I must choose my company's default PowerPoint presentation template.

Having in mind that this template should be versatile, and that people want to create presentations quickly, should I create a template with light or dark background? Which is more usable.

I must say I'm inclined to light, because it might be easier to read black text and because it is easier to use with white background images (no Sales guy will look for an image with transparent background, that's for sure. I've seen very ugly stuff). But, are there any cons to using a light background? Please help me.

Note: I'm talking about day-to-day presentations. Not a presentation for a conference that would take you 20+ hours to prepare.

  • 4
    For presenting in darkened rooms/environments I use dark backgrounds, if presenting in normal light I use light backgrounds, I would choose whichever would be most likely within your company. Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 12:50
  • My company has both, so the user can choose which fits their use case and content better.
    – Rumi P.
    Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 12:59
  • @RumiP. There's a problem with having both templates: it is hard to reuse content between slides. If it's just text, you can just change the color. But when you start adding graphics, tables, etc. it gets time consuming. Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 13:05
  • 2
    This is not a UX question - it's a visual design question. If it is better on the eyes light or dark is visual design. It's more important what is in the presentation and how you present it than the colours. Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 14:09
  • 1
    @StewartDean: This is a UX question. Although the "better on the eyes" is important as well, I'm interested in: which is easier to use/ customize by the end-users? Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 15:09

6 Answers 6


I'll choose light background and dark text. Some reasons:

  • it's more conventional
  • it better suits for printing
  • it supports easy conversion and interchange between Word, Excel, browsers, which are keep format settings in copy-paste operations
  • it could help with some projector and whitescreen issues

As @StewartDean said, color usage question could be more appropriate to the visual design community.
But I see here other context, more close to user experience. As was stated by @JohnAssymptoth,

I'm talking about day-to-day presentations.

As many presentations are built using some sources and supplemental materials, users switch between windows, which contain those sources. Frequent switching between contrast screens could be too exhaustive for a users' vision and lead at least to performance decreasing. I've added two screens, sorry if it's too aggressive.
enter image description here .
enter image description here


I would recommend:

  • Use light backgrounds to facilitate the use of graphs and tables without the ugly white border or getting into too complicated transparent png
  • Pay attention to your palette, the contrast of the background and the font should be good
  • Check that your font is not very thin
  • Ensure the font is not very small - if it's small it won't matter if the background is light or dark
  • Ensure the colors work fine for people with color blindness, there are cases where 2 colors might look ok but for color blind people they look almost the same color
  • I agree, and would like to add to points 2 and 5: try the colors on a projector, not just the screen. Your basic fresh green turns into an eye-burning illegible blob, but your conservative bordeaux red might turn out barely distinguishable from black. Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 13:47

Use the corporate identity color palette

With a good effort and skill you can make both alternatives look very good. But: A truly professional presentation represents you or your company. Think about it. Somebody is called professional when he is really good at his craft. Show it to your audience by colors and shapes that represent your work. If there is a logo or an unique corporate identity, use it. The designers have most probably put a thought in it.

When designing your presentation, keep the points in mind made by Alexey Kolchenko in his answer. Lighter colors may be more convenient. +1 to that


Neither one or the other .... Not one background for all of your slide

Change with the context ...

Have a look of this presentation I think you will have a lot of answers ...


  • I love that presentation, don't get me wrong. But, if you're in a hurry, you don't have time for all that. Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 21:31
  • Notice how in that presentation it is told to use 30 hours preparing the slides... Just no. I was precisely thinking about that presentation when I wrote: "Note: I'm talking about day-to-day presentations. Not a presentation for a conference that would take you 20+ hours to prepare." Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 21:32
  • I agree it is difficult applying all advises. But what I am sure day to day or not we are all submerge by slides so the most important advice to apply One slide One message....and ask you self what do you want your listners retain about your presentation .... Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 16:43

Anyone with experience doing presentations knowns that the only safe choice is light background, dark text.

It is the most readable in most environments.

If you go for a dark theme, you will soon discover painfully that projectors are terrible at projecting darkness, and it gets very difficult to read in light environments.

Many offices and meeting rooms have windows. Sometimes it even gets sunny outside. When there is ambient light, that light will take over the dark theme and the presentation will become light-light over light text. It may be hard or impossible to read at this point.

Before you make a presentation. You should go the presentation room and do a dry test. Get to the other side of the room, see how the colors are rendering and whether the font is big enough.

Of course, all of this is especially true for important presentations which took days to prepare, even more so when it's given in another location you don't know the details about. Short informal presentations are unlikely to get you fired if they bomb (note: not caring about the presentation because it can't get anyone fired is not exactly a good way of thinking ^^).

For the experience, someday you should try being a presentation jury at a university (or similar). You'll see students coming with all kind of themes, sometimes dark. You'll get to see many times what it's like to have a dark theme... and have to change it at the last minute because it cannot be red in that room.

Conclusion: ALWAYS pick a light theme for presentations.

Special Case: Dark theme are reserved for dark rooms with no windows and lights turned off.


Dark backgrounds. Reading an entirely white screen is exhausting to the brain and to the eye. And is the purpose of the presentation to be printed out anyways? NO.

Actually, your deck isn't EVEN YOUR PRESENTATION at all. YOU are the presentation. The deck is the VISUAL AID.

Use less words. Don't make the audience read. Don't blind them and cause Death by Powerpoint.

And to the question of contrast above - the reader is reading THE WORDS, not the SPACE around the words. Draw their attention to what you want them to read.

This is Design 101.

  • 1
    Hi Rob, welcome to UX.SE. While you may have valid points in your answer, we require a level of productive poise around here. More information on this: ux.stackexchange.com/help/behavior
    – Alan
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 22:38

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