Glass is transparent. But, if it is perfectly transparent, it is invisible. Conventional drawing techniques add color, reflections and other features to create more or less visible renditions of glass.
In this post, I’ll show you how to use PowerPoint techniques to create some glass objects; you can judge the success of this effort for yourself. In particular, I will use transparent Fill colors, 3D Materials, and glass textures available on the web to approximate the properties of glass. I will also use 3D Depth and Rotations with these tools.
The simplest approach is to use a non-zero Transparency setting for a Fill color; here’s an example:
This is a Rectangle with a blue Fill; conventionally, blue, gray or green is used (unless you want “colored” glass). The second rectangle has Transparency set to 67%. The other examples have a 3D Depth and a Rotation. The fourth example is a copy of the third with the Lighting Angle changed; this makes the top edge darker,
A more satisfying approach uses transparent Gradient fills to provide reflections/highlights. A diagonal gradient is often used as a generalized reflection:
The third and fourth examples use a white gradient that is nearly opaque in the center; this seems to be a more convincing effect.
PowerPoint gradient tools seem clumsy to me; maybe it just takes practice. Here are the settings for the third and fourth examples:
You can also use gradient fills in text:
When you apply effects to a text box, you will have an option to affect the text or the shape.
You can also create reflections by drawing appropriate shapes; here is an example of a stylized beaker that I used in my post on animating liquids:
This is a deliberately “cartoony” style signaled by the heavy outlines and flat rendering. Here’s how it’s made:
I used standard shapes and Merge Shapes/Union and Subtract to make the parts of the beaker. The diagram shows Unioned objects in red and Subtracted objects in green. The beaker and the highlights are semi-transparent.
Here are some more examples of this style:
Another way to create “glass” objects is to use the 3D/Format Material property; in these examples I’ve used the Translucent/Clear option:
You can see that curved surfaces are highlighted. The last example has a slightly curved surface created by applying a Top Bevel/Circle; this creates highlights/reflections.
You can use other 3D tools to create “glass” objects:
This is an Oval with Line but no Fill. The first example uses Transparent/Powder material and the second is Transparent/Clear. Both are rotated with about 200 pt Depth.
I strongly suggest you read my post on the peculiarities of PowerPoint 3D, particularly the interaction among shapes, Fills, Lines and Bevels, before you experiment with 3D objects.
Here’s another glass object with some notes:
This is another example of a unfilled Oval with a bottom Bevel; the red version shows how the Bevel affects only the Line.
This version looks like an unfilled Oval but it’s not:
Here the Oval has a 99% transparent Fill; this forces the bottom Bevel to apply to the entire shape (blue version).
Here are a glass ball and a dome, made from an Oval:
The ball has a Top Bevel/Circle; the width and height of the bevel are equal to the radius of the Oval in points (1 in = 72 pts). The dome adds Depth and is Rotated.
This example shows the construction of a wine glass; Transparent/Clear Material is used for all the parts:
The base has an Angle Bevel and a small Depth.
You can also use Material/Clear on text:
You can find glass “textures” on the web; these are usually photographs of real glass. Here are some examples:
To make a photo image transparent, create an appropriate shape, fill the shape with the photo, and set the Transparency as needed. Here’s the process:
I usually Copy the picture and use Fill/Picture or Texture/from Clipboard to fill the shape with the texture. The last version above applies 3d Depth and Rotation as before. You can also use Fill/Picture, etc., with text:
Here’s an application of a transparent texture; the “glass” is in front of an image of a menacing guy:
This example is improved by using an Artistic Effect/Mosaic Bubbles on the guy image to simulate the refraction that would be caused by the water drops:
I also adjusted the brightness and contrast of the guy image to eliminate a background created by the Bubble effect.
I have had issues with Artistic Effects since I first experimented with them – sometimes the options are unresponsive or grayed out. This may be a resource/performance problem with my $400 Chinese laptop. I have briefly researched this and found only a few reports of these problems (one of which speculated that it is a performance issue) and no resolution. I suspect that these features are rarely used or that potential users simply abandon them because of the issues. Try it for yourself and report problems to Microsoft.
Here’s another example using textured glass:
Here I used the Glass Artistic Effect on the image. The texture was made transparent using the Picture Fill technique and reduced in size to more closely match the “grain” of the Artistic Effect.
One more example (no Artistic Effect this time):
A free PowerPoint file is available to help you learn these techniques; use the form below to request a copy. (See this page for info on these free files.)