PowerPoint: Creating Master Slide Layouts

Why would someone want to alter a Master Slide in PowerPoint? Several reasons… Sometimes you are making a simple alteration to the overall formatting or appearance of your slides – we do this in PowerPoint Essentials training. Other times you might want to do what we are about to do today, which is to make a larger layout change for your presentation. Altering the Master Slide might sound intimidating, but it can be a huge time saving step… and can make uniformity of your presentation so much simpler. Let’s check it out.

Exercise Files

No exercise file today! You can open PowerPoint to your favorite theme (or even no theme at all). For reference, my screen shots are showing the Gallery theme.

Master Slides

You have seen Master Slides before, even if you didn’t know where they lived. Whenever you select New Slide on the Home tab, you were picking from preset Master Slides. You probably noticed these options change when you select a different theme… that is because each theme comes with its own unique set of Master Slides.

New Slide view

Let’s find where these Master Slides live. In the View tab of the ribbon, Master Views group, select Slide Master.

View tab, slide master button circled

This can be a bit disorienting at first. Your presentation seems to disappear (but don’t worry, it is still there!), and you are thrown onto a new tab called Slide Master with a plethora of options.

Slide Master tab

At any time, you can leave Master View by selecting Close Master View in the Slide Master tab.

Close Master View circled

Master Slide View and Creating Layouts

Let’s make some adjustments to the Master Slides.

1. Go to View tab, Slide Master (instructions above).

2. On the left side of the screen, notice a list of all the existing layouts. Hover your mouse over one of them to see the name appear.

Mouse hovered over slide layout to see title
  • Notice there is a plethora of options on a right click menu… more on this later. But for now, notice that if you like a layout, and want an additional slightly altered version of it, you have the ability to duplicate and alter.
Right click menu, duplicate circled

3. In the Slide Master tab, go to the Edit Master group an select Insert Layout.

Insert Layout circled

4. In your new layout, find the Master Layout group, and select the dropdown for Insert Placeholder.

Insert Placeholder circled

5. Notice you have the option to limit content to a specific type, or insert generic content (what you are most used to seeing in layouts). We are going to insert Content.

Insert Placeholder options

6. Your cursor will change to a cross hair. Draw out a box the size you would like your content box to be on your slides.

Drawing a placeholder

7. Let’s do another one. Go back to Insert Placeholder (above), and this time select SmartArt. Draw out this box next to the Content box you created. Notice you can use the PowerPoint guides (red dashed lines) to see if the boxes have lined up properly.

Size guides
  • You should be left with a layout similar to this:
Final new layout

8. Remember how we explored the right click options earlier? Find your new layout in the slide list on the left. Right click on top of it, and select Rename Layout.

Right click menu, rename selected

9. Give it a new name that you will easily be able to identify.

Name box

Test Out Your New Slide

Let’s test it out! Remember to leave the Master View, go to the Slide Master Tab, and select Close Master View on the right.

Close Master View button circled

You will be taken back to your presentation. Select the New Slide dropdown. Do you see your new layout?

Newly created master slide visible in New Slide dropdown

More About Master Slide View

While you were in Master Slide View, You might have noticed a couple of other things about the Master Slide tab…

Themes, Colors and Fonts

In PowerPoint Essentials training, we talk about manipulating themes, colors and fonts on the Design tab… the Master Slide tab contains another way to access these same features.

Themes, Colors, Fonts on Master Slide View


To the left of where we selected Insert Placeholder, you might notice a checked box for Title. This is a very important little box.

Master Layout: Title

Luckily this box is checked by default, but be sure not to uncheck it. All of your slides should have a title: this is usually found at the top of your slide. If you were to remove this title box and replace it with a text box for instance, your PowerPoint will not be as easy to work with, nor will it be accessible to people using screen readers. Long story short, leave it checked!


Will this help you customize your presentations? I would love to hear from you!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

  • Tonya Bronleewe
  • Donna Hughes