Drawing in PowerPoint: Spheres, Planets and Balls


In this post, I will build objects that appear spherical, using PowerPoint 3d and fill effects. Like a lot of these posts, there are some PowerPoint “secrets” that need to be accounted for.


The basic process is to draw a circle and add a 3d effect:

  • Create a 2 inch circle (this specific measurement makes the 3d step a little easier).  Remove the outline and fill with a solid color. Tip: hold down Shift when you draw an Oval to constrain the object to a circle. Also, use the Size/Position pane to get the dimension right.
  • Next, in the Format Shape/3-D Format pane, add a Bevel/Top. Choose the Circle option and set the Height and Width to 72 pts (1 inch, the radius of the circle). Here’re the circle, the “sphere,” and the 3d Format for the object:


This “cross section” diagram of the object shows the effect of the 3d settings:


If you resize the sphere, you will have to change the Height and Width accordingly (sigh).

I selected the Warm Matte Material option in the Format Shape/3-D Format for the sphere. You can experiment with other Material options for different effects; here are a few of the options:


Lighting Angle and Lighting can also be adjusted:


Textures and “Planets”

You can add texture to a sphere by using Fill/Picture or texture and selecting one of the built-in textures; here’re a couple of examples:


You can also use Fill/Gradient; here are two preset gradients:


Textures and other images can also be added to the sphere using Fill and the Picture option. I have described the process in earlier posts; briefly, here’s how:

  • Re-size/crop the image to the same size as the object to be filled (the sphere).
  • Copy the image; this puts it on the clipboard.
  • Fill the object using the Picture or texture option, choosing the Clipboard as a source.

Here’s an example using a “water” image:


The original sphere is filled using the square “patch” shown. Of course, you can fill a circle first and then apply the 3d Bevel effect.

You can use other images including maps. Here are some examples:


Here’s an example using part of a map of our moon; I used the Matte Material:


You can find interesting fictional planet maps; here’s one from http://freebitmaps.blogspot.com/:


Text on Spheres

Adding text to a “sphere” requires some experimentation. First, we type a text character directly into a circle, and then apply the 3d effect:text1

As you can see from the rotated view of the result, the text remains “flat.”.

You get a similar result when a text box is grouped with the circle:


Filling a sphere with a background and the text character via Fill/Picture../Clipboard (as we did with the textures, etc., above) has a strange result:


When the text/background object is used to fill the sphere, it is converted to an image. We can show the reason for the result above by converting the text/background object explicitly (copying and Past Special/png):


The first object above is the picture conversion – as you can see it is larger than the original object.  I’m not sure why, but I think it has to do with assumptions about the text box, To work around the problem, crop the picture (the second version above) before filling the sphere. The rotated version shows the result with the text conforming to the sphere. Whew!

Pool Balls

As you might expect from the previous sections, using picture fill is the most reliable method to create objects with more complex fills, including the pool balls. You can attempt some of the other methods in the previous section for the pool balls if you want to.

For the 8-ball, begin with a black square containing the white circle and numeral. Use the picture fill technique to fill the sphere:


I changed the Material to Dark Edge for a shinier look. Of course, this is only a half sphere as shown by the rotated version. To fix this, apply a Bottom/Circle bevel with same dimensions as before. Here’s the result:


The 10-ball is created the same way with the stripe added to the image used as fill:


I used an ivory color for the background – white tends to wash out. Of course, you can experiment with Material and Lighting to get the appearance you want.

More “Secrets”

These secrets may be helpful as you experiment with these techniques,

Distortion – This experiment shows that the image is actually “projected” onto the sphere from the front, rather than wrapped around it. I used a checkerboard as the image:

The front view shows that the image is not wrapped. When the sphere is rotated, you can see how the image is stretched around the sphere (the red line separates the Top and Bottom bevels). The fill is distorted; this is visible when the sphere is rotated. The golf ball example below shows this effect:


NOTE: the “earth” above doesn’t appear to have this problem (note North America in the second example. The reason is that the image is distorted (a map projection). Lucky.

“Back” Image – The fill appears on the Top bevel and you can’t separately fill the Bottom bevel. So what does the “back” of the sphere look like?  The images below answer this question:


As you can see, the “back” is also difficult to light.

Shape Effects – Many of the shape effects don’t apply properly to 3d objects, especially when they are rotated; here are some examples:


This gives you a chance to create some of these effects by hand; here’s an example using a semi-transparent oval with a soft edge:


Artifacts – You may see artifacts on rotated objects like the light patches on these objects:


These are because the fill (a picture) is slightly smaller than needed to fill the object. This can be corrected using the Offsets in the Fill pane (set to -1 or -2 percent until the artifact disappears).

If you want to see more details, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file containing these objects:

Powerpointy blog – spheres, planets and balls

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. Liking or following this blog might be a good idea



10 Responses to “Drawing in PowerPoint: Spheres, Planets and Balls”

  1. 1 Itamar April 26, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Thanks for this great tutorial! Do you have any tips on going from a sphere to an ellipsoid? Suppose I start with an oval with width two times its height, how do I set the “Bevel” width/height so that it looks like a natural 3D ellipsoid?

    • 2 pptcrafter April 26, 2016 at 9:59 am

      Good question! Briefly, the “Bevel” will not provide the result you want (you can’t set the width and height of the bevel to get a smooth curve in both directions). You might try to “fake” the effect using gradient fill to get an illusion of depth.

  2. 3 pptcrafter June 6, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks for your comment. I have intentionally concentrated on specific PowerPoint projects in this blog rather than broad tutorials.

  3. 4 Alyssa July 7, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Hello, I would like to use your grey and white depiction of the world to in a powerpoint. I was hoping for permission to use your maps and if so, how would you like me to cite you? Thank you!

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