Why does one PowerPoint presentation grab attention while another one puts viewers to sleep? Content counts, of course—but really, the whole reason for developing a Powerpoint presentation rather than writing a plain Word document is (usually) to incorporate visual interest. If there’s nothing interesting to look at, the audience is likely to wonder why they should bother watching!

Fortunately, there are several easy ways to create visual variety in PowerPoint. One way is to tweak the theme so that it is more effective and doesn’t look like “just another” PPT. How to Customize a PowerPoint Template provided some basic information and easy techniques for altering background styles and color schemes. Now let’s go a step further, and see how to change the graphic elements that are part of the theme.

For example, transform this:


into this:


with just a few clicks. PowerPoint’s theme graphics are accessible on the template—just choose Slide Master from the View tab. Then change colors, add effects, move or remove any element on the slide.

Any changes made to the Slide Master will become part of the template, so every slide that follows the template will contain the graphic elements on the Slide Master. These are called the “background graphics.” They are on top of the background itself, which is a color fill or gradient (or maybe plain white).

To omit the background elements on a specific slide, go to the Design tab and — on the right side of the ribbon — check Hide Background Graphics. Every graphic element on the Slide Master will go away. (To change the background in Powerpoint, use the Background Styles pull-down just above the checkbox.)

You can also add a graphic element on the Slide Master. Logos are often added to the PowerPoint template this way. But keep in mind that you cannot omit background graphics individually. It’s all or nothing! So if a logo is on the Slide Master, it won’t be possible to keep just the logo and remove the other elements. Or vice versa.

If you want to add graphic elements selectively to groups of PowerPoint slides, it is best to put them on a slide—not on the Slide Master. Then duplicate that slide wherever you want to have that graphic. This is a quick trick for creating several “versions” of the theme. First right-click the slide in the Slides sidebar area, and choose Duplicate Slide.


Then select the duplicated slide and change the layout if necessary. (The Slides sidebar is visible in Normal view. You can also duplicate from the New Slide menu.)

Once you understand the relationship of the background, the background graphics, and the slide graphics, it’s easy to adjust individual slides on the fly—or to create sets of slide variants based on a theme. And that’s a great way to pep up presentations without a lot of extra effort.



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