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11 Hacks to Make Text Over Images More Readable & Craft a Stunning Slide

11 Hacks to Make Text Over Images More Readable & Craft a Stunning Slide

Anuj Malhotra

Anuj Malhotra

July 20 2016

Title Slide is the most important slide in your presentation. It’s the introduction- your first impression. You want the audience to immediately sit straight, keep their phones away, open their eyes and ears and look forward to the next 20 minutes of your presentation.


If you are using a great, full screen visual on the title slide, half the battle is won. There is nothing better than opening the opening slide with a striking image. But often a small problem crops up over here- How to display text over an image? The title is barely readable on the colorful image! Not only is your title getting lost somewhere in the slide, it’s killing the beauty of the image too.


You aren’t the only one, every designer has faced this problem. It happens when there is hardly any or very little white space in the image. Or the image may be a bit busy.


That problem will now be solved. Here are 11 design tips to make your text more readable on a busy, colorful image and create an outstanding opening slide or any slide with a full-screen image:


Hack #1- Add a Transparent Shape Behind the Text

The easiest way to make your text stand out is to add a transparent layer behind it. Many of you might know it already and are looking for better ways; you’ll find more further. It might be a simple hack but very effective.


Check out this slide where we faced the text problem. Donald Trump is taking up all the space on the slide!

Donald Trump won't be impressed as his 2016 presidential campaign is getting lost in the background


Can’t give it a thumbs up to this slide however! Average readability but poor aesthetics. No point in blaming Donald Trump for everything. It is a design problem that requires a simple fix. Simply insert a rectangle from the Shapes menu (go to the Insert tab), right click and select the Format Shape option. Now give the rectangle a solid fill of color black and set transparency of around 25% so that the content stands out and Trump is not blocked too. Check out the after slide:



Transparent banner added behind the text- Slide looks great and Donald Trump too


There are 2 things we did more than just adding a shape:


  • Chose a thicker font- Century Gothic font size 72 and made Bold
  • Added a red line above and below the shape (width 2 point)


P.S. Ensure that if the image is of some personality, you do not block off the person’s face. Not just Donald Trump, anybody would not like that.



Hack #2- Add a Transparent Layer over the Image

As much as Donald Trump remained in the headlines, so did Brexit: the shocking exit of Britain from the European Union. The outcome had global repercussions; not just for the UK economy. But while creating the opening slide for it, we faced the same problem.



Brexit news is barely readable on this colorful, flag-filled background


Many a times when you try hack #1, you might feel it looks forced and awkward. It does not gel as well as it looks in the Donald Trump slide. The image in the background is such that if some part of it is blocked by text and transparent shape, the slide becomes a mess. Same was the case with the slide above. In such a scenario, take a rectangle from the Shapes menu in PowerPoint and cover the complete visual with it. Now, format the shape, change the color of the shape, set transparency level and remove the outline. Here’s how the Brexit opening slide now looks after applying hack #2-



Breaking news impact is generated with a dark layer on the background and bold, large text


Hack #3- Use Whatever White Space

When the characters in your visual cover the entire space leaving you with no space to write your text, you are left with no option but to put it over that central character. Pretty much like the Donald Trump slide. But some images are too precious and remarkable to be tampered with. Like an outer space image. Juno’s mission to Mars is a remarkable achievement. But does this slide look remarkable after text is forcefully inserted over the planet?



Jupiter looks inhabited by black aplhabets


The Jupiter seems to be invaded by a boring font. Thankfully, the image has some white space on the right. Something is better than nothing. Take a cool font worthy of depicting galaxy. Check out the slide now:



The Juno Mission is a success and so is the slide


The font size is small yet so readable. Besides, the tiny font adds more meaning to the slide, which is to admire the vastness of space. Keep the sub-heading of a different color, preferably picked from the visual itself.


Hack #4- Try Masking

The problem is the same- text seems to rob the beauty of a stunning image.



Construction Industry text is merging into the background


Readability is not that bad, although one has to concentrate a lot. Make it easier for the audience by masking. If we put a transparent layer from left to right, the young man’s face will be cut off. The bottom half is too busy to add title over there. The placement is fine. In masking, we gradually keep decreasing the transparency of the shape till it merges into the picture. It looks very professional, see for yourself below:



Masking is a great design tip, isn't it?


Here’s how you create the masking effect: Take a rectangular shape and fill it with a Gradient Fill. Choose the color you wish to use and keep 3-4 gradient stops. Keep increasing the transparency of each gradient stop till the last gradient stop has 100% transparency. See the screenshot below to see how we created the masking effect:

How to Create the Masking Gradient Effect in PowerPoint


Hack #5- Use Interesting Shapes

That happiness when you find the perfect visual for your presentation is often short-lived when you place text over it. The elements in the visual take a toll on text readability. As it happened in the slide below:



Visual is wow, but slide is not thanks to the ugly text


No matter how bold and large you make the font, it will look forcefully placed over the stunning image. Transparent layer trick can work but still something will be missing. In such a scenario, the best hack is to use an interesting shape that gels with the personality of the slide. See what we did:



Slide also looks WOW with a perfect headline and visual


We have changed the fonts but even if we did not do that, any Sans Serif would look readable and impressive on the shape. We have not done much except take 2 circles- remove the fill of the inner circle and give it a white outline. We added a Chevron shape behind the circle (available in PowerPoint in the Shapes menu). The colors have been picked from the visual itself to complement and create a harmonious look and feel.


Hack #6- Use Ribbons/Strips

Adding simple strips over the image balances out the slide. You are able to give equal weightage to the image as well as the slide.



The text looks forcefully placed in the corner of the slide


In the above image, masking or transparency won’t look good. There is already quite a lot of transparency thanks to the dust being blown around by the fitness trainer. So what we did was take a basic rectangle shape from the default Shapes category in PowerPoint, use colors from the image background, and tilt the shape to give it prominence. See the final effect below:



The strips of text enhance the look of the slide


Just a simple rectangle shape lends sophistication to the slide. Sometimes, you do not want balance. You want the image to speak everything. The strips of text can be made shorter to attain that effect. Here’s another example where a simple text box fill can get you out of a difficult design situation:



Slide looks amateurish despite a nice visual


Notice the subject- Depression. Feeling small and pitied against the world. You do not need a big font to scream for attention. A small yet readable font will add meaning to the message. Check out the after slide now:



Strips of text lend sophistication to the slide


Hack #7- Use Pattern Fill

While we had used a Solid Fill to color the text boxes in the last hack, we’ll use a pattern fill here. PowerPoint offers several pattern fill options that can be used for background or shapes. A word of caution however. This hack should only be used for light hearted presentation topics. Now, in the image below, there is a serious problem of readability of content:



Eeeks! Reading the text would cause dizziness


A solid fill behind the text would make the already so colorful image even more colorful. So we took a light pattern fill to match the look and feel of the image. We took a rectangular shape again, made it touch the edges of the slide and tilted it to make it stand out and trendy. Here’s how it looks:



So much better thanks to the pattern fill


Hack #8- Use Line Separators

Let’s take up a very easy and commonly used design trick that professionals use to make their content stand out without fiddling much with the image. Say you have an awesome visual topic like the Instagram slide below:



Good but not a perfect instagram slide


The text is readable but can be made better just by adding a line or rectangle shape over and below the text. You can even give a light Glow Effect to the text. Select the text, go to the Format tab on the Ribbon, click Text Effects and under Glow, choose the glow color you wish to give. We gave a gray glow effect. Check out the after slide now:



Yes, this is perfect! Pro and classy


Hack #9- Use any Creative Element

Many a times, the image that you use in your slide gives you several creative options to place your content. You will understand it better when you check this slide below:



Slide looks bland, uninspiring and unproductive


Do you notice the blank laptop screen screaming for attention? That’s the place you need to be placing your content. With slight rotation and tweaks, you can proudly display your headline like in the after slide below:



Opening slide looks outstanding with this creative hack


Hack #10- Apply a Color Filter

Filters aren’t just for Instagram. You can apply them to your presentation images too. PowerPoint may not have advanced filters like those in photo editing softwares but decent enough to change the look and make your content readable if it is not. Say you have a cover image like this one:



Text is lost and so is the audience interest


Text is merging into the background. You can add a transparent shape behind the text but that won’t be the best hack for this slide. How about adding a color overlay! Select the image, go to the Format tab on the Ribbon and check out the Color options from the Color menu. You can recolor the image and change the color saturation and tone with simple clicks. Not only will your image look more professional and artistic but your text readability will improve by leaps and bounds too:



A color overlay enhances the look and feel of the slide


Hack #11- Blur the Image + Text All Caps

Many a times, you want to use an image simply to set the mood. There is nothing in the image that warrants attention from the audience. That is where you can use this hack. Say you have a general topic on books like the slide below:



Must Read text is becoming too difficult to read


The rack of books sets the perfect tone for the slide and is quite perfect in itself, except for the fact that it takes a toll on the readability of heading. Why not blur the image? As it is, you don’t want the audience to start guessing the books in those rack. PowerPoint offers the Blur effect under Artistic Effects menu (Format tab). You can customize the intensity of the blur further from the Artistic Effects menu (click Artistic Effects Options) and increase the radius of the blur. When you do this, also don’t forget to make the heading all capitals, with bold and shadow applied to it so that it stands out from the background. Isn’t the slide below much better:



Blurred background makes it so much easier to read the title


There can be many more ways to increase the readability of content over a busy image. Now all these would not have been required if the image had plenty of blank space to type your content. However, this is an ideal situation. Often you will have to make do with images like those above. That’s where these hacks will come in handy to you.


BONUS TIP: Combine one or more hacks to create powerful, visually stunning and legible slides.


For instance, you can combine the Colored Transparency and Line Separator hack to create a stellar opening slide like the one below:


Everything is perfect in this slide, thanks to minor tweaks!


Did we leave out any design hack to increase text legibility? And which hack did you like the most? Type it down in the comments below.

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48 thoughts on “11 Hacks to Make Text Over Images More Readable & Craft a Stunning Slide”
  1. Ritu Nagpal
    Excellent Tips. I always have this challenge of text readability. I guess this solves my problem.
    Thanks a lot!!
    1. slideteam
      That's great to hear Ritu! We are happy you found these tips useful. We have many more in store for you. Stay tuned! :)
  2. Gábor Máthé
    Great ideas. Sometimes I use glow text effect. Works nice.
    1. slideteam
      Yes Gabor, we use the Glow Text Effect a lot too. Thanks for the compliment, glad you liked the ideas. :)
  3. Emma Rahmawati
    Great ideas!!! Thank you...
    1. slideteam
      You are most welcome Emma! :)
  4. career evolve
    i never thought of the idea to make an image blurry and then the text overlay like number 11. great tips for small business owners to apply! @careerevolved
    1. slideteam
      Thanks Career Evolve. Glad you found the tips useful. :)
  5. Dalima Astrawinata
    Dalima Astrawinata
    Great ! Thanks for the tips !
    1. slideteam
      Our pleasure Dalima! Glad you liked them. :)
  6. Rich
    I just love these tips!! Thank you!
    1. slideteam
      Glad you loved these tips, Rich! Thanks a lot. :)
  7. Sarah Higginson
    Sarah Higginson
    There are some fantastic ideas here to made section slides powerful and visually appealing. I'm going to start using some of these tips straight away!
    1. slideteam
      Thank you so much Sarah for the lovely compliment! :)
  8. Sara
    These tips were great, it is always helpful to have them put right in front of you just for hints. Thanks
    1. slideteam
      Hi Sara, glad you liked these tips. Thank you!
  9. Shannon Fitzgerald
    Shannon Fitzgerald
    I noticed also that with each tip the font, size, and color of the text changed to bring more life to the slide. Great tips. Thanks
    1. slideteam
      Yes Shannon, small changes like these make a great difference to the look and feel of the slide. Glad you liked the tips, thanks.
  10. Marlene Etherington
    Marlene Etherington
    Are these examples accessible to people with vision issues and/or using screen readers, magnifiers, etc?
    1. slideteam
      Hi Marlene, we do follow some basic guidelines like keeping headings' font size large and choosing strong contrast in design colors. Though we have often made the mistake of using red and green colors that color blind people would have problem seeing. We will look into this matter more carefully now. Thanks for raising this concern.
  11. Mallon Alkfornd
    Mallon Alkfornd
    Thanks so much for this, you just solves 25% of my issues! I have always had trouble with the text over a background and sometimes I have spent 15 minutes trying to sort out my slide. Thanks!!
    1. slideteam
      Most welcome again, Mallon! Always happy to help. :)
  12. Mallon Alfornd
    Thanks so much!! I have spent 15 minutes trying to sort my slide and now I don't have to do that anymore! Thanks!!
    1. slideteam
      Thanks for the lovely compliment, Mallon! We write such posts to help presenters create amazing presentations faster and more efficiently. :)
  13. Arnold
    Wow! Thank you! I needed something like that.
    1. slideteam
      Thank you Arnold! :)
  14. zenithclippingpath
    This is very nice post. Very helpful for us.
    1. slideteam
      Thank you so much!
  15. Rebecca
    Good tips, I will share these as well. Couple of comments; we always try to leave more space around the edges than you have allowed on some of these as the sides of you slides may end up slightly off the edge of the screen they are projected on, depending on how well the AV team (or you) have set up your projector. Also, if you use a non-standard font, convert the text to an image, embed the font, or make sure the laptop you are using to present includes that font, or you may have a nasty surprise when you go to present and the text does not look or flow as it did originally!
    1. slideteam
      Absolutely Rebecca ! Wonderful points you have made here. Thanks for your valuable feedback.
  16. Dorothy Jolley
    Dorothy Jolley
    Sometimes it takes a whole semester to learn all these tips. Thank you for putting it in a nutshell - easier to remember. Merci
    1. slideteam
      So nice of you Dorothy to leave such a beautiful feedback. Thank you!!
  17. Robert Thompson
    Robert Thompson
    Really great article. Thanks for taking the time to explain things in such great detail in a way that is easy to understand about image editing tips
    1. slideteam
      Our pleasure Robert! Glad you found the tips useful.
  18. Anamika
    Thanks... I always enjoy reading your articles, Anuj! Very informative.
    1. slideteam
      Thank you so much Anamika for this lovely compliment! :)
  19. Eric Prouzet
    Great tips indeed! I must keep track of all of them!
    1. slideteam
      Thanks Eric! Best of luck! :)
  20. Krzysztof
    Awesome tutorial.
    That's what I needed.
    Thanks a lot for the inspiration!
    1. slideteam
      Thank you so much! We are glad that you liked it.
  21. Michal
    Really great tips, thank you!
    1. slideteam
      Good to hear that you liked the post :)
  22. Aliza
    What a brilliant hack!
    1. slideteam
      Thanks for your thumbs-up Aliza! Stay tuned for more informative content.
  23. blurry image
    This blog is very helpful in creating amazing PowerPoint slides. Thanks for sharing such useful information.
    1. slideteam
      Thanks for the appreciation :)
  24. Yevgeny
    Thanks for the great article!
    1. slideteam
      You are most welcome :)
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