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Yes, You Can Set a Color Scheme in Your Template

Last month we looked at ways to generate colors for a color scheme. We're going to explore selecting colors from those generated colors and installing them as a template's color scheme. You'll see that it is an easy process, but it will require a few steps.

Select colors from color scheme generator

The color scheme generators (in the Resources section of "Yes, You Can Create a Color Scheme" generate more colors than needed to create a PowerPoint color scheme. Therefore, it's up to you to select from those generated colors the colors that will work best for your PowerPoint template. Here are some guidelines about the selection process:

  • Open your company's template. You'll need to know what colors work best against your template's background. If you have multiple company templates but want to create only one color scheme for all, you'll need to test the colors against all of the backgrounds in your company's templates. If you're working in PowerPoint 2007, this is a little easier because multiple backgrounds can be formatted and viewed in the "Create New Theme Colors" menu. If you're working in PowerPoint 2003 or earlier, it's easiest to view/test the colors against the different backgrounds manually, i.e., create squares on a slide and fill the squares with colors from the color scheme generator.
  • Test groups of colors against the background. It's a good idea to try different color combinations from the colors in the color scheme generator. Place them in little groups so you can see how they look next to each other on the template background. Take your time here. You want to try a few out: create several preliminary color schemes. You'll soon get a sense of what you like and what looks good against your background(s).

Once you have decided which colors work best with your template's background, your logo, and with the rest of your company's marketing collateral, etc. – as discussed in the May 2009 article – you can begin to install those colors into your template.

Install the colors into your powerpoint template

Installing the colors will only take a few minutes, but there is something you want to keep in mind. Where you place each color in the theme color menu will determine how your data-driven charts pull the colors when plotting data. So, if you don't want two blues next to each other, for example, make sure you insert the colors deliberately. Look at the sample slide for your color scheme, which is right in the theme color menu, to see how the colors are being pulled.

  • Open the color scheme menu.
    • PowerPoint 2007: click on Design tab on the ribbon, click on the downward pointing arrow next to "Colors" (a drop-down menu will appear), and select "Create New Theme Colors." This is where you set up the colors for your template. PowerPoint 2007 shows you examples of what the colors look like when plotted on the background. You can begin replacing the existing colors in the menu with the colors you like from the color generator. You don't need to worry about establishing light and dark hues of colors in PowerPoint 2007. The color palette will automatically give you those hues after you have set the colors in this menu. You should be able to select colors that will work for both light and dark backgrounds from this one menu. The only customization that you may need to make in each template is the color for the hyperlink.
    • PowerPoint 2003: right click on the background of your template, select "Slide Design," click on "Color Schemes," and click on "Edit Color Schemes" (at the bottom right). Notice that there are fewer colors that can be set. Remember to select and install both light and dark colors into the color scheme.
  • Begin installing the colors. This part is very easy, regardless of which PowerPoint version you are using.
    • PowerPoint 2007: click on the downward pointing arrow on each accent color to bring up the color menu, select "More Colors," and click on "Custom" tab, enter the RGB formula for the color you wish to use from the generated colors (see May 2009 article), click okay, and proceed to next accent color and repeat steps.
    • PowerPoint 2003: click on the color you wish to change, click on "Change Color" button, click on "Custom" tab, enter the RGB formula for the color you wish to use from the generated colors (see May 2009 article), click okay, and proceed to next color in the menu and repeat steps. When you have changed all of the colors, click on the "Apply" button.

It's probably best to send this newly created color scheme out for review by others in your company or even outside your company if you think you'll get a usable response. Don't feel like you have to get it perfect all by yourself. Color is a pretty important style attribute, so input generally helps. You may go through a few iterations of the color scheme before it settles down and becomes "permanent."

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These types of projects don't always need to go to a designer. If you don't think you or anyone in your company is equipped to handle the steps described above, then professional help is certainly the better option. Just don't be afraid to try. We've seen some very beautiful and effective color schemes developed by nondesigners. Be sure to give yourself enough time to work through the process. Don't try to do this on a tight deadline.