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Keep your color choices simple
You're working on an important slide presentation. You've followed
all the steps on your PowerPoint template: You've organized your information,
created headlines and positioned your charts and graphs. All the elements
seem to be in order, but the slides are lackluster. No, dull. Even
you are bored with them. What's your audience going to think?
You decide what your slides need is color, lots of bold, bright color.
Color that will make your information stand up and be noticed. Color
that will shout out your message. Color that will hit your audience
over the head and grab their attention, whether they like it or not.
You add red, green, some blocks of blue. And orange. You've always
liked orange. By the time you're done, your slide presentation looks
like a circus. Instead of livening your slides and emphasizing your
message, you've wound up with a muddled mess.
What went wrong?
Most people -- or at least those of us without an art background --
don't understand that the colors they choose are not as important
as the relationships they create. Some colors work together, others
fight against each other. Establishing sound relationships is key.
Color is never viewed in isolation, but is always judged in its environment.
It is influenced by its neighboring colors. For example, place a bright
yellow ball in a child's nursery, and it will fit right in. Place
that same ball in a boardroom, and it will stick out like -- well,
a bright yellow ball in a boardroom.
So how are you supposed to know what colors work well together? How
do you select ones that will get your message across with the appropriate
tone and style? And how do you establish these successful relationships?
The solution is as simple as turning your head and looking out the
When you think of creating a color palette for your presentation,
think of nature's palette. (OK, if you're working in a high-rise,
you may have to use your imagination here instead of looking out your
window.) Think of a summer coastal scene -- how the crisp blue-green
of the ocean cedes to the rich stands of deep green fir trees that
smack vivid against a cornflower-blue sky. Or imagine a field in early
winter -- the dull yellows and golds, the muted greens and the flat,
somber sky. These colors all work together in harmony, look appropriate
together. There's nothing showy or shouting about them -- and yet,
they evoke a feeling and create a mood. There's a sense of balance
and order. They work together.
And that should be your goal when making your color choices. Selecting
color should never be arbitrary or merely subjective. "I like
it" is not sufficient criteria for creating a palette. You need
Where to start? The first thing you need to decide is the feel you
want for your presentation. Color has thermal qualities of warm and
cool. Colors close to red-oranges are warm (think of "red hot");
colors close to blue-greens are cool (think of "icy blue").
Start by selecting either a warm or cool hue. ("Hue" is
simply another word for color.) Choose only one or two vivid hues.
And then, if you want to expand your palette and create visual variety,
use a broader range of those colors. You do this is through the use
of tints and shades.
A tint is a hue mixed with white, and a shade is a hue mixed with
black. For example, pink is a tint of red and brown is a shade of
orange. By experimenting with tints and shades, you can create palettes
that range from direct and playful to serious and somber. You can
create a mood or feeling that will get your message across in the
appropriate tone. Plus, you open up the color options before you,
rather than painting yourself into a corner of clashing colors.
The best rule to follow when selecting color is keep it simple. With
color choice, more is not better. It's the color relationships you
create that will make or break your presentation.
Remember, choose only one or two vivid hues and use their tints and
shades to broaden your palette. This will keep your slides clear,
elegant and to the point. Follow these simple rules, and your presentation
will be a color success.
That is, providing you don't wear an orange tie with that blue suit.
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