We occasionally see questions in the newsgroup about how to set default colors for MS Graph. There’s no easy answer for this, so I recommend that you read through this information carefully.

By default, MS Graph bases its colors on the color scheme you’ve chosen for your slide. As you’ve seen in other color scheme tutorials on this site (Color Schemes I, Color Schemes II, and Leveraging Color Schemes in Multiple Masters), you can control the color scheme of individual slides and objects.

You can do this somewhat in MS Graph as well.

For this tutorial, I’m using the design template Mountain.POT, however, you can follow usingalmost any design template. The more variation you have in the template colors, the easier it will be for you to see what’s happening.

First let’s look at the color schemes.

To get to them in PPT 2000, just go to Format/Slide Color Scheme.

In PPT 2002/2003, go to your task pane and choose Slide Design – Color Schemes from the dropdown at the top of the task pane. (You can also go to Format/Slide Design and choose the Color Schemes link on the resulting task pane.)

You will see the color scheme options Microsoft or the template creator has already included for you. Notice the “Edit Color Schemes…” link at the bottom of that pane as well.

If you click that “Edit Color Schemes” link, you will see something like this:

The graphic of the chart in that dialog box can actually help you figure out what’s happening with your chart colors and how they’re based on the slide color scheme.

In the image below, I’ve numbered each color in the slide color scheme, and I’ve added the numbers to the chart image on the right so you can see the correlation.

I think this will help you see what colors apply where on a graph. Well, at least, this covers the first part!

Swatch 2 is by default assigned to text and lines. As you can see in the image above, “lines” also translates to lines around autoshapes (Can you see the yellow line on the grey arrow?) as well as to chart axes and outlines around data points in your chart.

Swatch 5 (Fill) will by default be the first dataseries color.

Swatch 6 (Accent), will be the second dataseries color.

Swatch 7 (Accent and hyperlink) will be the third dataseries color.

Swatch 8 (Accent and followed hyperlink) will be the fourth dataseries color.

But what if you have more than four colors in your charts? Where do those other colors come from?

Well, to see what’s happening there, we have to look at the colors in MS Graph itself. So select a slide layout with a graph element and click (or double-click) to add a graph.

You will probably get something that looks like this:

Now right-click the first data series and choose “Format Data Series. You will see this:

In the data series “area” color palette on the right side of the dialog box, I’ve highlighted the squares that your chart colors come from. These are the defaults for your data series, and they go in order from left to right.

Compare the colors in that highlighted area above to your original slide color scheme.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the colors I highlighted in the Format Data Series dialog box go in this order

Swatch 5 Swatch 6 Swatch 7 Swatch 8 Swatch 3 Swatch 4

So, the first 6 colors in your chart come from your slide color scheme.

The last 2 colors in your chart are actually fixed colors — kind of a steely blue and a lavender-ish shade. These are the same no matter what your slide color scheme is. Likewise, the bright colors on the line below your chart (color scheme) colors are always those “Microsoft Brights.” They never change.

Notice also that the border around each chart fill color is “automatic.” That border color comes from swatch 2 on your slide color scheme. You can see the actual color in both the Style and Weight areas on the “Border” side of the dialog box.

So, close that dialog and right-click your second data series in your chart. Choose Format Data Series and have another look at the colors.

You should see something along these lines — note that the second box in the Area area is now highlighted, and that color corresponds to Swatch 6 from your slide color scheme.

So the upshot is, your graphs will take on the various colors from your slide color scheme, and these colors can and will change when you move slides to a different presentation or apply a different design template or color scheme.

That’s how the color schemes are designed to work. See Color Schemes II for an explanation of why colors change when.

If you don’t want your data series to change colors, then choose your colors from one of the colors in the palette above your chart color scheme colors (or from one of the 8 “Microsoft Brights” below).

For instance, maybe you’re creating slides about Pepto-Bismol, and you know that you will always want the data series representing Pepto-Bismol to be pink, no matter what color scheme or design template you’re using.

In that case, you’d right-click the data series, choose Format Data Series, and choose a pink from the 40 swatches above your chart color scheme colors. Like this:

Because I chose the color for the second data series from the colors above the chart color scheme swatches, it will always be Pepto-Bismol pink no matter what color scheme or template I use on this slide. The other two data series (the grey and the red) will change according to the slide color scheme used.

This same principle applies to all pieces of the chart — axis lines, gridlines, chart floors (3D), borders around data series fills, plot area fills, whatever. If you choose from your color scheme colors, that part of the chart will change colors; if you choose from one of the other colors, that part of your chart will always remain the same.

So what do you do when the 40 colors above the chart color scheme swatches (or the 8 “Microsoft Brights” colors below) don’t have the color you need? Well, you can actually modify those. Here’s how.

Double-click a chart on a slide to open MS Graph. Then go to Tools/Options/Color.

Click on the Modify button, and you’ll see the familiar color wheel.

Choose a different color (or create one on the Custom tab in the color wheel dialog box), and OK your way out.

I chose to change the Pepto-Bismol pink swatch to light yellow and ended up with this:

To recap, the color of my “Pepto-Bismol” data series changed because I modified the color swatch it was assigned to.

Although this is a slick trick, modifying one color in the color swatches does not affect existing charts in a presentation. If you have existing charts, you will need to do this for each one of them.

If you do not already have the charts created, you can modify the chart color swatches and then copy/paste the slide and change the data/chart type to create another chart.

You can also set up a chart the way you want it to look, assigning colors to whatever swatches, specifying the font, etc., and save as a user-defined chart. Then you can designate that chart as your default chart type.

To get to user-defined charts, double-click a chart to open MS Graph, and then go to Chart/Chart Type. Go to the Custom Types tab.

Click in the “user-defined charts” and then click “Add” so that you can name your chart style.

After typing in your description, click OK, and then, back in the Chart Type dialog box, click “Set as default chart.” Click Yes when the box pops up to ask if you’re sure you want to do this.

You can create a number of user-defined charts to speed the production of chart styles you use often. Simply select from the user-defined charts on the Custom Types tab (Chart/Chart Types/Custom Types) instead of selecting from the built-in charts.

A couple of caveats:

1.User-defined charts are machine-specific settings. This means that custom chart types do NOT travel with a template or presentation. User-defined charts are on your computer only.

1b. The colors in the Graph Options dialog box (which you reach by opening a graph and going to Tools/Options/Color) reset to their defaults each time you create a new chart.

You cannotmodify the colors in this dialog and have those colors apply when you create a new chart. It doesn’t work even if you create a user-defined chart that maps to your modified colors. Unfortunately, MS Graph just doesn’t work that way. Your only real option is to create a sample chart, include it on a slide in the template, and teach your users to copy that slide and modify the data for new charts.

2.If you have created a user-defined chart and have set it as the default chart, but your font is defaulting to something different when you add a new chart, close out of MS Graph and go to Tools/Options/Edit in PowerPoint. Make sure that “New charts take on PowerPoint font” is NOTselected.

3.If you totally mess up your color swatches when modifying them, simply click the Reset button to go back to the default colors.