How to create custom templates that work well with Designer in PowerPoint
Published Jun 18 2019 08:05 AM 14.6K Views

Today we announced that Designer now works with a company or organization's custom branded templates! Now AI recommendations on layout, designs, colors, and fonts can help employees save time and keep them on-brand while adhering to your company's brand guidelines. So how can brand managers, designers, and IT admins make their custom templates work well with Designer? 



To make the most of Designer, here are some guidelines on how to get started:


PowerPoint recommends that you follow the guidelines below when you're creating a custom template in order to optimize it for Designer. An asterisk (*) denotes optional recommendations that won't be used by PowerPoint Designer today.

Define your theme colors and fonts

  • Make sure your theme colors have enough contrast between the light and dark variants (i.e. between Light 1 & Light 2 and Dark 1 & Dark 2).

  • Define accent colors (Accent 1, 2, 3, etc.) in order of priority, as Designer uses colors in this order.

  • Ensure accent colors contrast sufficiently against the primary theme colors. This will ensure that icons are visible and accessible.

Design the Slide Master

  • Ensure any background images are compressed and in the correct format. File size is important because layouts are uploaded to Designer on-the-fly.

  • Use Background Styles whenever appropriate (rather than explicit background colors) to help Designer choose the correct text colors for suggestions.

  • Keep families of layouts under a single Slide Master, as Designer only suggests layouts from the current Slide Master.

    Note: For example, if you want users to have a mix of light and dark layouts, these should be kept under a single Slide Master. But if you want users to only get light-themed suggestions for light-themed slides, and dark-themed suggestions for dark-themed slides, then there should be two separate light and dark slide masters.

Design visually distinct layouts for each slide scenario

  • Create a minimum of 15 layouts in each Slide Master to enable Designer support.

  • Create at least one layout with a Title and the largest possible content placeholder (to be used for SmartArt graphic and Icon suggestions).

  • Though client needs vary, these scenarios for slide layouts are very common: 

    • Title Only

    • Short Message (with or without title)

    • Section Header

    • Title + Content (larger amount of text)

    • Title + Two Content

    • Title + Two Content + Headings (Comparison)

    • Title + Picture

    • Title + Picture + Caption

    • Title + Two Picture + Captions

    • Title + Large text + Picture

    • Picture layout suitable for screenshots 

  • Create multiple alternatives for common slide scenarios, as Designer won't automatically show suggestions if fewer than three suggestions are available.

  • When possible, avoid creating layouts that are too similar visually. Otherwise, the suggestions may look virtually identical at thumbnail size in the Design Ideas pane.

Create and format placeholders on layouts

  • Only pictures are placed inside Picture placeholders.

  • Text, SmartArt graphics, Icons, and other content are placed inside Content placeholders.

  • Content placeholders, generally, should not be placed directly on the edge of the slide, because text and SmartArt graphics may not have sufficient margins when placed in Content placeholders that extend to the slide edge. Picture placeholders, on the other hand, may go to the slide edge.

  • Avoid non-rectangular Content placeholders, as text and SmartArt graphics behave unexpectedly when placed inside non-rectangular placeholders.

  • To apply styling to placeholders, right-click the placeholder and select Format Shape and apply the desired formatting. To apply picture formatting to Picture placeholders, change the Fill settings in Shape Options to Picture or texture fill and use a built-in texture, or an image of your own choosing, as the placeholder fill. Apply the desired formatting from the Picture Format contextual ribbon tab, and Designer will apply this formatting when it creates Design Ideas.

    Note: When you use your own image as a "dummy image" for Picture placeholders, be aware of the image's file size to avoid inflating the overall file size of your template.

  • If you intend for your template to support Footer placeholders, create these placeholders on every suitable layout. When non-empty Footer placeholders are on a user's slide, Designer only creates suggestions from layouts that also have Footer placeholders—to avoid deleting important content that may be in the original slide's footer.

  • Designer treats every placeholder as Shrink text on overflow when it creates Design Ideas. For placeholders that must use Resize shape to fit text AutoFit settings, resize the placeholder on the layout to the maximum size that it should occupy, so that Designer is able to use all of the available space on the slide.

    Note: This will only be possible if placeholders inherit their AutoFit property from the Slide Master, so make sure to set this first on the Slide Master's placeholders before creating the layouts.

Test your template for arbitrary content uses

  • Place a large amount of text into placeholders and check that the text does not overlap with logos, images, or other background content. Designer will only shrink text to keep it within the bounds of its placeholder -- if the placeholder itself overlaps background elements, the results may be unexpected.

  • Make sure that placeholders are sized to the maximum size they should occupy, as Designer will create suggestions with Shrink Text to Fit AutoFit settings.

  • Test that placeholders can hold a wide range of text lengths, from a few words to long bulleted lists. Covering more scenarios allows Designer to make relevant recommendations in a wider range of situations.

  • Check any placeholders that layer or overlap pictures. Keep in mind a picture with the identical color could be used in that placeholder, making the overlay "invisible." For example, when layering white text over a picture, keep in mind that a mostly white picture could be used in that placeholder. Consider creating a version of the overlay slide with dark text and with light text so that the user can choose the suggestion most appropriate for their image.

Known limitations

PowerPoint Designer doesn't yet create suggestions for slides that include Tables or Charts.

Talk to the product team about this feature

If you are using the features described here to make custom, branded templates, Microsoft would like to talk with you. Please leave a comment!


Thank you! 

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Last update:
‎Feb 10 2023 12:28 PM
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