Understand the difference between PowerPoint templates and themes

Themes and templates help you create content that looks attractive and consistent without doing a lot of manual formatting.

In this article:

What is a theme?

What is a template?

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49 seconds

What is a PowerPoint theme?

A theme is a predefined set of colors, fonts, effects. They are defined by a Slide Master. The master also defines the size and position of any recurring background images. And there are Master Layouts that define the arrangement of elements on each type of slide (such as a Title slide, a Title + Content slide, a Picture With Caption slide, and so on).

Themes give your presentations a designer-quality look: coordinated colors, a matching background, fonts, and effects. Themes can also be applied to tables, SmartArt graphics, shapes, or charts in your slides.

PowerPoint offers several built-in themes, and you have unlimited options for customizing them. Built-in themes can be applied from the Themes gallery on the Design tab. To learn how to create custom themes, see Create your own theme in PowerPoint.

You can see a live preview before you apply a theme. Live preview lets you experiment with how your slide content looks with different themes; simply rest your pointer over a thumbnail in the Themes gallery to see how your presentation changes with the different themes.

Image of different themes applied to the same SmartArt graphic
Four different themes applied to the same slide

You can use and share themes among all theme-supporting Office programs, such as Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. For example, you can save a theme that you created or customized in PowerPoint, and then apply it to a Word document or Excel worksheet. That way, all of your related business documents have a similar look and feel.

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What is a PowerPoint template?

A template is a theme plus some content, such as an award certificate, a sales presentation, a classroom lesson, a chart for an organization.

The template gives you a blueprint of a slide (or group of slides) and is saved as a .potx file. Templates can contain layouts, theme colors, theme fonts, theme effects, background styles, and even content.

You can create your own custom templates and store them, reuse them, and share them with others. You can also find hundreds of different types of free templates for PowerPoint and other programs on Office.com and on other partner websites that you can apply to your presentation.

To learn more about using templates, see Download free, pre-built templates.

To learn more about themes, see Create your own theme in PowerPoint.

The following are just a few examples of the free PowerPoint templates that you can find on Office.com:


Award certificates



Business cards


Slides containing content



Design slides



Expense reports

Fax sheets


Common forms

Gift certificates

Greeting cards













Purchase orders








Time sheets

A template can include the following:

Components of a template

1 Subject-specific content, such as Certificate of Achievement, Soccer, and the soccer ball image. Generally this text or content is only editable from the slide master.

2 Background formatting, such as pictures, texture, gradient or solid fill color, and transparency. This example shows the light blue solid fill background.

3 Color, fonts, effects (3-D, lines, fills, shadows, etc.), and theme design elements (such as the color and gradient effects inside the word Soccer).

4 Text placeholders that allow people to enter unique information to customize the slide for their own needs, such as Player's name, Name of coach, Date of presentation, and any variable, such as the year.

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See Also

Download free, pre-built templates

Create your own theme in PowerPoint

Create and save a PowerPoint template

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