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

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In this tutorial, you'll learn how to change your slide size in PowerPoint.

That way you can create slides for any situation including on screen presentations, printed documents, posters, postcards, handouts, etc..

First off, the two most commonly used PowerPoint slide sizes are:

  • 16:9 ratio for onscreen presentations and new overhead projectors. This is the default setting for the latest versions of PowerPoint.
  • 4:3 ratio for printing slides on standard 8.5 x 11 pieces of paper as handouts.
Comparison between the 4:3 and 16:9 slide sizes

When starting starting with a blank PowerPoint presentation, changing your slide size is super easy and straightforward. If not, there are a few issues you’ll need to deal with, each covered below.

That’s why it's worth figuring out what slide size you need BEFORE you build your presentation. If you later have to convert your presentation to a different size, it can be painful!

It's just like the the old carpenter saying “measure twice and cut once.” In PowerPoint, you'll want to “ask twice (to double confirm the required size) and build once.”

To jump to the specific issues you'll face when converting between the two most common PowerPoint slide sizes, use the links below.

4:3 to 16:9 Slide Size Issues

16:9 to 4:3 Slide Size Issues

Trying to reduce your PowerPoint file size? Changing your slide size will NOT help. Instead, see our PowerPoint compression guide here.

How to change your PowerPoint slide size

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 is recommended for most presentations. That said, you can easily 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)

When starting with a blank presentation, you are now good to go. You will not have to worry about all of the conversion issues discussed below.

Notice too how much wider the 16:9 slide size is versus the 4:3 slide size in the picture below. The new size gives you more room to layout your slides.

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

When you are converting an existing presentation to a new slide size, you will additionally be given the following prompt:

“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 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 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.

PowerPoint Slide Size Dimensions

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

Choosing Custom for your slide size gives you additional options to work with. Inside the dialog box you can choose your size on the left and your orientation on the right.

On top of that, you can also input your own custom slide size, but I recommend using one of the preset options.

  • 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.

In most situations, you will want one of the default settings. Landscape for your presentation 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 which can create problems 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, you can learn how to create your own custom template here.

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 on your slides.

While you can leave the the space blank, doing so will make your content look weird. Ideally you don't want a lot of white empty space like that on your slides. Especially since all your font sizes will be so small.

That’s why if you have the time, I recommend resizing your content to fill in the white space. You can do this by either increasing the font size of your content, or adding additional visuals that make sense.

To see data visualization examples you can create in PowerPoint, check out our guide here.

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

This option means that the content on your slides will not be resized as you move to the 4:3 slide size. The same is true if you move to any smaller slide size.

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: All 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.

For these issues, you'll first need to navigate to your Slide Master. Once you are there, you either adjust (or rebuild) your PowerPoint template so that everything fits properly.

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

Maximize Issue #2:  Your content will not be scaled down to the smaller slide size. Instead, you’ll have overhanging content as pictured above.

For these kinds of spacing issues, you will need to work through your slides to adjust your content.

One recommendation as you move from the larger 16:9 slide size to 4:3, is to break up your slides. Take the content from one larger slide and break it into two (or maybe even three) separate slides.

Breaking up your content is preferable to just cramming more content on the smaller slide space. Doing so will make your content easier to read when presented on an overhead projector.

Ensure Fit

This option 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: Distorted images, slide backgrounds and anything else that PowerPoint had to automatically resize on your slide master.

To fix these issues, you’ll need to navigate to your slide master and adjust (or rebuild) your template to make everything fit. For help, see our guide on building out your slide master here.

Ensure Fit Issue #2: Your content will be scaled down to fit your new slide size, leaving you with a lot of white space. In addition, all your font sizes will be smaller, making them hard to read.

For small content like this, you'll need to work through your slides and resize your content accordingly. Keep in mind the people at the back of the room too when choosing a new font style and size.

To see how to replace all of your PowerPoint fonts at once, check out our guide here.

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 as the Default Presentation, it will open every time you start PowerPoint. This saves you from always having to switch your slide sizes.

To learn more about PowerPoint themes and how to properly use them, click here.

For examples of different free PowerPoint themes included in your Microsoft Office subscription, see Microsoft's blog post here.

Conclusion

PowerPoint gives you the flexibility to use any slide size you need for just about any occasion.

That said, if given the option, I recommend using the default slide sizes as used by the majority of people.

It's also important to remember that switching slide sizes after you have built your presentation can be a total pain. So to the extent possible, figure out your PowerPoint slide size first, before you build it.

If you enjoyed this detailed tutorial, you'll love our PowerPoint training courses that you can learn more about here.



Updated on July 8, 2019

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