PowerPoint People – Basic Figures

Sales, marketing and learning gurus advise us to tell stories to engage our audiences. Adding illustrations to our stories will increase the impact but this isn’t easy. You can search the web to find appropriate clipart or photos but chances are that you will be disappointed. Of course, if you have the budget, you can stage a photo shoot to create scenes for your story.

Of course, you can create your own scenes. Even if you are not an artist, you can create simplified characters and environments to add surprisingly effective impact to your stories. This series of posts will demonstrate the construction of figures, costumes and other details to help you invent characters for your stories.

As usual, I’ll use standard PowerPoint shapes to build these “PowerPoint People.” And, I’ll make them modular and reusable to some extent. That way, each new character or pose doesn’t require starting from scratch.

Here’s the construction of a male figure:


This figure has typical cartoon proportions; the overall height is a little more than five times the height of the head (more realistic or “fashion” figures are 7-8 times the head height). These proportions are common for comics and animations. The figure is also similar to the common “bubble head” people icons.

The lower arm and leg are made by using Merge Shapes/Union with an Oval and a Trapezoid (in red).

NOTE: An earlier version of this post grouped invisible circles with each body part to “make them easier to rotate and position.” After working with the figures, I have decided that these are more trouble than they’re worth and eliminated them.

Here’s the male figure with some color fills added:


Here’s a livelier version created by simply rotating and positioning the arm parts:


Posing involves several steps; for example, to move the arm, rotate the upper arm first. Then move the lower arm to the elbow and rotate it (you may have to adjust the lower arm after rotation).  Move and rotate the hand, followed by other parts as needed.

Here are a few more poses:


The head, chest and hips parts can be rotated and moved as well as the limbs. Considerable expression and liveliness can be created with these simple figures (without faces or costumes) just by “posing” them.

The profile version of the male figure uses some of the same parts:


The “hip” section is a union of two shapes to create some curvature.

Here are some poses of the profile version:


I’m going to limit the characters to only a front and a profile view (kind of a “South Park” approach). This will work for our stories and reduces the complexity considerably.

A female figure is similarly constructed but it is a little shorter and the waist is slimmer. Also, the profile chest and  hips are more rounded:


The Oval/Trapezoid union is used several times.

Here are some poses using the female figure:


Look at people, photos and cartoons to get posing ideas.  Fairly subtle impact can be obtained. For example, compare the male and female running figures. The body lean and higher legs of the female figure represents a more intense activity, compared to the male who just seems to be jogging. Also compare at the walking figures. The straighter legs and arms (and the wrist) of the female look more graceful.

You may need additional body types; here’s how you might create kids (remember, these are cartoon people, not real):


The first kid is about 4 and a half heads high – a ten year old (the adult male is shown for comparison).  His body is compressed proportionally but his head is the same size as the adult.

The the next kid (~6 years old) is a little less than 4 adult heads high and his body is compressed vertically. The toddler (~3) is less than 3 heads high and the body is more compressed vertically. The head is slightly smaller.

Not all of us are as fit as these figures would imply, you might need someone like this:


The red and blue outlines show shapes from the male figure that have been modified.

In the next post, I will show you how to create individual “characters” for your stories using costumes and other details. But it is worth noting that you can create useful “bubblehead” icons representing activities, industries and occupations using these basic figures and a few embellishments. Here are some examples:


If you want a free copy of the PowerPoint file containing these figures, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download the file:

Powerpointy blog – PowerPoint People – Basic Figures u

See this page for more on downloading files.

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


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