Tip of the Day: Displaying text on an image

I am three slides away from being done with my most epic deck ever. I cannot wait to share it with my Slideshare peeps, fellow designers, students, teachers, my mother… This deck is partly responsible for the brief drought in posts lately. I am taking a short break from the deck to share a quick slide design tip.

So, you’ve taken or found some amazing photographs to use in your slides, but some of the images are rather “busy.” You’ve learned from studying Presentation Zen that empty space is a good thing, and that the picture superiority effect is best applied when images are paired with one impacting idea. So, you want to combine images and text in a way that is going to reduce noise and maximize signal. How do you do this without causing competition between the image and the text? Bring in three slide design tools: shadows, boxes, and a letterbox mask. I will illustrate using two images I took during my walk to Dickson Azalea Park in beautiful downtown Orlando, Florida.


Adding a shadow to text can help add a bit of pop to a text element. Use some opacity, keep the blur and the offset subtle, and you’ll create a seamless blend between image and text.

Use shadows sparingly and subtly. Technically, you are indicating to your viewer that the slide has a light source, which is generally used when trying to create a 3-dimensional space. This to me is the least effective strategy here, partly because even with the shadow, the text does not pop enough to ensure it’s signal and not noise.


Boxes are a second option to amp up the contrast between image and text. There are several options for this method. You can create a textbox and add a color fill to it. You can also create a shape, color it, and add text to it.

Whatever you do, be sure to choose a color by grabbing it directly from the image (or stick to your pre-determined color palette). This is a better choice than shadows because it helps the text pop; however, it does eliminate some of the image.


The final and in this case best option is the letterbox effect. By masking or cropping an image to a letterbox/rectangular shape, you can create usable empty space above, below, or both.

You can then place your text in this space without interfering with the image at all. You lose a bit of the image, but in this case, what is lost is not a mandatory element.

So, next time you find a must-have image but hit a roadblock in turning it into a clear, well-designed, visually-impacting slide, try one of these quick fixes!

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3 thoughts on “Tip of the Day: Displaying text on an image

  1. […] to connect to your audience with solid content and excellent presentation skills!Chiara Ojeda teaches three ways to blend text with images.So, you’ve taken or found some amazing photographs to use in […]

  2. A fourth option is to darken part of the picture to make the text pop.

    Here’s a video.


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