Animation: Liquids – Filling, Bubbling, etc.


This post is about animations involving fluids and glass containers: filling, leaking, bubbling, reacting, etc. These animations can demonstrate gains, losses and processes.

Fluids change shape and PowerPoint is not very helpful in “morphing” shapes, so there are limits to this kind of animation. Keep it simple.

Drawing the Vessels

I used simple 2d shapes and heavy outlines to draw a set of vessels. A glass-like appearance is provided by a transparent fill and a couple of highlights. Since the vessels are patterned after labware, I added graduation marks. Here’s how the beaker is drawn:


  • The basic shape is a Round Same Side Corner Rectangle, converted to a Freeform and edited by points to create the rim. You can also use the PowerPoint 2010 Merge Shapes/Union tool to combine the rectangle with an inverted Trapezoid. The outline is 6 pts.
  • The graduation marks are Lines with Format Shape/Line Style/Cap type set to Round.
  • The highlight shapes are point-edited rectangles. The right highlight is a copy of the left one, flipped and narrowed slightly.
  • The beaker fill is a light blue, about 70% transparent.
  • The highlight fill is white, about 60% transparent.

To show contents in the beaker, create a filled round-corner rectangle behind/in Back of the beaker:


The color of the contents is affected by the semi-transparent fill of the beaker. The second example has no blue fill. You can experiment to get the effect you like but note that any background may affect the result.

Here is some additional glassware made the same way:



Filling one of the vessels is pretty easy: just create a “contents object” behind the vessel object and add Entrance/Wipe from Bottom animation:

To add a filling stream, create an elongated, narrow rounded rectangle reaching from a point off the top of the slide to the bottom of the beaker:


Add Entry/Stretch/From Top animation and Exit/Collapse/To Bottom to the “stream.” Set the timing so that the entry precedes the fill animation and the exit is just before the end of the fill. I set the duration of these effects to 0.2 sec (slowing down the animations makes the liquid appear more viscous):


Here’s what this animation looks like:

Here’s a version with a stream of “drops:”

The “drop stream” is a circle with a Fly In/From top animation, Repeated five times. The content object of the beaker is split into two parts; the lower rounded rectangle is static and the upper part has a Wipe/From Bottom animation. The Wipe animation starts when the first drop arrives; here’s the animation pane:



Obviously, it would be nice to pour the liquid from a vessel. Here’s the animation:

This one stretches the PowerPoint capabilities and uses a trick that, unfortunately, doesn’t always work. We want to lower the level of the liquid in the tube while the tube rotates. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Create a masking object with a tube-shaped hole. You can use PowerPoint 2010 Merge Shapes tools or draw it by hand (a Freeform). Since PowerPoint doesn’t support true “holes”, the shape is drawn this way:


  • Select Slide Background Fill for the masking object. More about this later.
  • Rotate the mask counterclockwise to the starting position for the pour.
  • Create a Rectangle with the contents color fill and position it behind the mask, aligning its corner with the lower lip of the tube-shaped opening. Here’s what it should look like (I’ll do fine adjustments later):


  • Now, create a circle, center it on the lower lip of the tube opening and enlarge it so that it encompasses the mask object. Group the circle with the mask object (not the contents object). If you’ve followed this blog, you will recognize this technique for establishing the center for a rotation:


  • Now to test the setup. Apply a clockwise Spin effect to the mask/circle object so that the tube-shaped opening ends up in a horizontal position. Here’s what this should look like:
  • Adjust the sizes of the mask and the circle so that the unwanted portion of the contents (blue) rectangle remain hidden during the rotation. Don’t change the opening.
  • Now, align the original tube shape in front of the tube opening in the mask. Group with the mask/circle object and remove the outline from the mask and circle. Reapply the animation (Spin).
  • Finally, add a stream similar to the one above – an elongated rounded rectangle reaching past the bottom of the slide with a quick Wipe from Top and a Disappear at the end of the Spin.

The problem with this approach is that it uses a slide background fill. Apparently, the team that added animation to PowerPoint were unaware of (or chose to ignore) other existing features. In particular, the background fill of an object does not actually track the slide background when the object is animated. This is not a problem for a uniform background, but makes this “masking” technique fail for a gradient (for example) background:

You may experience other problems with the background-filled “mask” depending on your graphics configuration or when doing video conversions.

Adding the beaker fill animation completes the effect:

Here’s a drop stream from an eyedropper into the beaker:

Each drop is a circle; the animation is Enter/Zoom, followed by a motion path and a Disappear. The motion path has Smooth Start checked but not Smooth End. The “drop” is duplicated to duplicate the animation. Here’s the animation pane:fill7

The levels in the eyedropper and in the beaker don’t change – only a small amount of liquid is added.


Here’s an animation from my post on kinetic typography (animated text):

  • The “container” is the text, outline only, and the “contents” is a copy of the text, fill only, aligned with the original.
  • The text has been tightly spaced so that the characters overlap.
  • The emptying action is a Wipe from Top exit applied to the text object with the fill only.
  • The drop stream is similar to the earlier examples.


To evoke activity or change, you can make the liquid react; here’s a couple of examples of bubbling:

  • The bubbles are circles with a lighter version of the contents fill color, about 40% transparent.
  • The bubbles are behind the container group but in front of the contents object.
  • The bubbles appear with a Zoom In animation, followed by a motion path and an exit effect. The animations are overlapped.
  • In the beaker, the motion is from the bottom, straight up to the contents surface. The exit is a Fade.
  • For the flask, the bubble path follows the walls and continues above the surface. The exit is a Dissolve Out.

Another way to show a reaction is to use a color change:

  • The color change is made by a second content object placed between the original and the container. A Dissolve In animation is used in the first example and Fade In in the second.
  • The second example uses the eyedropper and a drop stream to “cause” the color change.

If you are bubbling over with enthusiasm for these effects, you can request a free copy of the PowerPoint file containing these examples using the form below:






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