Use of Color

International conferences yield both good and poor examples of the use of color. Next time you attend a conference note how color is used on the slides that are easiest for your eyes to understand. Make notes of ideas for your next set of slides, especially techniques that invite your slides to look like a set rather than a random assortment of slides.

Each computer program has background colors for slides. Pale colors, such as pale yellow, make a more interesting background than a plain screen, but choose a background color that does not interfere with the clarity of the information on the slide. Notice that a bright-colored background makes seeing the information on the slide difficult. Backgrounds come in the form of 1) templates that can be used on all or selected slides, and 2) 'fill' colors by which you can vary the background or effectively leave the screen white in areas behind print. Further any of the colors can be toned brighter or paler.

Many of the programs for specific sciences, such as ChemDraw, have a limited and rather glaring choice of color, but the main program has a wide and tasteful assortment. So when using programs for symbols specific to your science, switch back into the main program, in order to apply color that pleases the eye and doesn't clash. Highlighting words in primary colors of bright red and bright blue, for example, is less pleasing than using the same colors but in a red with some orange or pink in it, and a blue with some green or red in it. The palette of colors available is excellent; take some time to find good colors.

Too many colors, say a total of 5 and up, on one slide is usually not only less pleasant but less effective than 2-4. However at a recent international conference one highly effective slide used 9-10 colors between the fill colors and the print colors. So, do it your way, but be kind to the eyes of your audience. Purple and red, for example, are usually not pleasing on the same slide, especially when the shade of red is towards the orange.

Background fill color can help clarify information when it is necessary to have a list that fills the slide. A band of a single pale fill color behind one item on the list alternates with a band of the screen color behind the next item. This is effective when a great deal of information must be listed on one slide and only a total of two colors are used behind the print.

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