March 11, 2014#

Tints too bright? You can fix that.

Before and after, modified tints and shades

Before and after, modified tints and shades

PowerPoint automatically generates the tints and shades that populate the theme color gallery. You cannot manually select your own colors for these swatches. The tints and shades are based on the values you specify for the theme colors. If your theme colors are overly saturated, you can end up with tints that are practically screaming.

Fortunately, there is a way to tone down those tints by tweaking the saturation and other values of your theme color(s).  Want to learn how?  Read this tutorial that I wrote with Geetesh Bajaj over at Indezine.com.

Let me know if this helps your tints! I’d love to hear from you.


October 25, 2012#

Finally, a new post and a NEW BOOK!

I’m excited to announce the publication of my new book, Building PowerPoint Templates: Step by step with the experts!  My co-author, Echo Swinford, and I spent most of the year writing and re-writing this one-of-a-kind guide to building templates that work well beyond your desktop.

The book is available in print and eBook from Que Publishing and Amazon


December 7, 2011#

Change for the better

Learning new things can be a struggle. In this case, I’m referring to WordPress and maintaining this site. There is a lot of time and effort involved.

A great big thank you to Steve Hards for stepping in and helping me get this site up and running properly. Steve: I appreciate all you’ve done for me!

And thanks also to MVP Tom van Stiphout for letting me know there were problems with my portfolio links. The WordPress Theme I was using had some issues and despite many attempts to contact the theme designer to get those issues fixed, I never received a reply. I was willing to pay for customization, too. Lesson learned: make sure you’ll have support down the road.

As a result of the theme problems, I was forced to redo my site using a new WordPress Theme. It’s still a work in progress, but I like the results so far. It’s clean and uncluttered, a perfect backdrop to showcase graphics and tutorials. I hope to add many more examples and share plenty of information for improving your presentations.

June 7, 2011#

The 2011 Presentation Summit






Now’s the time to register for the 2011 Presentation Summit, coming to Austin, Texas this September 18-21 . Save $100 if you register before July.

You can get more info at http://www.PresentationSummit.com, including a full FAQ, the complete schedule, bios on the speakers, and pricing details.

I will be speaking again this year (my eighth!) Once again, I’ll tackle Makeovers – always a fun and informative session. I will also be conducting a “Template Repair Shop,” where you’ll learn how to fix common (and perhaps not so common) template issues. These sessions rely on patron submissions for real-world content. If you’re attending the Presentation Summit,  you can submit your slides for a makeover or a broken template for the repair session. As soon as it’s available, I will post information on how to submit your files.

I hope to see you in Austin!

May 12, 2011#

Create Custom-Shaped Picture Placeholders

Example slide with custom shaped Picture Placeholder

Alternate slide with same custom Picture Placeholder

Picture Placeholders are a great way to add images to presentations, while maintaining a consistent placement, size and style. Since the picture formatting is defined on a Slide Layout within the template, it’s easy to insert new pictures without having to realign, resize or edit styles.

Did you know that Picture Placeholders can be easily transformed into any of the pre-defined shapes in PowerPoint?

In Slide Master View, select a Slide Layout with a Picture Placeholder (or Insert Layout and Insert Placeholder, Picture). Select the Picture Placeholder, click the Drawing Tools Format tab, Edit Shape, Change Shape and choose any shape from the gallery.  Tip: drag the adjustment handle (yellow diamond) to refine the shape by making corners smaller, modifying an angle or arrowhead).

But what if you want a specific shape that doesn’t exist in the gallery?

With PowerPoint 2010, you can edit Picture Placeholders to create very unique, custom shapes. There are a couple ways to accomplish this.

In Slide Master View, select a Picture Placeholder, click the Drawing Tools Format tab, Edit Shape, Change Shape and choose a shape from the gallery. Tip: a rectangle is a good choice to start, but you can select any shape that is closest to your desired final result.

Click Edit Shape again, then Edit Points. Right-click on any point or segment to begin adjusting the Placeholder. Note: this works in PowerPoint 2007, too!

With PowerPoint 2010, it’s much faster to edit Picture Placeholders by using the Combine Shapes commands. These commands allow you to quickly create custom forms by merging shapes together, intersecting them, or by deleting a portion of one shape from another.

To access this command, you must add it to the Quick Access Toolbar, located above the File tab.  To customize the Quick Access Toolbar, do the following:

1.   Click the arrow next to the Quick Access Toolbar, and then under Customize Quick Access Toolbar click More Commands.

2.   In the PowerPoint Options dialog box, in the Choose commands from list, select All Commands.

3.   In the list of commands, click Combine Shapes, and then click Add.

Again, you must change the shape of the Picture Placeholder prior to editing. In Slide Master View, select a Picture Placeholder, click the Drawing Tools Format tab, Edit Shape, Change Shape and choose a shape from the gallery.

Next, draw shapes that you will add to, or subtract from, the Picture Placeholder shape. In the example, I’ve drawn circles on top of each corner.

Picture Placeholder with masking shapes

Select the Picture Placeholder, then one of the new shapes and choose either the Shape Subtract or Shape Union command from the QAT. Repeat this step for all other shapes.

Picture Placeholder after modifications

Complex curved shapes are quite possible and much easier to create with the Combine Shapes tools

March 20, 2011#

Super Fast, Custom Color Themes

The color theme is one of the key elements of a successful PowerPoint template. The choices you make for Background and Accent colors will directly influence all text, graphics, tables and chart colors. So make smart choices for color and make it priority to format the color theme as a first step in creating a new template.

The problem: it’s tedious and time consuming to enter RGB values for all 12 colors in a theme. The solution: two fabulous add-ins are available to speed up the task.

OfficeOne ProTools Color Picker makes it very simple to pick up and apply any color. You can choose colors for fills, outlines, fonts, shadows, glows and more. The Color Picker displays a magnified view of pixels surrounding your cursor, and also shows you the RGB values in hexadecimal and decimal formats. You can write down the decimal RGB values and use them to Create New Theme Colors OR use the Color Picker in combination with another brilliant add-in for the fastest color themes ever.

When developing a new color theme, start with a blank slide and create 12 filled rectangles (any color) to represent all of the colors in a theme. Add up to 12 more rectangles for custom colors, as needed. Directly onto this slide, insert any background images, logos, pictures, brand colors, website grabs or other graphics you have for the new template design.  Use the ProTools Color Picker to select colors from these images and graphics, filling the rectangles with your new selections.

The next step involves the Color Swatch Add-In for PowerPoint 2007 and 2010. With this add-in installed, click the command “Create Swatch Slide” and a new slide is added to the front of the presentation. You see 12 swatches that represent the current color theme, along with 12 empty swatches that you can define as custom colors.

Copy your new colors (filled rectangles from the first step) to this Swatch slide and move the copied shapes off the slide area so they don’t cover the swatches. One at a time, select each shape on the Swatch Slide and use the Color Picker to pick up the corresponding fill from the new colors (off the slide area).  Note: if you have all RGB colors available to pick from, you can work directly on the Swatch Slide without having to copy shapes from a separate slide.

When you’re finished replacing the Swatch Slide with new colors, click the command “Apply Swatch to Color Theme.” Type in a Theme Name and you’re done.

The OfficeOne ProTools Color Picker is available at: http://officeone.mvps.org/protools/color_picker.html  
A single user license is $19.95 (US) there are substantial discounts for multiple licenses.

The Color Swatch Add-In for PowerPoint 2007 and 2010 is available at http://skp.mvps.org/swatch.htm
This is a free add-in. If you’re happy with it, consider a donation to keep products like this coming.

Thank you Shyam and Chirag!

February 18, 2011#

Microsoft MVP Summit

I’m excited to attend this year’s MVP Summit. This gathering of thousands of MVPs from around the world takes place February 28-March 2. It’s a wonderful opportunity to discuss issues directly with the team responsible for the product. MVPs get exclusive access to technical content and provide feedback to the product group.

Can’t wait to catch up with my PowerPoint MVP and Microsoft friends!

PowerPoint MVPs and Microsoft folks

February 15, 2011#

Design to Present

I love what I do.

Designing presentations isn’t a glamorous job. Quite often, it means long days and late nights working on last minute changes. Event dates are scheduled far in advance, yet most presenters wait until the last minute before concentrating on their presentations.

Regardless of the pressures, I welcome the challenges this unique medium brings. It’s pretty exciting to see your work projected on a 40′ screen. And so gratifying to hear from an appreciative client, who says they’ve never felt more confident as a presenter. That’s what inspires me. Helping others make that visual/verbal connection with an audience. Teaching them to speak to the audience instead of reading their slides. Showing them how graphics and images can be used to communicate their ideas much more effectively than a paragraph of text. I love trying new ideas. I enjoy being inspired by other designers, in all mediums.

So you want to improve your presentations? Become a better presentation designer? Me, too. Because if we’re not learning, we’re not living. I’m sure to learn a lot while writing this blog. I hope you do, too.

February 14, 2011#


This blog is all about designing for presentations. Some posts will feature step-by-step instructions, others will include design inspiration, helpful tips, useful links and news from the presenting world.