Using the Slide Master for designing documents – Guidance for PowerPoint 2013

Why use PowerPoint for document design?

While PowerPoint is primarily designed for designing presentations, it can also be used as a powerful and flexible desktop publishing tool that can deliver professional results without the expense of having to purchase and learn a dedicated DTP program such as InDesign.

The flexibility of PowerPoint makes it perfect for creating a range of documents such as posters, reports, and pitches. This document is designed to teach you some tips and tricks to help you improve your PowerPoint designs.

What is the Slide Master?

The Slide Master is one of the best kept secrets in PowerPoint, and by using it you can save yourself a lot of time modifying slides individually – when you make layout changes you can apply these changes automatically across all the slides that are based on that layout.

The Slide Master actually comprises of two types of layout:

Slide master

  • Changes made on the master are inherited by slide layouts
  • By default there is one master slide (although you can add more if you have more than one distinct design in a slide pack)

Slide layout

  • Slide layouts inherit the formatting from the master
  • You can have multiple slide layouts with unique designs that you can reuse in your slide deck

Opening the Slide Master tab

The Side Master is found under the View tab: View tab > Slide Master

When you select Slide Master you will be taken to the Slide Master toolbar (and notice the addition of the SLIDE MASTER tab):

Slide Pic 1

The areas of the Slide Master toolbar that you are most likely to use are:

  • Slide Size –set your slide size and orientation using included defaults or the Custom
  • Insert Layout – inserts a new layout slide
  • Insert Placeholder – inserts a placeholder into an individual layout slide
  • Colours – changes the theme colour scheme across all slides
  • Fonts – changes the theme fonts across all slides

Setting up the size and orientation using Slide Size

The first thing you need to do once you have opened your blank template is set up your page size and orientation using the custom settings. This will remove the default PowerPoint margins so you can use the whole page for your poster design.

View tab > Slide Master > Slide Size > Custom Slide SizeSlide Pic 2

This is what the custom slide size options look like when it is set-up for an A0 sized poster.

The most important this to remember is to use the Custom setting as the default PowerPoint size settings are designed for presentations and add in extra margins.

The table below illustrates the most popular slide sizes that you might what to use for your presentation. Remember that all of these sizes are scalable if you change your mind on the page size later.

Poster size Dimensions (mm) Dimensions (cm) Dimensions (inches)
A4 210 x 297mm 21.0 x 29.7cm
A3 297 x 420mm 29.7 x 40.2cm
A2 420 x 594mm 42.0 x 59.4cm 16.5 x 23.4 inches
A1 594 x 841mm 54.9 x 84.1cm 23.4 x 33.0 inches
A0 841 x 1189mm 84.1 x 118.9cm 33.0 x 46.0 inches

Usually however, especially if you are inserting graphics, we recommend that you set you page size to the size you intent to print to as this will help ensure that any graphics that you use retain their quality.

Slide Pic 3If you are working with a large page size you can use the Zoom function on the bottom right hand corner of the screen to resize the page on your screen.

Insert Layout

Insert Layout inserts a new blank layout into the Navigation Pane next to your existing layout slides. You can customise this blank slide with placeholders to create a template to use in your document.

Insert Placeholder

This function lets you build up your blank layout into your required design – you can insert a range of placeholder elements including:

  • Content
  • Text
  • Picture
  • Table
  • Chart
  • Smart Art
  • Media
  • Online Image

You can combine several placeholder elements onto a layout slide page to create a limitless array of layouts which you can then reuse as many times as you like in your slides


Here you can specify which colours are used throughout your poster. Slide Pic 4

I find it useful to use your brand guidelines to inform the colours you use and experiment to make sure that they work together in the combination that you have chosen.

If you use graphs you will be especially interested in the accent colours which let you specify the colours that the graphs use – for this alone the Slide Master can save you a lot of time manually changing all your graphs to the same colour schemes.


Slide Pic 5This is where you change the default fonts across all your slides. You are able to override these defaults on individual layout slides for flexibility, but as with the colours this is a great thing to be aware of – no more changing fonts manually on all your slides.


PowerPoint is a powerful and very flexible tool that is useful for much more than just creating presentation slides.

Unlocking the power of the Slide Master to design and adjust your layout templates instead of doing it on individual slides is one of the easiest timesaving features of PowerPoint that you can learn.

More information about the Slide Master tab

What is a Slide Master?

Create or customise a Slide Master

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *