Drawing and Animating Gears in PowerPoint

Meshing gears are a useful metaphor for an activity or a process and can be used as an icon for thought, intelligence or expertise. Rather than search for gears clip art, you can create gears as PowerPoint objects and animate them for more impact. (Why bother? See this post.)

If you want a copy of the PowerPoint files associated with this post, use the form at the end of this post.


This video demonstrates some gear “physics:”

It’s pretty easy to generalize the relationship between diameters, number of teeth and number of rotations, but if you’re intimidated by the algebra, here are  some combinations that will work:

gear table

Note added 8/2014: A reader sent me a gear animation with 8 (!) meshed gears that he used as part of a video introduction to his theater’s production of “Willie Wonka.” Kudos!

Drawing the Gears

Next, we’ll build the gears shown in the video. The design of real gear teeth is complicated and since we aren’t limited by reality, we’ll eyeball the tooth shape and size. Here’s the first step in adding the teeth; the blue lines are the center lines for the teeth:

teeth 1

Add some additional layout lines:

teeth 2

The outer circles (red) are 1/4 in larger than the original wheels; the inner Doughnut shapes are 1/4 in smaller  (these dimensions are fairly arbitrary). Also, the small gear-to-be has been rotated half a tooth.

Now, create a Trapezoid shape,  rotate and size it, and position it on the larger gear as shown below.  Rotate and position two duplicates of the shape on the smaller gear:

teeth 3

The teeth are centered on the blue index lines and are positioned flush with the outer circle and extend into the inner shape. The tooth shape and size is adjusted so that there is space between them for the meshing teeth (but not too much space). Don’t obsess with this; it doesn’t need to be perfect to look OK in the final result.

Next, duplicate the tooth on the large gear and rotate/position it on the opposite side of the gear. Group the two opposite teeth together:

teeth 4

Now, copy, rotate and position this group at the appropriate locations on the gears. Repeat the process for the small gear. Use guidelines and the default  Rotates and Flips to make this easier:

teeth 5

Now, delete the layout lines, group the gear parts and apply outline and fill colors:

gears 0

The smaller gear can be moved to engage the larger gear at a different point:

gears 2

You can create a three-gear train using the parameters in the table above:

gears 3

Variations are possible; these  use “3D” format and gradient fills:

gears 4

And, you can apply “3D” rotation:

gears 5

PLEASE NOTE: there are issues with animating these variations – see below.

You can combine the gears with other shapes; here’s my favorite icon for “expertise:”

gear head

Animating the Gears

Apply animation as shown below (click on picture to enlarge):

gears 1

The Spin animation is applied to both gears. The larger gear rotates 360 degrees (1 rotation) clockwise. I have selected Very Slow (5 sec duration); slower speeds seem to look better. The smaller gear rotates With the larger gear – 720 degrees (2 rotations) in the counterclockwise direction at the same speed.

This video shows the result and includes a 3-gear animation based on the table (the smallest gear rotates once at a Very Slow speed):

To rotate the gears continually, apply the Repeat Until Click or Repeat Until Next Slide option (in the Effect Options pane). There are some problems with this – see below.

Some Issues

Spinning gears with gradient fills or “3D” effects are not, strictly speaking, realistic since the shadows and highlights spin with the gears. And, clearing the Rotate with Shape option doesn’t help (a different kind of rotation). You can ignore this particular nit with little danger.  On the other hand, spinning an object with “3D” Rotation might make you ill; this video demonstrates these issues:

I suggested above that you can use the animation Repeat option to continue an animation. Unfortunately, this option resets the spinning object’s position each time it repeats.  For some simple gears, this is not a problem. For gears with asymmetric features, this restart will be noticeable; this video demonstrates:

You can work around these problems by using simpler symmetric gears or by increasing the number of rotations for each gear (preserving the ratios) until each gear rotates one or more full rotations. By the way, the Smooth Start/End options will cause a problem here.

NOTE: This later post includes some additional gear effects.

As usual, if you want a free copy of the PowerPoint files associated with this post, use this form:


17 Responses to “Drawing and Animating Gears in PowerPoint”

  1. 1 wendy October 15, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Please send me the powerpoint files for animated gears though I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do anything with this, my boss want’s 8 gears, labeled with the groups of people involved and he wants em all spinning and I wonder if he wants the words to spin or not and just sit on top, any help appreciated, thanks. wendy

  2. 2 Manny Silva October 19, 2013 at 5:41 am

    Thank you, so much for sharing your geat works.
    I am trying to launch a new business and I am trying pull a powerpoint together and I would like to use animated gears in my presentation.

    Can you send me a copy of the “Gears” files

    Great Blog!!

    Again thank you so much for your help!!

  3. 3 VK November 2, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    The gear s are good . Please send me the associated files.

  4. 4 a December 25, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    hi, thanx for sharing, great learning! could you please send me the gears associated files (powerpoint)?

  5. 5 Stephen Engwell March 11, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Fabulous – thanks for sharing. Please do send me the associated files. Thank you.

  6. 6 Deb April 1, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    FAbulous. Please do send me the associated files. Thanks again.

  7. 7 Rosanna Zhang April 7, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Hi Thank you for sharing! Can I use one of your gear image for app design? Thanks again!

  8. 8 Dan July 24, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Hi There, I would like to try an experiment using your animated gears. Do you mind sending me the file? Thanks

  9. 9 Damien September 24, 2014 at 8:00 am


    Could you pass me tehs efiles please? Many thanks in advance.

  10. 10 Shing March 11, 2015 at 5:05 am

    Hi there. This gears animation is awesome! and need it for some internal presentation. Could you send me the files? =D

  11. 12 Al October 14, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Great work! Would you please share your animated slides with me? Thanks.

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