Academic Technology @ Palomar College

Theme Characteristics in PowerPoint 2010

Have you ever noticed that with a few of the built-in themes in PowerPoint 2010, and even more of the themes available at Office.com, some of the so-called color-coordinated colors don’t work very well, especially when placing a URL–and most especially with a visited URL–on a slide?  Here are a couple of examples with built-in themes:

Visited URL with TREK theme:

URL using Paper theme:

URL with Apothecary theme:

Other built-in themes such as “Concourse,” “Metro,” and “Perspective” have this same problem.  Sure, you can see the URL text (and what you see in my samples will depend an awful lot on a complex cascade of color variables that I don’t even want to mention at this point), but in some cases, you can just barely see it.  And since we are talking PowerPoint, can you see it in a darkened room at fifty feet?

The good news is it is easy to fix.  Just customize the theme’s relevant colors, then save the customized theme so that you can re-use it.

Quick review of themes:  All PowerPoint (and Word and Excel for that matter) documents are based on a theme.  (The default theme is “Office”).  A theme is a set of slide layouts with coordinated colors, matching background art,font sets and effects (i.e.,shadows, glow, reflections, 3D-edge effects, etc.).  Change your presentation’s theme and all of these elements change automatically.  The difference between the same presentation displayed using differing themes can be spectacular: tables, charts, SmartArt, shapes, and certain formatted objects all change like magic.  In PowerPoint, to apply different themes, just click on the Design tab and hover over the themes in the theme gallery.  You will see a live preview of the effect on the active slide.  Here is a small part of my theme gallery:

Note also that when you initially hover over one of the themes it’s name appears.  The name of the current theme will also appear in the lower left of your status bar.

To apply a different them, simply click it in the theme gallery and your entire presentation instantly changes.

Getting back to my basic problem, however, if one of the color-coordinated colors in the theme just doesn’t look good–or cannot even be seen in a large room–here is how to change it.

Click the drop-down on the Colors command next to the theme gallery.  (You will find this in different parts of the ribbon and the context tabs in Word and Excel).  Scroll down if necessary until you see the colors for the theme you are using (the active color set will be outlined in orange–also hard to see).  Now, at the bottom of the drop-down click “Create New Theme Colors…”

Click the drop-down next to the color you want to edit, select a new color, give the customized color set a memorable name, and click Save.

Now each time you start PowerPoint you modified color set will be available as one of the customizations on the Colors command drop-down.

But you probably will make more than a single, simple color change.  Once you start modifying things to taste, you usually make several modifications.  You can save one or many modifications into a new, custom theme that you can use on any future presentation.  To do so, simply click the “Save Current Theme…” choice (after you make your modifications, of course) at the bottom of the theme gallery.  Give the new theme a memorable name.  As long as you save it in the default themes folder–the one that will appear by default–it will appear in the Custom section of the theme gallery each time you start PowerPoint.

You will also find the theme available to you in Word and Excel on the Page Layout tab.

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