People often overlook the impact a PowerPoint background can have on the presentation’s impact. When designing a presentation slideshow, every detail should be considered and contribute to your overall presentation purpose. From graphics to fonts to colours to text, making the right aesthetic choices not only makes things more visually legible and appealing, but increases audience engagement and makes your presentation look more professional. A strong and consistent PowerPoint background provides a foundational element for your presentation while ensuring visual consistency. However, creating a slide background that connects with audiences while demonstrating your branding/purpose can be challenging. Here are best practices and tips to help you create striking slide backgrounds that will enhance any presentation.

PowerPoint Background Choices: Photos, Patterns, or Colours?

When it comes to creating your PowerPoint background, you have three basic choices: A photo, a pattern, or a colour. Deciding on which one is right for your presentation means understanding your overarching goal and picking the design that best speaks to your purpose and audience. Use the following tips to guide you as you choose what type of background to use.

Use a solid colour background if you:

  • want to create a minimalist look but plan on using a variety of images throughout your presentation,
  • need a design that is easily scaled across a variety of devices,
  • want to use strong, simple colours to create emotional appeal
  • need to create a presentation with strong contrast between text and background for an audience with visual impairments.

Use a patterned background if you:

  • want a simple design that incorporates branding elements, such as a logo
  • want to incorporate whitespace as a part of your background aesthetic
  • are aiming to evoke emotions using colours but feel that a solid coloured background is too basic.

Use a background image if:

  • you want a highly branded look for your presentation,
  • plan to use mostly text on slides as opposed to slide images
  • know exactly what device your presentation will be displayed on and don’t have to worry about scaling issues.

When creating PowerPoint backgrounds, it’s important to differentiate between background images and hero images. A hero image is an image that occupies both the background and foreground of a slide. A hero image is used to convey a central message and catch the viewer’s attention. Unlike a background image, a hero image is meant to stand out and send a direct message about the content of your slide.

PowerPoint Background Design Tips

Your PowerPoint background should complement your content (both on screen and verbally presented), so before you choose your slide background, think about your overarching purpose and message.

Any background you choose should directly correspond to and complement the crux of your presentation. You should avoid choosing PowerPoint backgrounds simply because they look great or have strong visual appeal. A compelling background that isn’t related to your presentation content will distract viewers instead of impress them.

If you’re creating PowerPoint backgrounds, it’s important to understand the value of negative space, focus areas and translucency.

Negative space is the area surrounding the main object in a photo or design. It helps to draw attention to the main subject of a composition and provides a resting point for audiences’ eyes. As you design your PowerPoint background, think of how you can use it to create negative space around the focal point of each slide. Remember that the background is meant to draw attention to slide content, not detract from it.

Focus areas such as blurred lines help the primary content of your slides stand out. Instead of using a crisp, clear image for your background, use a slightly out-of-focus or blurred image that contrasts to bold, sharp text that will stand out to viewers. By using blurred lines in your background, you help draw the eye to important information, providing a visual break for audiences. If you like the idea of focus areas but want to mix things up, use the same blurred image on each slide, but alter the colour scheme to create visual difference.

Translucency and opacity describe how well you can see through one design layer to the layer beneath it. If you’re using an image for your PowerPoint background, you can use transparency to draw attention to text or other slide contents. Instead of imposing the text directly onto your background, create a box or bar on your page in a bold colour with 30 – 70 percent opacity. Then, place text on the opaque layer. This will help text stand out while allowing your background image to show through too.

When using image backgrounds, you can add a shape overlay to make the background even more interesting or to make the foreground look sharper. To do this, go to Insert > Shapes.

It’s generally easier if you simply select a rectangle shape and cover the entire slide. Click on the shape itself so that the Format Shape pane will appear on the screen. Adding a gradient fill makes the background look better.

Geometric polygon backgrounds look great on PowerPoint especially if you pair it with the right kind of font and the right graphics. It also adds texture to your slides and makes your slide look colourful and interesting.

How to Customise your PowerPoint Background

The Format Background menu in PowerPoint gives you plenty of options to customize your background according to your design preferences. For even better control, you can use Artistic Effects to make your background look better.

To access Artistic Effects, click on the background image to open the Format Background menu.

powerpoint background, Best Practice for Your PowerPoint Background Select a picture or texture fill and then click on the second, pentagon-shaped icon to access Artistic Effects.

powerpoint background, Best Practice for Your PowerPoint Background

You can choose from different artistic effects by clicking on the drop-down menu. You can also change the transparency and the intensity of your chosen effect. In the below example, we’ve chosen Film Grain effect and as you can see, we can increase transparency and ‘grain size’.

powerpoint background, Best Practice for Your PowerPoint Background Clicking on an effect will lead to individual effect settings. Play around with the options until you find the best background for your slide.