How to create custom color palette for a PowerPoint theme?


Using a consistent color palette throughout your PowerPoint presentation makes it look more polished. Although many organizations already have a defined set of colors to use in presentations, the following is a quick tutorial if you need to set up the PowerPoint color palette.

A note about themes and templates in PowerPoint: PowerPoint calls the defined set of colors for a presentation a ‘theme’.  However, if you look for themes on the design tab, you will see a series of slides which imply that ‘themes’ include templates and layouts.  They don’t.  Themes, templates and layouts are all different, but you use them together.

First step is to decide which colors you want to use.  If your company has a Marketing team, they probably have a ‘branding document’ which specifies the colors and fonts you should use.   If you need to add accent colors (or you do not have a marketing team), there are a lot of online resources that can help you with selecting complementary colors. The Adobe color wheel is a really helpful resource – perfect for identifying complementary colors: https://color.adobe.com/create/color-wheel.

Once you have selected your colors, you’re ready to build the custom color palette for your PowerPoint theme.

Navigate to the View tab on the ribbon and open the Slide Master. Click the ‘Colors’ dropdown menu. You will see pre-defined color palettes. At the end of the list is an option to Customize Colors.

PowerPoint Color Palette menu

Click on Customize Colors and the ‘Create New Theme Colors’ box will open

PowerPoint Create New Theme Colors menu box

The ‘Create New Theme Colors’ box has a list of Background and Accent colors.

  • Text/Background – Dark and Light 1 and 2 are the background and text colors to use if you are using colored backgrounds. You can also use black and white.
  • Accent 1 will be the default color when you draw lines and shapes.  
  • Accent 2-6 are the 5 colors from your color palette – the main colors you want to use in your presentations.

You can also choose your Hyperlink colors – common practice is to select a darker color for the Hyperlink, and a lighter one for a ‘Followed Hyperlink’   

Click the dropdown arrow next to each color to choose your custom colors.

PowerPoint Create New Theme Colors Menu Box

If your required color does not display in the preview, click ‘More Colors…’ to reveal additional options

PowerPoint Color Selector Menu Box
PowerPoint Color Selector Menu Box

You can choose colors from the Standard colors, but for greater accuracy and options select the ‘Custom’ tab and enter RGB or Hex attributes to select specific colors.

Repeat this process for each of the Accent, background/ text and hyperlink colors.  At the bottom of the ‘Create New Theme Colors’ box, enter a name for your color palette.

PowerPoint Create New Theme Colors menu box

Hit ‘Save’ and you’re done!  Your current presentation will automatically update to use the attributes of your new color palette. If you’re using PPT Productivity Power Tools, the top set of colors on your Color Toolbar will update accordingly (making it easy to use your theme colors throughout your presentation). You can use your new color palette in any presentation by navigating to the Master Slide and selecting it from the ‘Colors’ drop down

PowerPoint Color Palette menu

Can I add more colors to my PowerPoint theme?

PowerPoint limits the number of colors in PowerPoint Themese to:

  • 6 accent colors,
  • 4 text colors that can be used with dark and light backgrounds (2 dark and 2 light); and
  • 2 hyperlink colors (one for unfollowed and one for followed)

However if your organization has an extended color palette that you want to be able to easily access when creating presentations, you can add these to your PPT Productivity Color Palette Toolbar. This will make the colors available for easy use each time you open PowerPoint. You can also share your extended color palette with team members (if they are also using PPT Productivity). And you can add custom color names to your colors.

Can I update Slide Library shapes to match the color of my themes?

We have created the PPT Productivity downloadable galleries of shapes in the Slide Library to automatically ‘inherit theme colors’.  This means irrespective of the thumbnail color of the shape in the gallery, when you paste one of our preset shapes or slides into your document, it will adopt the template colors.  If you need to update any of your custom shapes in your personal gallery to work this way, simply paste them onto your presentation, change the color using your theme colors – i.e. the colors that are in your templates color palette – and re-save the shape to your personal gallery

PowerPoint Fill Color dropdown showing Theme Colors

Visit our PowerPoint Tips blog page to find more tutorial information.

If you have any questions about how to perform specific PowerPoint tasks, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Please note: All instructions provided in our tutorial articles are based on PowerPoint for Windows 365 and are current at time of publishing.

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