What is a theme?

In this article

Overview of Office themes

Use themes to simplify the process of creating professional designer-looking presentations. Theme colors, fonts, and effects not only work in PowerPoint, but they are also available in Excel, Word, and Outlook so your your presentations, documents, worksheets, and e-mails can have a cohesive look.

Example of the same theme used in multiple programs
The same theme used in PowerPoint, Excel, and Word.

To try different themes, rest your pointer over a thumbnail in the Themes gallery and notice how your document changes.

Image of different themes applied to the same SmartArt graphic
Four themes that are applied to the same SmartArt graphic. Clockwise from the upper left: Metro, the default Office theme, Apex, and Trek.

Tip: To download additional themes from Microsoft Office.com, in the Themes gallery, click the More Themes on Microsoft Office.com. link.

Applying a new theme changes the major details of your document. WordArt effects are applied to titles in PowerPoint. Tables, charts, SmartArt graphics, shapes, and other objects are updated to complement one another. Also, in PowerPoint, even the layouts and backgrounds of your slides can be changed dramatically from theme to theme. If you like the way that a theme looks when you apply it to your presentation, you are finished reformatting with just that one click. If you want to customize your presentation further, you can change the theme colors, theme fonts, or theme effects.

You can use built-in themes or customize a theme in PowerPoint 2010.

Customizing themes

You can create many different custom themes by starting with the core built-in themes. The customization for theme colors, theme fonts, and theme effects is next to the Themes gallery. Choose a theme, change its settings or define your own, and then save the settings as a new theme in your gallery.

For even more new colors, fonts, and effects, do one of the following to download new themes from Microsoft Office.com:

  • On the Design tab, in the Themes group, click the More button Button image , and then click More Themes on Microsoft Office.com.

For step-by-step information about changing or customizing theme colors or fonts, see the article Customize a theme in PowerPoint 2010.

What can I do with theme colors?

Modifying theme colors is the most dramatic change you can make to your presentation, with the exception of changing the theme. With one click, you can change the tone of a presentation from casual to formal, or vice versa, by changing the theme colors.

Theme colors have 12 color slots. The first four horizontal colors are for text and backgrounds. Text that is created with the light colors will always be legible over the dark colors, and text that is created with dark colors will always be legible over the light colors. The next six are accent colors that are always visible over the four potential background colors. The last two colors, not shown in the picture below, are reserved for hyperlinks and followed hyperlinks.

Image of theme colors

Theme colors handle both light and dark backgrounds very well. There are visibility rules built into the theme so that you can switch colors at any time and all your content will remain legible and still look good. PowerPoint 2007 uses large text, sometimes lightly colored on a dark background.

When you click Colors in the Themes group, the colors that you see next to the theme name represent the accent and hyperlink colors for that theme. If you change any of these colors to create your own set of theme colors, the colors that are shown on the Colors button and next to the Theme name will be updated accordingly.

theme colors

The theme colors are shown in every color gallery along with a set of tints and shades that are based on the theme colors. By selecting colors from this expanded, matched set, you can make formatting choices for individual pieces of content that follow the theme. When the theme colors change, the gallery of colors changes, and so does all document content that uses the theme colors.

Theme color picker

The Theme Colors gallery displays all the color sets from the built-in themes. To create your own custom theme colors, in the Themes group, click Colors, and then click Create New Theme Colors.

For step-by-step information about customizing theme colors, see the article customize a theme in PowerPoint 2010.

What can I do with theme fonts?

Professional document designers know that using a single font face for an entire document is always a tasteful and safe design choice. Two fonts are a better choice, when used carefully for contrast. Every Office theme defines two fonts — one for headings and one for body text. They can be the same font (used everywhere) or two different fonts. PowerPoint uses these fonts to construct automatic text styles. In addition, Quick Styles galleries for text and WordArt use these same theme fonts.

Changing the theme fonts updates all of the title and bullet text in your presentation. In previous releases of PowerPoint, you had to make this kind of global change on a slide master.

When you click Fonts in the Themes group, the names of the heading font and body text font that are used for each theme font appear below the theme name.

Theme font picker

In addition, the Create New Theme Fonts dialog box has been updated to show the current theme fonts in use.

Font picker dialog box

For step-by-step information about customizing theme fonts, see the article customize a theme in PowerPoint 2010.

What can I do with theme effects?

Theme effects specify how effects are applied to your charts, SmartArt graphics, shapes, pictures, tables, WordArt, and text. By using the Theme Effects gallery, you can replace different sets of effects to quickly change the look of these objects. Although you cannot create your own set of theme effects, you can choose the effect that you want to use in your own theme.

In every theme, there is an effect matrix that is used to generate the theme effect. The effect matrix has three style levels of line, fill, and special effects, such as shadow and three-dimensional (3-D) effects. Professional designers often refer to these style levels as "stroke," "tone," and "depth." By combining three formatting dimensions — lines, fills, and effects — you can generate visuals that all match the same theme effects.

Here is the effect matrix for the Office theme (the default theme).

Effect scheme diagram

Each theme has a different effect matrix for a different look. For example, one theme may have a metallic look, and another may look like frosted glass.

For step-by-step information about customizing theme effects, see the article Customize a theme in PowerPoint 2010.

What are Quick Styles?

Although themes change the overall colors, fonts, and effects that are used, Quick Styles, (or Styles), change how the different colors, fonts, and effects are combined and which color, font, and effect is dominant. When you rest the pointer on a Quick Style thumbnail, you can see how the Quick Style affects your table, SmartArt graphic, chart, or shape.

The design description (theme colors, theme fonts, and theme effects) of themes provides galleries of Quick Styles that always match the theme of your document. Themes and Quick Styles are both created by visual designers so that all of your documents look professionally created. When you choose from the various Quick Style galleries, your content will be well-matched to your overall document theme.

Shape style gallery image
The Shape Quick Style gallery

In PowerPoint, the theme colors, theme fonts, and theme effects are like a list of formatting ingredients, and each Quick Style is like a recipe.

What are PowerPoint background styles?

Background styles are unique to PowerPoint and use the new theme color model that defines two dark colors and two light colors to be used for text and backgrounds. The light colors are always visible over the dark colors and vice versa, such as when dark color text is used over a light background. There are six accent colors that look good over any of the four possible background colors.

Image of available background style colors
Example of colors in background styles

Also, inside each theme are three background-fill definitions: subtle, moderate, and intense. By combining the 4 background colors with the 3 theme backgrounds, you get 12 possible background styles.

In the built-in themes, the top row of the Background Styles gallery is always solid fill. To access the Background Styles gallery, on the Design tab, in the Background group, click Background Styles.

Background Styles gallery image
Example of a Background styles gallery

If you apply the background styles from the second row of the gallery shown in the illustration above, you get the four variations shown in the following illustration.

Background gallery variations image
Four variations of background styles

Notice how the dark and light text and the background colors are automatically switched based on the background that you choose. Many slide show projectors show dark backgrounds and light text better than they show light backgrounds and dark text. You can use the background styles as a quick way to transform your presentation for better projection.

For step-by-step information about adding a background to your slide, see the article Apply a background picture, color, or watermark to your slides.

Tip: To apply a background style or theme to only some slides in your presentation, right-click the background style or theme, and then click Apply to Selected Slides on the shortcut menu.

Links to more information about PowerPoint themes

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