Issue #116 August 22, 2006

PowerPoint Tip – Graduated Color Backgrounds

One of the most popular ideas I shared on my webinar last month about creating your own custom PowerPoint template was to use a graduated background instead of a solid color. I find graphics in the background, such as pictures or logos, too distracting – and so do audience members based on the surveys I have done. If the background is too busy, people focus on the interesting details in the background instead of on your content. So a clean background is better. But many people commented that a solid color background was a little too flat and boring. And I agree. So I suggest a graduated background where the color at the top gradually changes to the color at the bottom. While this is a better idea than a flat color, too many times I have seen the color choices make a graduated background look worse than any distracting picture could ever do. Think green graduating to red and you get the picture. The trick to picking two colors to use in a graduated background is picking colors that will still have high contrast with a single text color. For example, if you graduated from dark blue at the top to light blue at the bottom, you would have trouble seeing any text color at one or more points on the slide. So my suggestion is to graduate using black or white only so that the lighter color is at the bottom. If you are using a dark color background, such as dark blue, graduate from black at the top to dark blue at the bottom. If you are using a light color background such as sage green, graduate from sage at the top to white at the bottom. Then, when you pick a text color, you will be able to ensure that it has contrast no matter where it is on the slide. I explain how to create a graduated background more fully in “Guide to Advanced PowerPoint Techniques” (more info at, but here is the quick summary. When selecting the background, instead of selecting a single color, select Fill Effects. Then select your two colors and pick the Shading style that has the darker color at the top and the lighter color at the bottom. If you want to get a copy of the entire webinar recording that shows you exactly how to create a unique look for your slides, go to .