Teach your PowerPoint students to create custom design templates

PowerPoint's prefab design templates are handy, but your students can create their own tailor-made templates that are just as easy to use.

PowerPoint offers a healthy assortment of “design templates,” which give users a head start on slide show formatting. They can either choose a template when they create a new presentation, or they can use the Apply Design command to change the appearance of an existing one.

But these out-of-the-box designs get a little threadbare after a while. Like popular clip art, you’ll start recognizing PowerPoint’s prefab designs when you spot them in the slide shows you attend. Still, there’s no disputing the convenience of a readymade design template.

Fortunately, you can give your students the best of both worlds—efficiency and originality. After you show them how to use PowerPoint’s standard design templates, teach them to create a custom template that reflects their company’s image and their own tastes. They can then use that template to create their own trademark presentations. Here’s a sample walk-through that introduces the necessary steps.

Slide setup
To create a design template, start by opening a new presentation and inserting a slide. You can then apply the desired formatting to various slide elements using the Slide Master view.
  1.  Launch PowerPoint and select Blank Presentation in the startup dialog box, as we’ve done in Figure A.

Figure A
Start by creating a blank presentation.

  1. Click OK and then click OK again when the New Slide dialog box appears. This will insert a title slide.
  2. Choose Master from the View menu and select Slide Master. Then, simply apply the formats you want for presentations based on this design template. Table A shows a selection of simple formatting possibilities, and Figure B shows the sample slide with this formatting applied (prior to deleting the rectangle). Of course, your students may have their own design requests, which you can demonstrate instead.
  3. After making the desired formatting changes, choose Slide from the View menu to switch back to Slide view.

Table A: Sample formatting
To add this format Do this
White marble background Choose Background from the Format menu, select Fill Effects from the drop-down list, and click the Textures tab. Then, choose White Marble, click OK, and click Apply.
Blue titles Click the Click To Edit Master Title Style placeholder and choose Font from the Format menu. Select blue from the Color drop-down list and click OK.
Blue AutoShapes Click the Rectangle button on the Drawing toolbar and draw a rectangle on the slide. Click the Fill Color button and choose blue. Right-click the rectangle and choose Set AutoShape Defaults from the shortcut menu. Delete the rectangle.

Figure B
We've formatted the slide master with the design characteristics for our new template.

Saving the template
To complete the process, you just need to save the presentation as a template in the Presentation Designs folder.
  1. Choose Save As from the File menu and select PowerPoint Template (*.pot) from the Save As Type drop-down list.
  2. When PowerPoint switches to the Templates folder, double-click Presentation Designs in the Save In list box to open that folder.
  3. Type a name—let’s use Company Design—in the File Name text box, as shown in Figure C.
  4. Click Save and then close the template.

Figure C
Choose PowerPoint Template (*.pot) from the Save As Type drop-down list, double-click the Presentation Designs folder, and type a name in the File Name text box.

Template test drive
Once you’ve saved the design template, you can show your students how to put it to work.
  1. Choose New from the File menu, click the Presentation Designs tab and select Company Design.
  2. Click OK to create a new presentation based on the template. PowerPoint will automatically insert a preformatted title slide.

Right away, your students will see that the presentation includes a white marble background and blue title placeholder. You can then insert an AutoShape to show that the presentation default for such objects includes a blue fill.

If you have time, you may also want to apply the custom template to an existing presentation. Just open a presentation that includes different formatting specifications and choose Apply Design from the Format menu. When PowerPoint opens the Apply Design dialog box, select the Company Design template and click Apply.
If you have any favorite PowerPoint design tricks up your sleeve, you can share them by posting a comment below.


Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior editor for Tech Pro Research.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox