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How to Use and Edit PowerPoint Master Slides

This post is part of a series called Presentation Fundamentals.
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When you want to give an overall format to a PowerPoint presentation, there's no need to format each individual slide. Not only is that time-consuming, it’s also easy to be inconsistent and end up with different fonts or colors on some slides. Plus, if you need to change your presentation style later, you'd have to go back and tweak each slide individually.

You probably know that you can apply pre-made PowerPoint Templates to a presentation with a click, but what if you want to modify the theme or do all the formatting from scratch?

That’s where Master Slides come in. You can format your master slides the way you want, then use them as you're building your presentation to automatically give your entire presentation the same style. Then, if you need to change formatting later, you can do it just as quickly by editing the master slides, and you'll still be able to apply formatting to individual slides if you really want.

Using and editing master slides works the same way in any version of PowerPoint on both Windows and Mac, although the screens will be somewhat different from one version to another. In this tutorial, I'll show you everything you need to know about creating and tweaking PowerPoint master slides, so the next time you're making a presentation, you'll only have to tweak your design settings once.

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This designer will create a set of up to 10 professional master slides for your next presentations that will fit well in your corporate design and will increase your productivity. Meanwhile you can care about the things that matter.

Prefer to do it yourself? Watch the screencast and read the tutorial below to find out how.


If you want to follow along with this tutorial using your own new PowerPoint file, you can do so, but it should be one that doesn’t have any formatting, yet, using the default White template in PowerPoint. Then, add some basic slides to your presentation without including any formatting, so you can see the effects of your master slides in action once you've tweaked them.

Or if you prefer, download the zip file for this tutorial, which contains a sample presentation called Using PowerPoint masters.pptx. This presentation has 5 slides, formatted with 4 different layouts:

  • Title slide
  • Bullet (two slides)
  • Title and content (slide with the picture on it)
  • Title only (slide with the chart on it)

In Windows, it will look something like this:

Entering Master Slide view in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows
Entering Master Slide view in PowerPoint 2013

And on the Mac, it will look something like this:

Entering Master Slide view in PowerPoint 2012 for Mac
Entering Master Slide view in PowerPoint 2012 for Mac
Now it's time to get started editing your master slides.

Going into Master View

At the bottom of your PowerPoint window, notice the button for Normal View, which is circled in the screenshots above. Shift-click it to go into the Master View. In Windows, you'll see a new Slide Master tab in the PowerPoint ribbon, and on the Mac you'll also see an orange bar just below the ribbon, indicating that you're in the Master View.

On the left side of Master View, you’ll see a column of slide layouts: title slides, bullet slides, and so on. They’re all indented below a slide master. The slide master controls general formatting for the entire presentation, and the layout masters below it control formatting for the specific layouts. It’s generally best to apply formatting to the slide master first, and then make any adjustments to the individual layouts. That way, you'll apply the bulk of the formatting only once to the slide master, and only will have slight tweaks to add to the subsequent layouts.

Applying Formatting to the Entire Presentation

Applying formats to masters is the same as applying formats to individual slides. Let’s start by formatting the background. First, make sure you've selected the slide master from the top of the list of slides on the left, then right-click the slide background, and from the popup menu, choose Format Background.

For this tutorial, we'll add a gradient to our PowerPoint master slides. If you’re using PowerPoint 2013 in Windows, choose Gradient Fill and a green gradient in the task pane on the right (see options circled in the screen shot, below). If you’re using the 2010 version in Windows, choose the same options from the dialog box that appears.

Adding a gradient background in PowerPoint 2013
Adding a gradient background in PowerPoint 2013

If you’re using a Mac, there aren’t built-in gradients, so create your own (see the screen shot below):

  1. Choose the Gradient tab on the top of the dialog box.
  2. Choose Linear from the Style drop-down. This will create a black & white linear gradient.
  3. Set the Angle to 270 (to go downwards from light to dark).
  4. Click the small box on the right end of the gradient color ramp to select it. The color box just below it will be black.
  5. Click the Color drop-down and choose a medium shade of green.
  6. Click Apply when done.
Adding a gradient background in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac
Adding a gradient background in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac

Choose Fonts

Click the top text on the default layout master slide where it says Click to edit Master title style. You don’t even have to select it; as long as the text cursor is inside it, that will work.

Go back to the Home tab on the ribbon, and from the Font selector, choose the font you want to use in your presentation, perhaps something fun. In this example, I chose Brush Script Std, which is on both Windows and Mac.

For the text and bullet styles, you do need to select all the text to apply a format, but the cool thing is that when you choose a font, the sizes will stay the same. So select all the text in the box that says Click to edit Master text styles, and choose a font. I chose Franklin Gothic Book regular.

Choose Bullets

When you choose bullets in a slide master, that also sets the bullets for the whole presentation. Click again in the first line of text that says Click to edit Master text styles, but don’t select anything. Just have the cursor inside that first line.

Click the Down Arrow to the right of the Bullets button (circled in the screen capture, below) and choose one. Now click the text cursor inside the Second level text, and assign a different bullet, the same way.

Format One Layout Differently from the Rest

The last slide of the presentation (the one with the chart) uses the Title Only layout, so let’s format that one a little differently.

On the left side, select the layout called Title Only. Roll the mouse pointer over the layouts until you see the yellow popup indicating its name. Format the background as before, only this time, choose Picture or Texture. That will be a radio button in Windows and a Tab on the Mac.

In Windows, click on Choose Picture from File, and on the Mac, click Choose Picture. Choose ppt-snow-scene.jpg, which I’ve included with this tutorial.

Adding a photo background in PowerPoint
Adding a photo background

Make the text white, so it’s easier to read: go back to the Home tab, click the cursor in the title text, and choose white from the Font button.

Changing text color in PowerPoint
Change your font color to something that contrasts with your background picture

If you’re using PowerPoint 2013, you can click the X at the top of the Format Shape or Format Background task pane on the right to close it.

You can add any extra tweaks you'd like to your master slides, following these same steps, to perhaps add footer images or anything else you want. When you’re ready to exit the Master view and return to the slides, click the Close button on the ribbon, circled in the screen shot below, or alternately click the Close Master button in the orange bar below the ribbon on a Mac.

Exiting PowerPoint Master Slide View
Exiting PowerPoint Master Slide View

Viewing the Presentation and Adding Slides

Now let’s see what we’ve got! Either click the Normal View icon (without the Shift key) on the bottom of the PowerPoint window, or exit the slide master view as mentioned previously.

Your previously blank presentation will now have the theme that you created in your master slides. The first four slides will have a shaded, green background, and the last slide will have the picture and white text you just applied. Click through the slides and you’ll see the fonts and bullets you applied, also.

Automatically formatted presentaiton with Master Slides
An unformatted presentation fully themed in one click with customized Master Slides

Now let’s add a couple of slides, and you’ll see the formatting automatically applied to your new slides. Go to the Home tab, click the New Slide button and choose Title and Content. Notice the slide has the formatting and bullet you applied to your master slides. 

Again click the New Slide button and choose Title Only, and you’ll get a blank slide with white title text on top. You can still tweak each individual slide as much as you want, but the master slides take the hard work out of designing a presentation, and ensure you'll have a consistent design on every slide without any extra work.

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That's why master slides are so great. You can apply formatting just once, or to one layout slide, and all the formatting is in place not just for existing slides, but for any new slides that you add. 

You can still use PowerPoint Templates as a formatting starting point, but now you don't have to depend on them. Instead, you can make your own master slides, applying the format you want once, and then can use it to automatically style your presentation.

Next time you're making a presentation, try tweaking your master slides using these steps, and you'll be surprised at how simple it can be to make a consistent presentation!

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