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Color Theory Applied to Presentations

By Jose Moran

Everyone knows that color can make a presentation more interesting and stimulating to look at. It can also convey information, as in the differently colored slices of a pie chart.

But color used improperly is worse than no color at all. Bad color choices or combinations can actually distract viewers from your message and can even cause unpleasant feelings in them. The following guidelines can help you use color effectively in your presentations:

  • Too much color can be distracting. Resist the temptation to decorate your slides with a rainbow of colors. Graphic elements (such as charts) should never contain more than five colors; text slides should use at most two main colors and a third for highlighting.
  • Keep the colors, and their meanings, consistent throughout the presentation. This will unify your presentation and give it a professional look.
  • Even if you've chosen a harmonious set of colors, don't use them arbitrarily. Let the colors to show the relationships between elements, with related things in related colors.
  • As with the colors, keep the text (font) styles in your slides consistent.
  • Don't arbitrarily switch colors (of background, text, graphics, or anything else) during the course of the presentation. A change of color should only be used to emphasize key information or to indicate a change of topic or message.
  • Don't use red and green at the same time, because colorblind people can't see the difference between them.
  • Backgrounds consisting of more than one color should use dithering (a gradual blending from one color to the next) for easy viewing. It's usually preferable to use a solid light color (light blue or gray) for the background with a dark color for text. This is the most effective combination for projected slides.
  • To help maintain visual consistency, develop a template that you can use to create each slide. A template is just a basic slide containing the background colors, font style, and graphics that will be common to every slide.
  • Test your color combinations on the actual projection equipment that will be used, or at least on a similar type of projector. The projected image will usually appear brighter and more vivid than it does on your computer screen. You may discover that your perfect color scheme doesn't look so perfect when projected. It's better to discover this while creating your template than during your presentation.

Color Meanings
Colors in themselves, of course, have no specifically defined meanings. Nevertheless, colors tend to carry subtle, subliminal emotions to viewers, whether by convention or by some natural perceptual process, and you should bear these traditional associations mind when making your color choices.


Color preference:
  • 9% Choose Black - Reliability, Authority, Power, Constancy, Prudence Black feels formal and powerful. Formal clothing tends to be black for this reason.
  • 20% Choose Blue - Tranquility, Intuitiveness, Trust, Loyalty Peaceful, tranquil blue relaxes the nervous system and increases productivity. People seem to retain more information when reading blue text.
  • 3% Choose Brown - Credibility, Solidity, Strength, Maturity. The color of earth and wood, brown creates a neutral and comfortable environment.
  • 13% Choose Green - Life, Growth, Abundance, Vitality. Green is the easiest color on the eye. It calms and has a neutral effect on the nervous system.
  • 7% Choose Orange - Warmth, Happiness, Courage, Success. Orange is the color most associated with appetite. It has a broad appeal. Suitable for anything and anyone.
  • 11% Choose Purple - Luxury, Wealth, Sophistication. Purple conveys a feeling of passion, romance, and sensitivity.
  • 14% Choose Pink - Romance, Imagination, Fantasy. Pink feels calm and soft-hearted, with a tranquilizing effect.
  • 12% Choose Red - Power, Warmth, Energy, Determination, Excitement, Passion. Red dominates and grabs attention. It stimulates people to quick decisions and increases expectations.
  • 4% Choose White - Purity, Innocence, Sterility. White is cool and refreshing.
  • 5% Choose Yellow - Enthusiasm, Light, Creativity, Spirituality. Yellow draws attention, feels warm, and is the most visible color of all.

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