Sticky Presentations bite size article: It tastes better with Chopsticks

It tastes better with Chopsticks

Jun 18, 2017

They really do taste better with chopsticks. I am referring to Chinese dishes like steamed fish, fried mixed vegetables, rice, noodles, dim-sum, etc. At least for me, I must have chopsticks when eating in a Chinese restaurant. Without chopsticks, you don't get the authentic taste of real Chinese food.

This story is not about Chinese food. What I would like is to show you a PowerPoint (and Keynote) technique that I use very often to increase colour contrast between a background image and foreground texts. No need to use PhotoShop, just PowerPoint (or Keynote) with do the trick. Let's call it 'The Magic Gradient'.

Fig.1 Text is not fully legible. Poor colour contrast.

I was preparing a presentation about Chinese food. So I went searching for a related photo and found a very nice photo (shown in Fig.1 above). I added text on the photo and somehow the text was not fully legible.

The part of the image where the text sits needs to be darker in order for the text to stand out. An easy way to quickly do this is to add a rectangle shape between the background image and the text and fill it with a gradient from black to transparent. The result is shown in the Fig.2 slide below.

Fig.2 Text is clear and legible.

Wow! everything is crystal clear now. The text is legible and the background image is visible enough leading to the text above it. You can use this simple technique every time you need to darken or lighten part of the background image to bring up the contrast (or visibility) of the foreground text.

Many might think that PhotoShop or other advanced graphic editing software is needed to prepare this image. Actually no, a simple gradient rectangle shape in PowerPoint (or Keynote) is all that is needed.

If you are not technically familiar with PowerPoint or Keynote, here are simple step-by-step instructions on how to get this done on your own.

For Keynote software;

  1. Select Square shape from Shape
  2. Move the Square to align with the top left corner of your slide and expand the Square to fill about top two-thirds of your slide
  3. Fill the Square with Gradient Fill
  4. Click on the top Color Wheel to bring up the Color Palette for more colors and select BLACK color
  5. Next, click on the bottom Color Wheel and select BLACK color, then adjust the Opacity to 0%
  6. If you have created your text before you add the Square shape, then the Square will be in front of the text. You will need to move the Square backward one layer. Select the Square then go to Arrange menu and select Send Backward.
  7. Watch the video on how this is done in Keynote

For PowerPoint software;

  1. Select Rectangle shape from Shapes
  2. Start drawing the Rectangle from the top left corner of your slide to fill about top two-thirds of your slide
  3. Remove Shape Outline and any other effects
  4. Shape Fill the Rectangle with a top down Gradient fill
  5. Remove all gradient stops except for the most left and most right
  6. Assign BLACK color to both the gradient stops
  7. Next, click on the right gradient stop and set the Transparency to 100%
  8. If you have created your text before you add the Square shape, then the Square will be in front of the text. You will need to move the Square backward one layer. Right click on the Rectangle and select Send to Back > Send Backward.
  9. Watch the video on how this is done in PowerPoint

The author, ANG Tian Teck is a coach, trainer, and speaker, specialising in inspiring organisations and business leaders to deliver high impact presentations. He has coached, trained, and infected over 10,000 individuals across the region with his Amazing Sticky Presentations® approach. Tian Teck is also the author of two books, Sticky Presentations®, and Spinning I.D.E.A.S.

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