Color Gotchas

Color Gotchas

Besides the possible color problems we have already addressed, there are three very common problems with colors and color schemes you need to understand how to handle.

Color Numbers : CMYK, RBG, Etc.

In the graphic design world, there are several different color models. The most popular are CMYK, Pantone (PMS), HSB and RBG.

  • CMYK “ Abbreviation for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black). These are the four colors of ink from which all other printed colors are created. Each color within this model is given a number indicateing how much of each of these main colors are used to create the target color. CMYK colors can be approximated on monitors , but are designed for use on four-color offset printers.

  • Pantone (PMS) “ Model where each color is defined by a single number. That number corresponds to a color in the Pantone Matching System color definition book. This book provides the ink setup for the color. While monitors can approximate all colors in the set, the actual color is only defined for printing.

  • HSB “ Abbreviation for Hue, Saturation and Brightness. The colors are based off how much black or white is mixed with the original hue to make the end color brighter or darker . These colors are used in a variety of ways, but are not as formally defined as the other systems.

  • RBG “ Abbreviation for Red, Blue and Green. The colors in this system are represented by three numbers. The first number is the amount of red in the color, the second the amount of blue and the third is the amount of green. RBG numbers are based off the three guns originally used to "shoot" colors at monitors and television sets. These numbers are designed for on-screen use such as viewing material on monitors, TV screens and projectors.

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Tip 24: RBG Color Numbers

RBG color numbers can be either decimal numbers or hexadecimal numbers. Hexadecimal numbers are base 16 numbers. Instead of using 0 “9 for digits, they use 0 “9 plus A-F for digits.

If you look at the color definitions on a web page, they are RBG numbers in hexadecimal. If you look at the RBG numbers in PowerPoint, they are in decimal. You need to convert the numbers from one system to the other in order to check the colors. Some online number conversion tools are:




The first site does the number conversion and displays a swatch of the color. The other two sites just do the conversion.

Numbers for each of the three colors range between 00 (none of the color) to FF or 256(all of that color).

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Why should the PowerPoint developer care about color numbers? Graphic designers tend to work in CMYK or PMS. PowerPoint only works with RBG. So, if the graphics were created in PhotoShop or another high- powered graphics tool, they were likely saved with a color scheme PowerPoint can't duplicate. Instead, it approximates the colors and translates them to the closest RBG color available.

While this is fine for most work, your company may have a corporate color defined and that color is likely to have been designed for printed materials. When PowerPoint gets its hands on that color, it changes the color to RBG. The translation may not be as close as you would like. You may or may not notice the difference on the screen, but when the slides are printed you most likely will.

What can you do about it? Not much. If you are taking graphics defined for the print world and using them in PowerPoint, the best bet is to see if the graphics can be saved with RBG colors. This way, you have a better interpretation of the colors, and the graphics look better when printed.

My Text Keeps Disappearing

Ever had text disappear when selecting it for editing? This is the fault of an improper color scheme.

The person developing the color scheme inserted a graphic as the background, but did not check the setting of the background color. Because of this, the designer didn't know the background color was set to the same color as the text color.

When selecting text, PowerPoint automatically sets the text color to something contrasting with what the color scheme has as the background color. However, since the graphic inserted as a background is a different color, it will seem as if the text disappears.

Another common problem is followed hyperlinks . If the followed hyperlink color contrasts with the original background, but not the actual background, the followed hyperlink can disappear while the presentation is run.

How to get around this gotcha? Simple: Test out the color schemes any time the background is changed. Be sure each of the eight default color swatches still show on the new background.

Wall Color

When projecting a presentation, it is always best to use a white or off-white projection surface. If the surface is colored, be sure to test the background before the audience gets there. Orange walls, green walls, even blue walls change the color of the background and you may not like the results.

If presenting on a dark wall, brighten the colors considerably to compensate for the light absorption of the wall. If the presentation will be displayed on a colored surface, set up a color scheme ahead of time can compensate for the surface color.

Kathy Jacobs On PowerPoint
Kathy Jacobs On PowerPoint
ISBN: 972425861
Year: 2003
Pages: 166 © 2008-2017.
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