If you want to change the colors on a slide or for all slides, apply a color scheme to the slide or to the master. If a color scheme is not available that meets your needs, modify an existing color scheme to create a custom color scheme. If you already have 16 color schemes, delete an unused one. If all color schemes are in use, create a second slide-title master pair, which can then host another 16 color schemes.

To change the background color of a slide or master, be sure to follow these rules:

  • To apply a solid color to the background of a slide or master, apply an appropriate color scheme or modify the background color of the color scheme. Do not apply a solid color using the Format → Background command! Also, do not create a solid background by drawing a full-sized rectangle, filling it with a color, and sending it to the back of the object order. Just change the color scheme's background color.
  • To create a background that is a gradient, pattern, texture, or full-sized graphic, do choose Format ? Background and, from the drop-down menu, choose Fill Effects.
  • To create a background that is a graphic or other item that is not the full size of the slide, insert the object then right-click it and choose Send To Back.

    PowerPoint is smart enough to omit the background when printing in greyscale and black and white (e.g. to laser printers). But it only does that when the slide's background is the background color scheme color or has been created using the Format ? Background command. If you create a background by inserting an object and sending it to the back of the slide, the object will print by default.

It is very bad practice to apply colors directly to the title placeholder on the master. If you want to modify the color of the text of the title on the master, change the title text color in the color scheme. Otherwise, you break the linkage of color inheritance.

Similarly, be very careful about applying a color to the text placeholder on the master. If you want the text on the master to be another color, change the text and lines color in the color scheme so that you do not break the 'linkage' of color inheritance. There are small exceptions to this rule if you think through colors carefully:

  • If you want the first-level bullets to be one color, the second-level bullets to be another color, etc., then use the color scheme's text and lines color to determine the color for first-level bullets. Then, on the slide master, change the font color for lower-level bullets. In such a scenario, the best practice is to modify the color scheme so that each color you want is defined somewhere. You might modify the accent color, accent and hyperlinks color, accent and followed hyperlinks color, shadow color, fills color, or title text color. Then, when changing the font color for second and lower level bullets, select from colors in the color scheme--that is, select colors on the first row of colors of the Font Color menu.
  • If you want the first-level bullets to be one color and all lower level bullets to be another color, then use the color scheme's text and lines color to determine the color for lower level bullets, and apply another color to the first level bullets. The best practice is to first modify the color scheme so that the color you want for the first level bullets is definied somewhere. You might modify the accent color, accent and hyperlinks color, accent and followed hyperlinks color, shadow color, fills color, or title text color. Then, when changing the font color for second and lower level bullets, select from colors in the color scheme--that is, select colors on the first row of colors of the Font Color menu.