How To Choose The Best Colors For Your Presentations

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It’s no secret that humans are visual creatures, but few know how much of an impact the colors that make up those visuals have on how we feel and respond to information. Our color associations are not merely preferences, they’re also influenced by culture and evolution. For instance, it’s thought that humans have an aversion to brown because of its associations with rotting produce, and red catches our attention because it’s a universal sign of heightened emotion. Presentations that are not only visual but also thoughtful when it comes to color, have a better chance of effectively communicating their message. In this article, we’ll share some of our top tips for putting together a powerful palette.

Setting the Mood

In order to choose your presentation colors, start by determining what mood you’re trying to set. Is the message supposed to be exciting? Perhaps it’s intended to keep people calm during a time of high tension, or maybe it’s full of important information that will require your audience to stay alert and attentive throughout. In any case, try using the guide below to help you select the right starting point for your color scheme.




A Dash of Color Theory

Once you’ve used mood to determine your base color, you can move on to choosing the rest them. At 99designs, we use a color wheel and a bit of color theory to help us out. Consider one of the following themes:


Monochromatic: one color in multiple shades or hues.

A monochromatic theme will give your presentation a feeling of harmony and be visually pleasing to almost everyone. If this were a food, it would be spaghetti with meatballs: it’s a classic and when done right it can be amazing, but even not done right it’s pretty hard to offend anyone or make it terrible.

Analogous: two colors right next to each other on the color wheel, you’ll want to pick different shades or hues of these colors, as well, for contrast.  

Grab their attention by making your presentation more interactive

This approach adds a nice level of variety, but is still fairly safe. This is good for helping people pay attention and take in complicated topics without overwhelming them. If this were a food it would be enchiladas: it has a little spice, but it’s still a pretty safe thing to serve at a dinner party.

Complementary: two colors across from each other on the color wheel, again, with a couple shades/hues of each.

This will get attention! When we see complementary colors next to each other, it overloads our brains. This sort of scheme is best used when you definitely want to make a splash. If this type of theme were a food it would be screaming hot chili: some people are going to love it, but it may be too spicy for others.

Triadic: three colors equally spaced around the color wheel, with small variations in shade of two colors.

This is a color scheme for advanced color users. When done right, it can guide where people look, creating balanced and visually compelling presentations, but it’s also really easy to mess up. Triadic themes are chocolate souffles: gourmet, delicious, will win you praise from almost anyone, but are super hard to make right. One tip to keep in mind is giving each color a purpose. For example, one color should be more muted to ground viewers and the other two should be intentionally used as accents.

Careful Application is Key

When you’ve got your palette together, remember to use it to direct attention rather than steal the show. For example, see how the monochromatic theme below was applied to the dinosaur illustration. From left to right, the first color was used for headlines, the second for body text, the third for background, and the fourth and fifth are accent colors.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 10.07.08 AM

presentation color example

Dinosaur designed by kelinciedan for andrew nm.

Also, remember that accent colors should be used sparingly. Try using them to draw attention to the most important parts of your presentations, such as the 1-3 key takeaways you want people to remember.

Next, we’ll be back to talk about how to use typography in presentations. Stay tuned!

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