Power Tip: All About Color Schemes - Customizing Color Palettes

About this lesson

Why Am I Struggling with Colors in PowerPoint?

Maybe because you are using STANDARD colors and not THEME COLORS?

What is the Difference?

Standard colors are applied one object at a time and are not color-coordinated, but THEME COLORS are a collection that is automatically applied to elements in the whole slide deck, such as titles, backgrounds, bullet point,s and chart elements.


In this training tutorial, we cover all the elements to understand not just how colors are applied but also where to change and make your own color palette to make your presentation unique to match an organization’s standardized colors.


00:00 Intro
01:06 Hands-On
01:30 What Not to Do: Standard Colors
02:16 Do Use Theme Colors
02:49 Color Use in Design Themes
03:44 Leveraging Color Variants
04:24 Creating Your Own Color Palette
05:03 Source for Color Palette Ideas
05:53 Explaining Color Codes of HEX, RGB, HSL
06:19 Steps to Create a Custom Color Theme
08:41 Where Color Theme is Saved
09:51 The Wrap-Up


Subject Microsoft PowerPoint

Software Compatibility All Versions

Level Tips

Course Completed Complete

PDF Files There are not any files associated with this lesson.



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Color Theory is hard.  And PowerPoint can make it cumbersome unless you learn the differences between Standard Colors and Theme Colors.

In under 10 minutes, I will show you all you need to know about using color elements in PowerPoint.

Hi, this is Les McCarter from Power-UP Training, where my decades of PowerPoint experience becomes your expertise for free.

You and I will explore how to use color choices in PowerPoint that match and flows by utilizing theme colors and avoiding the often misused standard colors.

Once you understand the difference of color choice applications, we will explore color theory and where to find professional help. Lastly, we will build a custom color scheme palette and understand how to save and share.


Let go Power Up!

Let’s Dive in to understanding how to leverage existing color palettes and create your own.

First off, this will not be a pretty presentation for two reasons: 1) we are just exploring features and 2) I am not a design professional; but I do know how to get help from professionals and we will do just that.

Before we get started, let me show you what NOT to do.

Do NOT apply the one off STANDARD colors on a slide by slide or object by object method.

You will most likely create chaos of colors from slide to slide, with no way to mass update the color scheme afterwards. You may think you have better control, but in a large presentation you will be stuck. There are better ways.

As I apply various colors from the standard colors, it is important to know that these are being hard coded to the letters or elements of the objects. While I’m not showing it, you can also go into MORE FILL COLORS, but these will have the same issues, as I will show in a moment.

Microsoft has a team of design experts and they have created a collection of pre-built color pallets for you to choose from.

Go to the DESIGN menu and look for an upside down arrow on the top right side of the screen next to VARIANTS,

Click on it and then choose COLORS.

On this particular slide, we see only a few subtle changes, such as in our chart as I move my mouse to preview the change.

But colors play part of a grander design plan, if we move to the DESIGN THEMES, we will see bigger changes colors that will then match the professionally designed background and fonts collection.

In this tutorial we are focusing only on colors, see our other tutorials listed above for understanding how to leverage theme so that the layouts and titles don’t go so chaotic as I preview the choices.

Let me point out that several elements are “hard coded” from the start and do not follow the theme, such as the dog, the chess pieces and part of the paint brush collection.

But do watch how the graph elements will all dynamically changed based on the colors tied to the different themes.

You can go one step further to customize the slides beyond just themes. Choose a single theme and then select one of the matching variants to give the presentation a unique look.

Note again, the elements that don’t change (dog, chess pieces, paint brush elements0 and how the chart and table do.

So to review, if we want to apply a collection of colors in a consistent and unified manner, we should stick to using 1) Design templates, or 2) Theme VARIANTS or 3) Specific Variant color palette collections.

But what if you want to create your own PowerPoint color palette? for example, to match your company or organization’s branding colors?

Or you just want to do your own thing.

Matching a professional designed collection of colors will be easy to do in just a moment. But if you are tempted to do your own, be careful.

Color design and theory is an expert profession and you need both the knowledge and a flair for doing it right. Yes, you can learn a lot from the internet, such as from 99designs.com, but you can also learn a lot about medicine from WebMD, but that does not qualify you to be an operating surgeon.

But let’s see how to create a custom color collection. Since I don’t a set of approved colors from a corporate communications department, I will work from a simple collection of colors as showcased on 99.design.com.

I will be using the simple “#28 Scarlet, olive and teal.” This will be easy to demonstrate, but in reality, you will need more coordinated colors to build a full PowerPoint custom color scheme.

Look on the right and you see that PowerPoint has room for 12 colors. Unless you are building detailed colored charts, you won’t typically need 12, but probably 5 to 7 colors would be an ideal minimum.

Still let’s go ahead and work with just these three colors.

Before I start, you need to know the concept of color “numbers.” Are systems to represent colors to computers, such as Hex, or RGB or HSL. We are going to use HEX, but PowerPoint also recognizes RGB and there are online internet calculator to swap from one system to the next.

To create our new color set, we work in the design menu and go to the drop-down arrow near VARIANTS and choose COLORS and CUSTOMIZE COLORS.

Let’s first change the Text & Background colors from black to our darkest color of SCARLET. We click on the color and then select MORE COLORS.

Next we select CUSTOM.

And from here we can enter in the matching HEX code for scarlet of b85042.

Let me click OK and then SAVE and we can see our first change. The TITLE and outline box are no longer black but instead SCARLET.

Let’s repeat this to change the background to LIGHT OLIVE. But to save time, I will copy the HEX code first.

And then go to the DESIGN menu tab, select the drop down arrow next to variants, choose COLORS and this time, I will EDIT our CUSTOM 2 collection by right clicking and selecting EDIT.

Then select the Text/background LIGHT 1 where I paste the HEX code for LIGHT OLIVE.

Then OK and SAVE.

With that the background is now light olive for ALL our slides which you can see, but the table on the bottom right is still BLUE, let’s quick fix that by changing ACCENT 1 to our last color of light teal.

So, I will copy the hex code, go to the color collections. EDTI our Custom 2 color set, go to the ACCENT 1 and then paste in the hex code for light teal.

And here is where design expertise comes into play. Visually, we may need more colors and higher contrast for our table to stand out.

Artistic mastery is needed. Which reinforces the idea of possibly sticking to the standard Microsoft color sets or the use of your internal graphic design team to come ups a pleasing and forceful color style palette to match your message.

So where is the color theme saved? As you create and save, it is stored on your local computer.

One nice advantage is that the new color scheme is now available for use in Word, Excel, Outlook and other Office 365 tools, so that you can create color coordinated theme documents.

However, when you move the presentation file to a new computer, like a conference room, the colors will follow, but just inside the color choices in just that presentation. Not as a customizable set of colors for other presentations on the other computer..

To move just the color scheme, there is a complex method using XML files, but an easier way to share is to save a version of the presentation as either a Theme or Template.

This is done under the DESIGN ribbon menu and Click the the down arrow and choose SAVE CURRENT THEME.

Or for a template, use the FILE SAVE AS technique.

I highly recommend that you watch our YouTube video on THEMES’s & TEMPLATES, What’s the Difference for more details. Find it on YouTUbe or our webpage.



Excellent, you now understand the importance of using theme colors instead of standard colors, so that consistent colors flow through the slide deck while also giving you the ability to try on new color palettes after the presentation is created.

Together, we also explored the complexity of color theory and why the need for professional graphic designers either from the included Microsoft themes or your own organization’s communication team. No matter where the colors come from, you now know how to create a color scheme.


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Comments, questions or requests for specific topics?  Leave them in the comments below and also look for the link to our free PowerPoint training school website of Power-Up. Training.


Now go Power Up your PowerPoint Color Schemes.