Imagine being able to create a PowerPoint background from any picture. Not only is this possible, but it has many advantages. First, you don't have to worry about trying to find or create a background. Secondly, the picture you start with already comprises all the color shades you need.
Because this is still a presentation background, you do need to be careful about a few things:
- Your finished background needs to be subtle and uncluttered so that other presentation elements like text, charts and visuals can be seen clearly over it within the presentation.
- Your finished background should somewhat abstract. It won't really resemble the image you started with.
- You should start with an image that does not use too many colors for best results.
Needless to say, to do all this background creation work, you need to use an image editor. In my case, I'm using Adobe Photoshop CS. But having said that, most of the procedures involve basic tools that are part of any proficient image editing program. Good alternatives include Paint Shop Pro, PhotoPaint and Painter (from Corel), Ulead PhotoImpact, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Microsoft Digital Image Pro. However, if you use a different image editor, you'll have to use the equivalent procedures and commands within your program as you follow the steps outlined below.
The Butterfly Example
As an example, suppose a lepidopterist needs to create a presentation on the movement pattern of Monarch butterflies. He needs a presentation background that includes the exact color shades of the Monarch. If he used an image of a Monarch as a background, the text laid over it wouldn't be legible.
Getting around the problem is simple. You manipulate the photo of the Monarch butterfly into a suitable PowerPoint background by retaining the colors, but losing the detail.
Of course, first you need the photo. I found a picture of the Monarch butterfly in Hemera's amazing AbleStock (http://www.ablestock.com) stock library.
- First, open the photo inside Adobe Photoshop and resize the image to 1024 x 768 pixels at 72 dpi, so it is the right size for a PowerPoint background. Now duplicate the background layer, so your original image is stored safely in case you need it later. To do that either drag the Background layer to the Duplicate icon on the Layer Palette or choose Select | All and Layer | New | Layer via Copy in succession.
- Select the duplicated layer in the Layer Palette and choose Filter | Blur | Gaussian Blur. In the Gaussian Blur dialog box, choose a Blur value of between 8 and 12 so that the image has a blurred out-of-focus look.
- 3. Now add some noise by choosing Filter | Noise | Add Noise. Use a value of around 15% with Uniform Distribution. Make sure that the Monochromatic option is not selected.
- Now add a motion blur by choosing Filter | Blur | Motion Blur. Apply the filter with a value of around 120. An angle of 45 degrees looks good but you can choose any angle you need.
- Finally, lighten or darken the image as required. If you need to use white or light color text and visuals in the presentation, darken the image. If you need to use black or dark text and visuals, lighten the image. Either way, choose Image | Adjustments | Levels and drag the bottom sliders to achieve the effect. In this example, I lightened the image by pulling the bottom left slider towards the center.
- Now save your background in Photoshop using the convenient File | Save for Web feature. Use either JPEG or PNG for the save option.
By following these steps, you can convert almost any picture into a suitable background for a PowerPoint presentation. Whatever you do, make sure that you lighten or darken the picture enough so that text content in a slide provides enough color contrast in relation to the background.
Finally, do respect copyright laws just because your finished image looks different than the image you started with is no reason to use an image that is not copyright free.
You can download a PowerPoint template created from this Monarch butterfly design here: http://www.indezine.com/powerpoint/templates/050.html.