Follow this easy guide for adding interesting backgrounds to your PowerPoint slides and create visually stunning presentations your audience will remember.

Comparing a PowerPoint presentation without backgrounds, or background images, to a presentation with backgrounds is like comparing a nutrition pellet to Gordon Ramsay’s perfect risotto. Yeah, you’re meeting the basic needs of your body, but why simply fuel when you can enjoy a beautiful meal?

Most people will choose the risotto over the food pellet.

If you are here, you know your presentations could be more palatable to your audiences, but may not know how to do it. By picking up a few of the following tips, you’ll be creating beautiful, interesting PowerPoint presentations in no time. And, if you’re in a major rush to get your presentation done, check our our free PowerPoint templates for two on-trend options that you can deploy quickly.


Backgrounds Keep People Engaged

Backgrounds are a good option if you don’t have applicable images, or if you’re dealing with a concept that is hard to visualize. For instance, a presentation on anything that doesn’t use a chart or graph to communicate data could use some imagery help. Sometimes, just some abstract, colorful backgrounds is enough. In the section after this are helpful categories, and we provide links to collections where you can choose your backgrounds.

Rules to remember for choosing backgrounds:

  • Look for naturally occurring spaces and borders in the image — places where you can envision setting the text clearly.
  • Text + background color combos to use or avoid.
  • Keep it simple: the goal is to support the information, not distract.
  • Beautiful is better than representational.
PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — White Space is Perfect for Text
This image has a good spot for some text. Look for images that naturally contain spaces like this for legibility. Image via LedyX.

Categories of Backgrounds

Vectors

Flexibility given by vector designs can provide the solution to photos that seem too on the nose or cheesy. Vector backgrounds can include icons, patterns made of icons, or just cool designs that support your text.

PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — Try Using Vector Designs
Background image via momo sama

Textures

Textures can be used in a number of ways to add style to your slides. They can be transparent, colorful, subtle, bold, or serve whatever need you have for embellishment. For a huge FREE set of textures to download, click here. There are instructions within, but see the Effects section below to learn more.

PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — Textures Add Visual Interest
Use textures for backgrounds as well as design elements.

Solid Colors

Yes, backgrounds can be as simple as one solid color. Click here for a full guide. It helps to hue complex colors, rather than something from the primary or secondary sections of the color wheel.

For instance, instead of “light blue,” use aqua, turquoise, or teal. The same actually goes for green. Adding a little yellow in the mix helps it to not come across as bland.

PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — Add Color to Text Boxes
When you work with the text box, take advantage of the controls on the right side of the window for adding color to it, in addition to the background.

On that note, if you want a red background for an urgent or important message, use a yellow-based red — not quite orange, but red with a little yellow mixed in for warmth. For the text, just use high contrast for legibility: dark on light, or light on dark.

PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — Spice Up Your Color Choices

Abstract

Representational is fine, but sometimes you want to pretty things up without directly illustrating a specific point in the text. In fact, if you find you’re spending too much time looking for the perfect image, use an abstract image from this collection instead.

PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — Keep Designs Abstract
Abstract backgrounds let you suggest motion without showing something in motion. Pattern via huangyailah488

Patterns

Like abstract imagery, patterns like these can add visual interest without being overly representational. They are just decoration, and help a viewer to relate to your slides in a very subtle way. Simply taking an extra step to add a colorful (supportive, non-distracting) pattern to a slide can a viewer retain it in memory.

PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — Patterns Add Dimension and Interest
Image via natrot

Business Imagery

Though the genre can be cheesy and overdone, business imagery that isn’t so generic actually does exist. Sometimes it’s just what you need to go with your presentation, and that’s totally fine. Use this collection to pick some better quality examples. Be sure to explore the different sub-categories at the top, too.

PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — Connecting Through Stock Business Photography
Image via SFIO CRACHO

Cityscapes

Cityscapes and photos depicting city life, night life, and the like are really handy for showing action, motion, and things happening and shaking.

PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — Try High-Contrast Cityscapes
Image via YIUCHEUNG

Night shots are really cool too, visually speaking, with high contrast dynamics. Plus on a projection the lights look like they’re really shining, too.

Additionally, use this collection for infrastructure, or building types of themes. It’s full of industry and data and all kinds of nuts-and-bolts imagery to constructively support your presentations.

Lifestyle

The most direct way to engage your audience is by using imagery with people. People relate to people. As long as you’re picking from high-quality imagery, like in the collection and examples here, you don’t have to worry too much about search terms and wondering if it’s too cheeky or something.

PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — Lifestyle Photography Makes Powerpoints Relatable
Use images that match the demographic of your audience for maximum relatability. Image via Monkey Business Images

Showing people your audience can relate to is key. But, you don’t have to show people working, or use the generic stock photo of business people pointing at a screen together. Get loose and have fun.

Nature

Warm up a PowerPoint slide with images of nature. Natural elements can give life to cold, hard data, easing some of the disconnect between the information and the audience.

PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — Give Life to Bland Topics
A subject most would want to recoil from, but with some leaves? Not so bad!
Image via pernsanitfoto

Using Effects

When using imagery, adding effects like opacity, filters, and vignettes helps to make text legible. Providing you used the rule at the top, picking images based on qualities that allow the text overlay without distraction, effects can help you focus on the text even more.

PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — Use Effects to Keep Text Legible
I want to use this image and white text, but it’s somewhat hard to read.
Image via Antracit

In Powerpoint, select an image and the Format Picture menu will open on the right. Click the “Picture” icon (it looks like a little mountain) for controls to change your image with effects.

PowerPoint Background Images to Wake Up Your Presentations — Soften Busy Backgrounds
By reducing the Sharpness under Picture Corrections, I can soften a busy background to make the text easier to read.

This section will give you a lot of controls to manipulate your images without expensive design software. Read more about that here, and take control of your next presentation.


Want even more on making memorable Powerpoint presentations? Check these out.