PowerPoint Secrets – 3D

godfatherThis series of posts will reveal the secrets behind certain mysterious PowerPoint features so that you can make offers that your audience can’t refuse.

PowerPoint “3D” has perplexed and frustrated me since I first encountered it.  It implements a particularly wacky model with a pretty opaque user interface.  And most of the tutorial literature is pretty elementary.

It’s pretty easy to add 3D “depth” effects to icons or other relatively simple/flat objects; for example, see this fascinating post about drawing this icon:final

However, creating a 3D representation of an object like a building or a laptop is another matter entirely. So, I have engaged in a number of experiments (“PowerPoint physics”) to tease out how 3D actually works. This first post is about 3D formatting; 3D rotations and creating other 3D objects may follow.

 3D formating features include  Bevels , Depth and Contour. To demonstrate what these actually mean, we start with a test object:

test object

Apply bevels and depth and get this result (rotated for clarity):

test object 2

The Top and Bottom Bevel are both Slant but of different widths. Note that the shape outline is included in the Bevel and the Depth is added to the heights of the Bevels. The cross section of the shape looks like this:test object x

This is the archetype for all 3D objects.That is, all 3D objects have this structure and this limits the kind of objects you can make. For example, you can make this:block 1But not this (at least, not in one step):block 2

I’ll explore this 3D “secret” in another post.

All of these 3D measurements are in points. As I have complained about before, this means that these features do not change as the object size is changed. Convert (Copy/Paste Special) the objects to PNGs for proper scaling:scaling

3D effects can also be applied to text. Find the Text Effects pulldown and select Bevel/3D-Options. This will reveal a Format Text Effects pane, almost identical to the Format Shape pane. This can be a little confusing; make sure you’re using the Text Effects pane or you will be formatting the text box, not the text.

Applying top Bevel and Depth to the text in the test object results in this:test object w text

Note that the text is stacked on top of the circle – here’s the cross section:test object w text 2

If the Bevel applied to the shape has a concavity (e.g., Relaxed Inset) the text will float above the bevel:test object w text 3Of course, effects can be applied to lines; here’s an unfilled version of the test object with a cross-section:


Here are some lines with top Bevels; notice the effect of the line Cap Type (part of the Line Style):line 2

Another part of the 3D Format is Contour; here are some examples:contour

The first three are the test object with a 3 pt gold Contour. The fourth has Contour applied to the text and the fifth is the unfilled object with Contour. Frankly, I don’t know what Contour is for; I’ve never used it.

The next post will apply this hard-won knowledge to some examples.

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