Characters "Floating In Space"

May 16, 2012

An interesting design question . . . How do you folks feel about Storyline characters--either the graphic ones or the photographic ones--seeming to float in space on a slide?  Or do you always provide some realistic "anchor" for them--or do you think it's okay to "let them float"?

I've done this in a lot in my PowerPoint presos.  However, I remember one person I used to work with saying seeing people out there on the slide by themselves really bugged her.  On the other hand, I like a bit of the "abstract" sometimes.

Never thought about it much for e-learning until recently.  (Still learning. )

So, as an example, in a new project I'm starting and playing around now with designs, here are some characters seemingly "floating in space" on a slide:

The same characters with a background anchoring them in a bit in "reality":

Note in this example: corporate dicta for my client says e-learning should be based on corporate PPT templates.  And in this one, the montage (in this case at the top) and the copyright and logo should always try to be on every slide. The logo must stand alone, with "behind white" recommended.  (So I've used the space in between the copyright and logo for custom nav buttons.)

Should the potential for possible learner dissonance with abstractness in the first example be avoided?  Or is the answer, "it depends"?  And, if the later, any rules of thumb?

Just curious how others felt . . .

15 Replies
Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro

Thanks, Gerry for the question (and chuckle), and David and Bruce for the guidance. I truly wasn't put off, Gerry, by your floating example, but the shadows do give it what I'd describe as a more 3D feel (terminology probl'y not correct, but I think you get what I'm saying).

Also the 2 gradient examples kind of make me feel like there's a floor underneath her feet and a wall behind her...I guess because of where the color shifts (on the horizontal) a bit more dramatically.

Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro

Thanks, Bruce. Since you brought up gradients, can I ask another question that's really a PPT question that's been driving me crazy?

Let's say I want to format the background with a gradient using a shade of red like you've done here. Why does PPT always default to blue, seemingly no matter what I do? Here are the steps I use

  1. Right-click on slide and select format background
    Fill tab is active. Solid Fill is active. Color is white. Transparency is 0.
  2. I change color to a shade of red, using the color drop-down.
    I see my slide is red.
  3. I click on gradient fill
    The color switches to a preset blue, type linear, direction (I can never tell which is active) Angle 90 degrees, Gradient stop positions: 3
  4. I click the color drop-down again, and again choose my shade of red
    Now my first stop is red, but the other two are still shades of blue.

I know how to change the stop positions, but is there any way to get this to start out with red, like I asked it (or any other color for that matter)?


David Anderson

Hi Becky - 

You can customize the default colors a couple of different ways.

Change the default shape color - create a shape and fill it with a color you like. Right click the shape and select Set as Default Shape. That will set the starting color to your current color.

You can also select a different color scheme from Design > Colors. The default blue comes from that color scheme. There's no getting around it when you first open PowerPoint, but you can select a different palette to work from.

Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro

Tx, David. I know how to change default colors for a shape, and I'm aware of the Design schemes (I've done lessons on some of that for but since I was formatting the actual background, I hadn't thought about that as a workaround. Actually, I'm not looking for a particular color. I'm looking for a way for PowerPoint to understand that if I first choose a color of red, green, blue, purple, what have you, it then knows that when I select gradient I want to work with shades of THAT color...not whatever the default color is. Do you know what I mean?

Colin Harm

Even placing a character on a background still makes them kind of float, we have found (creating a lot of green screen videos and importing into both story line and presenter)  to get a character to appear realistically in a scene, you need to add drop shadows and consider blending lighting effects. But hey, how much time do you want to spend on it?

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