your screen. At the top of this pane will be three options. Selecting the second option "Color Schemes" brings up the available color schemes for this design. At the bottom of the pane is a hyperlink to "Edit Color Schemes". Clicking this link brings up the "Edit Color Scheme" box which is basically the same as the "Color Scheme" window described above.

    Before you can change the color scheme for your presentation, you need to know which elements are associated with which scheme color category. Let's say that scheme for the current presentation looks like this:


    Color Category

    Base Use


    • Base background color for slide. However, if a background fill or image has been applied to the slide, you probably aren't going to see this color.

    • Default background color for charts and graphs

    Text and Lines

    • Default color for all text entered in placeholders, autoshapes, and text boxes.

    • Default color for borders on autoshapes.

    • Default color for text and lines on charts and graphs


    • Default color for autoshape shadows

    • Default color for selected text

    • Default color for fifth series on charts and graphs

    Title Text

    • Default color for all title text on slides, charts and graphs

    • Default color for sixth series on charts and graphs


    • Default fill used for autoshapes.

    • Default fill for first series on charts or graphs


    • Default fill for second series on charts or graphs

    Accent and hyperlink

    • Default color for unfollowed hyperlinks

    • Default fill for third series on charts or graphs

    Accent and followed hyperlink

    • Default color for followed hyperlinks

    • Default fill for fourth series on charts or graphs

    In addition, these eight colors are used as the first eight colors choices on any color choice item in your presentation. If, for example, you want to change the background color of your chart or graph, when you select "Format" on the background, you will get the following choices:

    • "Automatic"

    • A large block of color swatches

    • A row of eight swatches that match your color scheme

    • A row of the last eight color swatches you used that were not in the color scheme.

    Choosing "Automatic" will leave the background of the chart the background color of the color scheme, while choosing from the other colors will select that specific color. If you choose "Automatic" and you change color schemes, the color will change. Otherwise, the fill color will stay the same.

    If you change color schemes, the color choices in the next to the last row will change, but items which have already been colored will not change. If you select a custom color for any object, the new color will replace a color in the last row ? but again objects which have already had the replaced color applied will not change colors.

    To change a color scheme item, click on the color swatch and press change color. It will bring up a color picker window. Once you have chosen the new color, press "Preview" to check the look. Once you are satisfied with the look of the entire color scheme, click either "Apply" to change only the current slide, or "Apply All" to change the entire presentation. Clicking either "Apply" or "Apply All" will also save this scheme with the template or presentation. You can have up to 16 different color schemes with any single PowerPoint file.

    What if you have inserted a picture or fill as your slide background? If you select automatic for your chart background, you will get the background color ? not the background picture or fill. If you want the actual background to show, you need to select a chart background of "None".

    One last nice use for color schemes. If you have a brightly colored presentation which you wish to print, but which you do not wish to print in color, set up and use a white background scheme specifically for printing. This way, when you need to print your presentation, you know that all automatic items will show without using up too much ink.

    Besides giving you quick and easy access to groupings of colors, color schemes have another use. If you take a presentation and turn it into a template, the users of the template may not want to use exactly the colors you generally use. By offering several color schemes with your template, you can give the users options for their use. Good options to build into a group of color schemes include schemes for viewing in a lighted room, schemes for viewing in a darkened room, and a white background scheme for printing.

    There is one other piece of information that is vital to using color schemes: How to delete them. If there is a color scheme that you created during testing and do not wish to save with the template or file, do the following:

    • Bring up the "Standard" as descirbed at the beginning of the article

    • Click once on the scheme to delete to select it

    • Click once on the "Delete Scheme" button at the bottom of the window

    Copyright 2002





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