How to Make Transparencies for an Overhead Projector

By Elizabeth Mott

Prepare your transparencies for optimal presentation on an overhead projector.
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Overhead projectors served as the mainstay of projector hardware until the digital revolution superseded them, providing the ability to project files directly from computer applications to screen. Despite their analog, low-tech approach to presentation materials, however, overhead projectors can display the documents you create in software, as long as you prepare your output on transparency film so you can display it to your audience. With a set of transparencies and the right writing tools, you can present and annotate your materials for in-house or client audiences.

Purchase a box of transparency film that's compatible with your printer or other output device. Inkjet and laser printers use different types of film designed to accommodate their respective output processes. Look for quick drying times with inkjet films, whereas those designed for laser-printer use must tolerate the high heat of the fuser assembly that bonds toner to the printing surface. If you print to a color copier with a data connection to your computer network, you may need to purchase film with a special sensing strip to allow it to pass through your equipment. Check the documentation for your device or look on the manufacturer's website for compatible transparency specifications.

Load the transparency film into your printer. If the product manufacturer suggests that you fan the sheets before inserting them, flip your thumb across the short dimension at the top of the stack to relieve the cling caused by static electricity.

Print your document onto the transparency film. If you're using an inkjet printer and printing transparencies with considerable ink coverage, set them aside to dry individually.

Store your transparencies in order in an empty transparency film box. For your reference while presenting, print a second copy of the presentation on paper, and interleave the paper and transparencies.

Acquire a set of wax or grease pencils for use in writing on transparencies. Use a lint-free cloth to wipe comments away.


Print the elements of a graph on successive transparencies and overlay them on the projector to build up a sales message or show a progression.

Avoid light-colored text on transparencies unless you're reversing type out of a dark background.

Large solid areas of ink or toner may look blotchy when projected.


Test your transparencies from the back of your presentation venue to assure that your type size remains readable for your entire audience. Too-small type becomes unreadable within a few feet of the screen.