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Choose the Best Color Scheme For Your Slides

Are you bad at picking colors for your presentations? This is a basic guide on how to choose a color scheme for your slides.

Let's get started.


When working with color many people wonder about what colors to use and then how much of each color.

If you don't have brand colors, then I recommend using a color palette web site.

There are hundreds available on the web.

All of them will have similar features but slightly different functionalities.

Two I like to use are Coolors.co and Designs.ai

Coolors has millions of pre-build palettes and the ability to do a keyword search

Designs.ai doesn't have as many palettes and a more limited search feature.

However, for me it doesn't feel as overwhelming

and I find I like the overall aesthetic of the palettes more.

What to consider when picking colors

When choosing a palette, don't get hung up the number of colors or the variety.

Pick a palette that has one or two colors that align with your overall message.

For instance, if you are talking about elephant poaching in Africa

you should avoid colors like neon pink and blue.

Whereas warm earth tones would be more aligned with your message.

The 60-30-10 rule

When thinking about how much of each color to use,

a great rule or guideline is the 60-30-10 rule.

Let's break this down.

You have three colors and they are broken down into percentages: 60-30-10.

Your main or primary color is visible on 60% of the slide.

This will most often be your background color.

The secondary color is visible on 30% of the slide. This could be the color used for fonts, shapes, icons, or charts.

It should be in high contrast to your primary color.

Here is an example of good to bad contrast between the primary and secondary colors.

The secondary color is changing from dark to light.

As you can see the lighter the secondary color gets the harder it is to see against the primary color.

Also, while the block of the shapes are a bit easier to see

the text is much harder to read.

For a slide deck, legibility of your text is paramount.

And finally, with the 60-30-10 rule,

the third color is you accent color and visible on about 10% of the slide.

For the purpose of this video, I will stick with basic designs.

In another video I show how to use color schemes with images.

To help represent the 60-30-10 rule, I will create a basic color palette

This helps to see what the colors look like together

These rectangles equal 1000 px and are divided to represent the 60-30-10 percentages.

When starting out, I recommend using a neutral color like a light gray for your primary color.

From the palette you picked, use one of the colors as your secondary color.

and another for the accent color.

you will need to copy either the HEX or RGB code for the colors

so you can use them in your presentation software.

In this example I will use the plum as the secondary color

and the dark green as the accent color.

Next do a quick test of the color combinations to see how they work

Make sure test both shapes and text to check legibility

Here is an example of the initial color palette I picked.

I don't think the plum works very well for the main text so I will split my primary color

light gray for the background at 30% and font color at 30%

For the font I will use a dark charcoal.

Here is what the change looks like.

And here is another way to use the accent color

Sometimes it helps to have two accent colors

In this example I spilt the accent color between the two greens

This is a potential combination on the slide.

As you can see the 60-30-10 rule isn't a firm rule

but a great guideline to test out different color combinations.

About the Author

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Jennifer Sharkey is known as the Virtual Presentation Specialist. Being passionate about seeing people shine and be heard, she leans into her 20+ years of public speaking experience and uses what she has learned from presenting, both in-person and virtually, to small groups all the way up to 5000 people. Jennifer draws from her experience as an associate professor, academic librarian, and coach to help holistic coaches master virtual presentations to grow their business. Her unique immersive program provides practical strategies and methods to build confidence, engage audiences, and generate authenticity and authority.

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