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How to Change Your PowerPoint Slide Size (16:9 vs. 4:3)

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PowerPoint slides can be resized for just about any occasion including on screen presentations, printed documents, posters, postcards, handouts, etc..

That said, the two most common slide sizes for PowerPoint are:

  • 16:9 ratio for onscreen presentations and new overhead projectors.

  • 4:3 ratio for printing slides on standard pieces of paper or for projecting on old overhead projectors.

If you are starting with a blank presentation, changing your slide size is super easy and straightforward.

If you are starting with an existing presentation or PowerPoint template, there are a few issues you’ll need to deal with which can take a while to fix if you have a large presentation.

That’s why it’s worth your time to FIRST find out what slide size you need to use before you start building your presentation. If you later have to convert it to a different size, it’s a total pain!

Just like the the old carpenter saying “measure twice and cut once” in PowerPoint you want to “ask twice (to double confirm the required size) and build once.”

For the specific issues when converting from a smaller to larger (4:3 to 16:9) or larger to smaller (16:9 to 4:3) slide size, use the hyperlink to jump to those sections below.

Issues changing from 4:3 to 16:9

Issues changing from 16:9 to 4:3

How to change your slide size in PowerPoint

By default, new PowerPoint presentations start in the 16:9 slide size format.

This is the NEW standard for most modern overhead projects and monitors, and works best when presenting live, that said, you can always change your slide size.

You can change your PowerPoint slide size from the Design tab, slide size drop down and pick your new size.

To change your slide size in PowerPoint, simply:

  1. Navigate to the Design tab

  2. Open the Slide Size drop down

  3. Select 4:3, 16:9 or Custom Slide Size (see options below)

If you are working with a blank presentation, you can now use the new slide size to build out your presentation without having to worry about any conversions issues.

And notice how much wider the 16:9 slide size is versus the 4:3 slide size.

Comparison between the 4:3 and 16:9 slide sizes

If you are converting an existing presentation to a different slide size, you will additionally be given the following following prompt (as pictured below):

“You are scaling to a new slide size. Would you like to maximize the size of your content, or scale it down to ensure it will on the new slide?

PowerPoint dialog box to Maximize or Ensure Fit for your new slide size

Maximize: This leaves all of your content as is on your slide, even if it no longer fits on the new slide size that you select.

Ensure Fit: This option scales down your content in proportion to the new slide size you have selected. You will only see this option when moving from a larger slide size to a smaller one.

When converting an existing presentation with content into a new slide size, there are some specific issues you will face. Use the links below to navigate to those issues below.

Issues converting 4:3 to 16:9

Issues converting 16:9 to 4:3

PowerPoint Slide Dimensions

Using the Slide Size dialog box to create your own custom size for your slides

When you choose custom for your slide size, you get additional options for choosing your slide size on the left side of the dialog box and orientation options for your slides and handouts on the right.

For your slide size, you can either input your own width and height dimensions, or (recommended) simply open up the Slides sized for dialog box and choose one of the following standard formats:

  • On-screen show (4:3)

  • Letter Paper (8.5x11 in)

  • A3 Paper (297x420 mm)

  • B4 (ISO) Paper (250x353 mm)

  • B5 (ISO) Paper (176x250 mm)

  • 35mm Slides

  • Overhead

  • Banner

  • On-screen Show (16:9)

  • On-screen show (16:10)

  • Widescreen

  • Custom

For your orientation options on the right-side of the dialog box, you can choose between the Landscape and Portrait options for both your slides and your handouts.

In most situations in which you present, you will want the default settings here: Landscape for your slides and Portrait for your printed notes, handouts and outlines.

Comparison between the Landscape and Portrait layouts for your slides

Issues changing from 4:3 to 16:9

When converting an existing 4:3 presentation with content into the 16:9 format, you are not given any conversion options. Instead, PowerPoint simply does the conversion for you.

Two issues you will face in the new 16:9 Slide Size.

When converting from 4:3 to 16:9 the images on your slide master will stretch

The first issue you will face is that all of the images on your slide master (including company logos) will be stretched to fit the new, larger slide size.

To fix the stretched images, you will need to fix those images (or rebuild them) on your slide master as a new template.

For help building out your template, see how to create a custom PowerPoint template.

When converting from 4:3 to 16:9 you will have lots of extra white space on your slide to fill in

The second issue you will face in the larger 16:9 slide size is you will have a lot of extra white space to fill in on your slide as pictured above.

While you can leave the the space blank, doing so will make your content look weird on the slide as it will be so much smaller than the available space.

That’s why if you have the time, I would recommend resizing your content to fill in the white space (increasing your font size etc.) or add additional content to your slide (but only if that content makes sense).

Issues changing from 16:9 to 4:3

When converting an existing 16:9 presentation to the 4:3 slide size, you will be given the options to either Maximize or Ensure Fit (both covered below)

Maximize

Maximize means that the content on your slides will not be resized as you move to the 4:3 slide size (or any other slide size that is smaller than your original presentation).

Converting from 16:9 to 4:3 with maximize fit, your slide master images will be scrunched up and your content will run off of your slide

Maximize Issue #1: The first issue you will face is that the images on your slide master (including your company logo) will be distorted.

You might also have issues with other content placeholders, slide backgrounds or anything else that was built on your slide master.

To fix these issues, you’ll need to navigate to your slide master and adjust (or rebuild) your PowerPoint template so that everything fits properly (and is not distorted).

To learn how to properly create a customize a PowerPoint template see our guide here.

Maximize Issue #2: The second issue you will face is that your content will not be scaled down to the smaller slide size. Instead, you’ll have overhanging content as pictured above.

To fix this issue, you will need to work through your slides one-by-one and adjust the size of your content so that it fits on your new smaller slide size.

One recommendation as you move from a larger 16:9 slide size to 4:3, is to break up your larger slides into two or three smaller slides, instead of just trying to cram all of the content on a single slide.

Doing so will make your content easier to read when presented on an overhead projector.

Ensure Fit

Ensure Fit means that PowerPoint will scale down your content to fit the smaller slide size based on the size you selected.

Converting from 4:3 to 16:9 using Ensure fit will scrunch up all of your slide master images and leave you with white vertical space to fill in on your slide

Ensure Fit Issue #1: The first issue you will face are distorted images, slide backgrounds and anything else that PowerPoint had to automatically resize on your slide master to make the conversion work.

To fix these issues, you’ll need to navigate to your slide master and adjust (or rebuild) your PowerPoint template so that everything fits properly (and is not distorted).

To learn how to properly create a customized PowerPoint template, read all about it here.

Ensure Fit Issue #2: Your content will be scaled down to fit on your new slide size, leaving you with a lot of white space (above and below your content) and content that is too small to read.

To fix this, you’ll need to work through your slides and resize your content, slide-by-slide to make sure the it is readable.

Save your custom slide size as a Theme

Steps to save your own custom slide size as a theme through the Design tab and Save Current theme command

To save your custom slide size (and settings) as your own custom PowerPoint theme, simply:

  1. Navigate to the Design tab

  2. Open the More options

  3. Click Save Current Theme

  4. Name your Theme (and don’t change the file location it saves to)

  5. Click Save

To set your own custom theme as the default for PowerPoint, from the Design tab, right click your theme and select Set as Default Theme

After you have saved your custom theme, you can set it as the default template for all your future presentations like this:

  1. Navigate to the Design tab
  2. Open the More options
  3. Right-click your custom theme
  4. Select Set as Default Presentation
  5. Close out of PowerPoint (and do not save any presentations if it prompts you)

Once you’ve set your own custom theme, now whenever you open PowerPoint, your theme will automatically open instead of the standard default, blank presentation that comes with PowerPoint.

You can learn more about PowerPoint themes here.

Updated on May 14, 2019

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