Powerpoint Power Tips: Working with a Slide Master

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Slide Master: Like a Style Sheet for PowerPoint!

By default, PowerPoint will present you with a blank slide or series of slides. While these can be enhanced with themes, the best way to fully control how your presentation will look is to use a Slide Master, a hierarchy of slides onto which you can configure future presentations by specifying font size and type, weight, alignment and justification and slide background color (among other things).

To access this feature, open the View tab and select Master View > Slide Master.

Immediately a new selection of slides will appear in the left pane, ready for you to begin styling them.

Slide Master Options

With Slide Master activated, you should first spend a few moments looking at the ribbon menu, which is now showing a unique collection of Drawing Tools. These can be used to apply background styles, edit the Master adjust fonts and colors and even orientate the slide between landscape and portrait.

Meanwhile, if at any time you wish to close the Slide Master view, simply click the right-most button on the menu.

The Slide Master Hierarchy

If you have experience with web design then you will probably be aware of CSS, cascading style sheets. Slide Masters work under a similar principle, allowing the user to make changes to the initial slide that will then cascade down throughout the other slides in the group.

The hierarchy can be viewed in the left-hand pane, where the various layouts and configurations can be found. Making changes to any of these slides will result in the change being reflected throughout what is effectively a template for other slide shows to be created upon.

Understanding the Slide Master

With the Slide Master’s main slide selected, you will see how PowerPoint encourages you to make the changes necessary. You can click into the header to edit the title style of your Master, or adjust the bullet points below (font, color and bullet type).

As you make changes here you will be able to scroll down and select other slides in the Master to check that your updates to the style have been applied. You can also make further adjustments to these other slides, such as altering the size of the object placeholders.

Applying Themes to a Slide Master

One advantage of Slide Masters is that they can be combined with Themes to safe time and afford a wider selection of styling options.

With a theme applied, don’t think that you can’t make any changes - the new look might only partially suit your needs, so you will still be able to adjust fonts and colors and even theme background colors and images.

Don’t forget to browse through the list of slides in the left-pane to check how each different slide will appear with the theme applied.

Themes + Slide Master = Great Looking Presentations!

With a theme selected, you will be able to observe the results of this across each page of your Slide Master.

The best thing that you can do here is select each slide in turn to view it properly in the main pane, thereby enabling you to see if the theme is suitable. If not, you can simply choose a new theme or better still adjust the theme that you have chosen. Background colors and images can be altered, just as fonts and placeholder positions can be adjusted.

Editing Your Master Slide

This is an example of the first slide in the Master, with a theme applied. Note how this differs from the third slide of this gallery, which featured a plain layout, math symbols for the bullet list and the footer and date spread across the foot of the page.

In the example above, the fifth level of the bullet list has been edited to have an italic style appearance. Upon making this change, the fifth level in lists on other Masters is immediately updated.

Editing Other Masters

Don’t feel that you are restricted by the default layout of a Slide Master - after all, the idea is that you should edit them as much as possible to end up with a layout that suits your purposes!

Here you can see how the fifth level of the bullet list has been italicized, as described previously. In addition, the elements can all be selected and dragged, edited as you see fit.

Altering the Background Color

The background of your Slide Master can be easily edited by right clicking on the slide and selecting Format Background. If no background image is in use then you might choose to add one, or simply add a color, using the usual PowerPoint formatting tools.

Once again, changes made here will replicate throughout the Slide Master, although note that if a background image is in use and you simply alter the background color, the change will only be seen on slides without a background image.

Completing Your Slide Master with Transitions

With the Slide Master still open, you can switch to the Transitions tab to browse through the available transitions. While individual effects can be added to each slide, it is better to use the same effect throughout your presentation.

After selecting a transition and using the Preview button to get an idea of how it will turn out, you can use the Apply To All option (as well as apply timings using the Duration tool) to copy the same transition across all slides.

Once this is done you can save your Master and use the Close Master View button on the Slide Master tab to return to your presentation!


  • Author’s own experience.