Why the Best PowerPoint Colors Have CONTRAST

Submitted by: Brendan Cournoyer, Director of Content Marketing, Brainshark

October 15, 2012 09:19 AM

Choosing the right PowerPoint colors for your next presentation – or even your next slide – can have a huge impact on your audience.

Best PowerPoint Colors

Lots of things can make or break a PowerPoint presentation. There’s plenty to consider, including font styles and sizes, animation techniques, and of course, color.  But while business professionals might feel a bit locked in to their company’s color scheme or corporate template, that doesn’t mean they don’t have some flexibility when it comes to the color choices they make for fonts, graphs and images.

Unfortunately, those choices aren’t always good ones, and when things go wrong, the problem often lies with contrast.

“The most common complaint from audience members who are sitting through a presentation using PowerPoint, is that they can't read the text on the slides,” writes PowerPoint guru Wendy Russell for her Presentation Software blog.  “And the reason for this is ...? The creator of the presentation did not use enough contrast between the background and text colors of the slides.”

When it comes to choosing the best PowerPoint colors for your presentations, there are three basic contrast rules to keep in mind:

#1. Make sure the font is readable. Poor color contrast can quickly make your text irrelevant.  Obviously, black and white colors have the highest contrast – but that doesn’t mean you need to be locked in to an all-white background with black font. You can still experiment with colors as long as the contrast is acceptable. Fortunately, Dave Paradi of ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com has developed a nifty color contrast calculator to help determine what works and what doesn’t.

Color Contrast for PowerPoint

#2. Avoid inconsistent backgrounds. Of course, just because you are free to get creative with your background colors doesn’t mean you should go crazy. For example, Dave points out on his blog that “some presenters like to use a gradient between two colors as the background of their slide.” But while this might be visually appealing at first glance, he notes that it’s practically impossible to find text colors with the appropriate contrast for all parts of the slide. The best move? Keep it simple.

#3.Make sure graph elements are easily distinguishable. Whether you are presenting data in a pie chart, line graph, bar graph, or any of the other options available, it’s important that the colors of the graph speak clearly to that information. In other words, using multiple shades of blue to represent different graph metrics might be consistent with your overall color scheme, but it also makes your audience work harder to decipher what your graph is trying to say. Instead, it’s often best to use contrasting colors to make sure the details of your chart or graph don’t blend together.

(Bonus Tip: For live presenters, it’s also important to remember that colors on projected slides sometimes look a little different than they do on a computer screen. While the differences are rarely drastic, it never hurts to test out your slides on a projector before your presentation to make sure everything looks the way you want it to.)

Deciding on the best PowerPoint colors might sound simple, but the wrong move can sink your presentation in a hurry. So whether you’re presenting to a live audience or converting PowerPoint slides to video, remember – it’s all about contrast!

More PowerPoint design tips and ideas:

Image Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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