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How to Modify Slide Backgrounds and Apply Styles in PowerPoint

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  • 0:03 Slide Backgrounds
  • 0:55 Using Images as Backgrounds
  • 5:10 Themes & Styles
  • 6:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karen Sorensen

Karen has a Bachelors in Communications. She has 25 years of experience in Information Systems, Adult Learning and Virtual Training.

Creating unique and customized backgrounds for your PowerPoint slides can help to create unforgettable presentations. This lesson will explain how to modify your slide background using styles, images and colors.

Slide Backgrounds

There are many different slide themes already designed and available in PowerPoint. With a click of a mouse, you can change the entire look of a slide. But sometimes the predesigned backgrounds can get overused and become a bit boring. When you want to add a truly unique look to your slides, customizing the background with colors, color schemes or even an image can set you apart from the rest. Most of the time, you want to keep your slides consistent from slide to slide. However, you can set the background to work for a single slide, or only a handful of slides or throughout the entire presentation.

This lesson will review the steps to creating your own background using images, customizing existing themes with different color schemes and applying different styles to the background of your slides.

Using Images as Your Background

Let's begin with using an image as your background. Applying an image as a slide background is probably one of the least used features in PowerPoint. It can be a tricky feature. Not that the steps are difficult - it's actually easy to apply an image as the background. The tricky part? Deciding if the image enhances the slide or if it distracts too much from the content.

Sometimes, to make an image work as the background, it's only a matter of changing the transparency of the image. Transparent means that the image is fine or sheer enough to be seen through. I like to think of it as fading or blending the image into the background so it's barely visible. Let's take a look at two examples:

Example slides
two slides with musical notes background

The subject and content of each slide are the same. The background image for each slide is also identical. However, in the first example, the background image is bold and distracts from the text box and image. In the second example, the background image is faded and barely visible. It still adds a unique touch to the slide and creates a statement about the subject, which is music.

Let's take a look at the steps to add an image and how to modify the transparency so the image looks blended into the background.

  1. We'll start with a blank slide.
  2. Go to the Design menu in the ribbon.
  3. Look in the Customize grouping of commands.
  4. Click on Format Background to open the options side panel.
  5. Select Picture or Texture Fill.
  6. Click on the File button.
  7. Search for and select the desired image.
  8. Click on Insert.

Now that we have our image applied to the background, we can adjust the transparency. Click and hold your mouse on the slider bar to adjust the percentage of transparency. The higher the percentage, the more faded or transparent your image will appear. I typically use 90%. If you prefer, you can enter the number directly into the percentage box. Once you have your desired transparency, close the Format Background side panel.

And just a note: If you want to use the background for all slides, click on the Apply to All button; otherwise, it will only be applied to this one slide. As you can see in the lesson video (at 03:27), we have a unique look to the slide and the image reflects the subject of our slide. However, because we faded the image, it doesn't distract from the slide content.

And let me share a tip: When we think of applying an image to the background of a slide, we usually use one standard clip-art image. However, what if you used PowerPoint to create your own custom image? Think of it like using PowerPoint to paint a picture using images, shapes and colors and then snapping a photo with your camera and using that photo (or image) as the background for your slides.

The key is to convert the slide to an image, such as a JPEG or a GIF file. Using the Save As feature in PowerPoint, we can convert the slide to an image, then apply the image as our background. Let's take a look.

  1. Start by designing and creating your background slide using images, colors and shapes.
  2. Go to the File menu in the ribbon and click on Save As.
  3. Choose the location for your background image file.
  4. In the Save As Type drop-down box, choose JPEG as the file type.
  5. Enter the name (I usually add 'background' to the existing file name).
  6. Click on Save and choose Just This One from the dialogue box.

Now you have a custom image file that you can apply to your background, and it is completely unique! Just use the same steps we learned in the first topic of the lesson. Pretty slick!

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