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PowerPoint Design - How to Make Text Visible Against a Background Image

by Greg Hanson

A general rule in using Microsoft PowerPoint to design presentations and make the text visible is to either use light text against a dark background or use dark text against a light background. For example, yellow text shows up well when placed on solid black. The sharp contrast makes it easy for the congregation to read the text on the slide.

There are times when a particular background image can greatly enhance your presentation and drive your message home. However, if that image contains sections that are both light and dark, it can inhibit the congregation's ability to read the text on the slide. If you use a light font color, the text will be illegible against the lighter sections of the image. Similarly, a dark font would become unreadable over darker sections of the image. In such a case, the image that had been intended to support the message would actually distract the people and cause the impact of the sermon to be reduced.

To circumvent this potential problem, here are three techniques that will enable you to use background images while keeping the text legible.

1. Apply a shadow.

If you are using a predominately dark background, white text with a black drop-down shadow will resolve the problem the majority of the time. Conversely, if you are using a predominately lighter background, dark text with a light grey or white shadow should do the job nicely. Shadows used in this way can add enough definition to the shape of the letters that the viewers will be enabled to read the text effortlessly.

2. Add a semitransparent shape.

Begin by adding the desired image to your slide. You can do this by setting it as the background or by inserting it as an image. Next, using PowerPoint's AutoShapes, create a rectangle and color it black. Depending on your preference, the rectangle can cover the entire slide or just the area where the text will be placed. Use the formatting options to set the transparency of the rectangle at 50 per cent. Finally, add your text box filled with white text on top of the semitransparent rectangle. The text should now be easily readable, even for the person sitting in the back row.

As you become more comfortable with this technique, feel free to experiment with alternative AutoShapes and colors. Also, if you inadvertently add the image, the AutoShape, and the text box in a different order, you can use the "arrange" option in PowerPoint to send the image to the back and bring the text to the front.

3. Use PowerPoint's Text Shapes (or WordArt).

Particularly if you are using a small number of words (such as for a title), Text Shapes can greatly assist in making your text visible to the audience. Text Shapes allows you to set the letters to one color while making their border a different color. For example, you can have light blue letters outlined with a dark blue, which will make the text visible against virtually any background. Additionally, you can control the thickness of the border and even add a shadow.

The wise use of images can help you sermon connect with your hearers, especially those who tend to be more visual by nature. Your sermon can be bolstered with a complementary background that increase the impact and the memorability of the message. As long as you take the appropriate steps to ensure that the congregation can still read the screen, you can use images as a tool to enhance your message and increase its impact on your audience.

2011 Greg Hanson / PowerPointPastors.com


PowerPointPastors.com is provided as a ministry for pastors/preachers, especially those in churches without large attendance or flexible budgets. Most resources on this site have been designed by Greg Hanson for use at Sunrise Wesleyan Church. While Greg maintains the copyright for original material, permission is granted for pastors to use and adapt these resources for use within their local church... just don't resell it.