PowerPoint Presentation Tips: Your Background Options

Published: 19th May 2009
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Which should be used in a PowerPoint presentation - a dark background or a light background?

To answer this question, we will first have to consider the effects these two types of backgrounds have on people.


In most cases, presenters favour light backgrounds as opposed to dark backgrounds, as they allow for easier colour coordination. Moreover, we are accustomed to light backgrounds when reading or writing, as they are commonly seen in newspapers, books and magazines.

In fact, just because light backgrounds are so commonly used, presenters use them! Out of every ten PowerPoint presentations, six to seven have light backgrounds.

Advantages of using a light background

Good contrast can be easily achieved when a light background is used. A presentation is presentable even if just a simple white background with black text is used.

Light backgrounds also have a bright appearance to audiences and readers, and are highly suitable for printed handouts.

Disadvantages of using a light background

A light background is more intense on the eyes of the audience, and may strain the audience's eyes as the presentation wears on. Sooner or later, your audience may end up falling asleep.

Another problem is that some are instantly repelled by plain light backgrounds.


Elegance and mystery is usually implied when a presenter uses dark backgrounds. In addition, dark backgrounds relax the audience to a greater extent than light backgrounds, due to their association with bedtime.

Advantages of using a dark background

Dark backgrounds are not usually used by presenters, and therefore they appeal to the audience's interest, to the presenter's advantage.

Dark backgrounds also create the ambience of watching a movie, where the audience is likely to loosen up and expect to be entertained.

Disadvantages of using a dark background

If you decide to use a dark background, make sure that the size of the text in your PowerPoint presentation is bigger than the size you usually use in presentations with light backgrounds. This should be done because dark backgrounds have a tendency to leak into the edges of the text, and so smaller text would make the text even more illegible.

Furthermore, the calming effect of dark backgrounds can be disadvantageous as it provides a more conducive sleeping environment for the audience. This happens particularly when the presenter is not putting in enough effort to engage his audience.


Actually, the right background choice depends on the type of presentation you are giving, and the audience you are speaking to.

If you are giving a short and snappy presentation, you may want to use a dark background in order to make your presentation an impactful one, just like a movie trailer.

On the other hand, if you are giving a lengthy presentation, you could begin the presentation with a dark background, and use light backgrounds at strategic times to visually call attention to crucial points you are trying to convey.

The bright screen would then give the audience an experience similar to having the lights turned on while you are fast asleep.

In the end, there is no right or wrong answer. The best way to find out what works best for you and your audience is to play around with both light and dark backgrounds in your presentations.

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