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Geetesh Bajaj has written an excellent article uncovering hidden features that allow you to recolor bitmap images. The article has two parts.
You can change a background’s color to suit your needs or to create multiple backgrounds that use the same graphics but with varying colors.
The templates that come with PowerPoint come with various color schemes. For example, if you start a new presentation using the Digital Dots template that comes with PowerPoint 2003, you get the following background:
Digital Dots template
If you choose Format > Slide Design and choose Color Schemes from the top of the task pane (I’m doing this in PowerPoint 2003, but the same principle holds with earlier versions), you can choose from 9 other colors, such as the gold background you see here:
different color for the same background
Same background, different color. Not only do these variations give you lots of choice, but you can use them within one presentation. For example, you could use the dark blue for most of your slides, but use the gold for the first slide of each section, to provide a change of pace (and wake up your audience).
Geetesh’s article explains how you can create this effect with any image of your choosing, even photos. The technique works beautifully with black & white photos, as well. However, this is for backgrounds only.
Geetesh offers a download of the presentation he created.
Recoloring bitmap images
You can also use a trick to recolor bitmap graphics that you want to insert onto a slide. If you try to recolor a bitmap, PowerPoint tells you that you can’t recolor bitmaps. But it turns out the Microsoft Publisher has no problem with it! You can’t recolor the picture pixel by pixel, but you can choose a color and create an image made up of shades of that color. Here’s an example with a photo from Microsoft Office’s Clip Art collection. The original is on the left; the recolored photo is on the right.