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!


  1. Great tip, Julie!

  2. Just trundled off to Shyam’s (sp?) website and picked up the PowerPoint Toolbox you spoke of in the posting above. I’m looking forward to exploiting it as well as all the information you furnish within these walls.

    FYI– I learned of your site and your work from Tech Republic’s download “Solving the PowerPoint Predicament…” in which your work and that displayed on the “Duarte.com” website was praised for its simplicity as well as its innate ability to not make an audience ostensibly aware they’re trapped watching yet another PP Presentation.

  3. So I’m having trouble with the Colour swatch add – in, it’s showing up (I’ve enabled macros) and I went through the process of filling in the boxes with colours, changing the names, and then saving as a theme. It showed up in the colours list (under design tab) but when I selected it, and went back to a shape and went to fill it, I didn’t have the custom colours row of colours??? (I have repeated the process several times, it worked once but I closed it down without saving, thinking that the custom scheme would work in other presentations – when it didn’t I assumed, I’d done something wrong so redid the steps) But since then I’ve tried twice again and still firstly in my ppt template it won’t stay on the custom scheme (assume that is something our business has set up though making our default always to be used) but when I deleted all the slides, creating a blank preso and selected my custom scheme…the new colours still wouldn’t show up ie no custom colours row.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated, let me know if you need more details.


  4. I am aware of this issue with the Color Swatch add-in. Custom colors aren’t traveling with with color theme. They do show up in the current file, when you first create the color swatch slide.

    I’ll point this out to the add-in author and ask him to update the tools. Will post a follow-up when I have more info.

    In the meantime, you can edit the XML to add custom colors that will travel with the theme colors file. Echo Swinford has an excellent tutorial here: http://echosvoice.com/2007/customcolors1.htm

    Best wishes,


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