Drawing in PowerPoint: Jigsaw Puzzle (Part 1)

A jigsaw puzzle image can represent a problem and its solution as well as a unification of parts. This makes it a useful metaphor for presentations.

Creating a 3D jigsaw puzzle in PowerPoint involves a number of skills: drawing objects with complex curves, object filling, picture manipulations, shadows, 3D effects (“bevels,” rotation) and animation.

This series of posts will demonstrate three examples of jigsaw puzzles. In the first example, the puzzle pieces represent various mobile devices.  The idea is to suggest a solution for the management of these various devices to a corporate IT manager.

To begin, construct an array of rectangles with the desired proportions and number of puzzle pieces.

Next, convert the first rectangle in the array to a freeform (Drawing Tools/Edit Shape/Convert to freeform). This allows us to transform the rectangle into a puzzle piece shape.  To do this, select Edit Points and add points to the midpoints of the edges where you want the jigsaw shape.  Move these points inward or outward, depending on where you want a projection or a “pocket.”By adjusting the length and angle of the handles, you can form the typical interlocking jigsaw contour. Don’t make the contour too extreme or it will be difficult to fit an  image into the piece.

Complete the piece by contouring the remaining sides.

Now, convert the next rectangle to a freeform and edit the points.  For an edge with an adjacent contour, carefully edit the points to match by moving the midpoint and adjusting the handles:

This is easier than it sounds and slight mismatches will not be obvious when the 3D effect is applied.

Now, complete the second piece by drawing the contours on the remaining edges:

Continue this process until all the pieces have been contoured, matching each neighbor:

Next, fill each piece with a solid color, remove the outline and apply a 3D bevel to each piece to add dimensionality.  The Circle bevel is relatively small to mimic the rounded edges of typical puzzle pieces.  You can experiment with surface materials and lighting but make sure the effects are the same on each piece.

[UPDATE: Applying 3d Depth can lead to problems when pieces are fitted together:


This problem does not occur if the pieces are grouped when the 3d effect is applied. Apparently, PowerPoint 3d and z-order (in front of, etc.) are unaware of each other (sometimes).]

Here is a collection of device pictures that are to be added to the puzzle pieces.  Some of these have a transparent background (.png files) ; use the Set Transparent Color tool on the others to remove the opaque white background. Note that I have selected “isolated” images (no background clutter).

Here is the puzzle with the device pictures added.  Each device image has been sized, rotated and grouped with a puzzle piece:

Next, group the puzzle pieces and apply a 3D Rotation to the puzzle. I used a Perspective rotation to emphasize the 3D illusion:

The image also includes a soft shadow: 

This looks pretty good but you can add to the image by moving the center piece, applying a different rotation and adding a substantially offset shadow so that the piece appears to float over the puzzle.

Here’s a slide using the puzzle image (wowzie!):

The next post in this series will use Fill/Picture to create puzzle pieces representing a group of people.

If you want a free PowerPoint file containing puzzle outlines and the examples demonstrated in these three posts, use the form below:.

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