PowerPoint Templates v. Backgrounds

What's the Difference Between "PowerPoint Templates" and "PowerPoint Backgrounds"?

PowerPoint Templates are presentation shells that carry a consistent look and feel with regard to color, background, animations, and fonts. Technically, PowerPoint templates end with the extension .pot, but you can create templates from regular .ppt files or even from web pages. When you apply a template to your presentation, the Title Master and Slide Master  will automatically be available for you to insert your presentation's contents. 

How to apply a PowerPoint Template: 

PowerPoint Backgrounds are images (usually .jpg, .gif, or .bmp) that you can insert in a slide to create your own template, or to create an individual look for each slide within a presentation. A PowerPoint Background is only one part of a template, or it can be a part of a slide in a presentation.

How to apply a PowerPoint Background:

First, find a background image that you would like to use. Usually, you'll be looking for a .jpg, .gif, or .bmp image that has a dimension that will fill your computer's screen area (usually  800x600  or 1024x768 pixel width/depth.)

Templates v. Backgrounds

So, when should you use a PowerPoint template, and when should you use a background?

Generally, you can use a template for a short, simple presentation where you want a consistent, well-designed look from slide to slide.

You use backgrounds as one element to create your template (don't forget fonts and other elements!) or you can use many coordinated backgrounds within one presentation to create a presentation with a "consistent look with a slightly different design" for each page.

This is called using "alternative backgrounds" and it's a great way to make your presentation look even more polished and professional.

Worth Noting: PowerFinish released a brand new set of completely unique PowerPoint Templates in January 2004. Complete with color coordinated alternative backgrounds, you can check out the Presenter's Choice package as well as the PowerDesign Set as examples of excellence in PowerPoint design.

Why use "alternative backgrounds" within one presentation?

Each slide of your PowerPoint presentation is filled with different types of content: text, bullet points, graphs, charts, pictures, video, flash, etc. But how many times have you thought, "Overall, my presentation looks great. But this slide with the logos would look better with a white background. And this graph looks confusing on this background. And this picture...its colors clash with the background. . ."

So you start overriding your template, either by pasting graphics over the offending areas, or by selecting an alternative background for a slide that has content that clashes with your selected template. In fact, many designers will create a set of coordinated backgrounds to use within one presentation.

For example, let's say your template has an abstract blue-ish background. And your presentation has a slide with several red logos. Since red on top of blue clashes wildly, it's usually a good idea to select an alternative, coordinated background: one that keeps the color theme of your template, but allows you to put in slide CONTENT that blends harmoniously with your presentation. 

Take a look at the three example slides below to see how alternate backgrounds can work for your presentation.

PowerPoint Background
Copyright, 2000-2004 Studio F Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

PowerPoint Template
Copyright, 2000-2004 Studio F Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Solution: An Alternative Background, that carries design elements of your template's background, but doesn't conflict with your content.

PowerPoint Slide
Copyright, 2000-2004 Studio F Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

Background Credits and Best Choices: the above three screen shots feature backgrounds from PowerFinish. The folks from Studio F produce the PowerFinish Presenter's Choice package, which feature 12,000 images on 4 CDs with 100 style sets. Further, each style set contains 100 coordinated alternate backgrounds, so that you have a wealth of coordinated options for just about any presentation you can imagine.

Also, for even more choices, check out the PowerFinish PowerDesign Set. This is a set of 50 templates with 18 alternate backgrounds for each template. This represents a whopping total of 900 slide backgrounds on a single CD.


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