Posts Tagged '3D depth'

PowerPoint People – 3D Robots


This is another post on adding characters to your presentations to help tell and sell your story. There’s an earlier series on simple cartoons (basic figures, characters and expressions) and one on using Lego people.

Since robots are not confined to a human shape, you can create a variety of characters and “occupations.” And, if you think robots can’t have personalities, remember Hal, Bender and WALL-E.

Here’s an example of a humanoid robot figure created in PowerPoint:

RANT: My posts on PowerPoint “3d” are exercises in using tools in ways for which they were never intended.  In addition, PowerPoint 3d is poorly integrated with other PowerPoint drawing features (e.g., shadows) and poorly documented (e.g., 3d rotations and lighting). So, expect serious limitations and disappointments if you venture here without guidance.

I created this robot using techniques I have used before making 3d blocks, buildings, vehicles and other things. Basically, it involves assembling separate objects, each with a “Parallel” rotation, to achieve a “3d” construction.

As usual, I started with front and side views of the robot. Only standard PowerPoint shapes are used; no freehand drawing required:


Here are some notes:

  • For clarity, I used different outline colors for the body/head, the legs and the arms.
  • I strongly recommend using Snap to Grid with a rather  coarse grid setting (I used 0.05 in.) to make it easier to draw and align the shapes.
  • Drawing Guides are used to align the parts in the two views. If these alignments are wrong, it will be obvious when you try to assemble the 3d construction.
  • The “chest” is a Union of two Rectangles; I’ll try to make it clear why I used Union rather than Group later.
  • The”hand” is a Chord shape and two Rectangles.

Next, I made a temporary copy of the front view and rotated it 90 degrees. Using the side view, the rotated front view and drawing guides I drew several “cross sections” of the robot that will help align the parts in the 3d construction. Here’s how I drew the cross section at the top of the “hip” section (outlined in yellow); it includes the outline of the disc that connects the hip with the chest section.


It’s easier to draw these sections one at a time than to draw an entire top view.

Here are the sections and where they will fit in the 3d construction:


The sections that will locate the arms and legs are simply copied from the side view.

Here’s the process for the construction of the body and head:

  • The parts and yellow “sections” are rotated (Parallel/Isometric/Left Down and Right Up) and moved into position to form the outline of the head, chest and hip parts.
  • The circles are rotated and filled to form the discs that connect the parts. 3d Depth is added (72 points per inch).
  • The other parts are filled; Depth is added using the yellow sections as guides.
  • Using the yellow sections as guides, the discs and body parts are moved into position. For example, the first “neck” section is aligned with the head. Then the neck disk is aligned with the circle in the neck section. The section representing the top of the chest is then aligned with the neck disc, allowing the chest to be aligned next. Imagine that you are stacking the parts.
  • Keep the sections “in front” during this step; this keeps them visible and allows easy removal later.

The next step is adding the limbs:

The arm and leg parts are Unioned to form the arm and leg (more about this later). Depth is added to the arm and leg. The rotated yellow sections are aligned with the side of the body allowing the arm and leg to be positioned. The other side is completed using copies of the leg, arm and sections. Even though the “disc” parts are invisible in this view, they establish the relationship between the body parts.

To finish, remove the yellow section objects and color the body parts, adding details as needed:

RANT: For various reasons, the Material, Lighting and Lighting Angle tools are useless for this project. After considerable experimentation, I recommend the method documented here rather than endless fiddling with combinations that are ultimately faulty.

For the robot coloring, I want front surfaces to be darker and visible side surfaces to be lighter, as if light were coming from the robot’s left. Here’s my method:

  • Since the “lighting” can’t be turned off, I have picked a combination of settings that seem to minimize its effects: Flat material, Contrasting lighting and zero Lighting Angle.
  • To control the color of each component, select Fill and Outline colors to create dark and light surfaces. In particular, use dark gray fill and light gray outline on components that “face the front” and the opposite for components that face the side; here are the chest and an arm:

  • This is the reason that the limbs are Unions, not Groups – if they were Grouped, extraneous outlines would appear when the Outline color is added.

By the way, here are some ideas to give the robot expressions (you can also survey various toon robots for inspiration):


You can “pose” the robot; here’s a walking version:

Here’s how the walking robot is constructed:

The limbs are constructed and positioned as before. If the orientation is not as shown, the 3d rotation will be incorrect.

TIP: The orientation of a Union is determined by the first object selected. In these examples, the red-outlined object is selected first:

For the first Union operation the top rectangle (red) is selected first, followed by the other (blue) rectangles. The result has a vertical orientation (note the “rotation handle”); the 3d rotation works as expected. For the second Union the red rectangle is selected first; note that it has been rotated. The result of the Union has a rotated orientation and the 3d rotation is different.

Of course, robots don’t have to be humanoid and use legs for locomotion:

I used the same techniques as before; here are the construction details:

The “hand” is made by subtracting a rounded rectangle from the arm/hand object.

Once you’ve made a few of these, you can position the parts and add depth “by eye” and avoid some of the tedious steps, at least for fairly simple robots. That’s how I made this example:

  • The positioning and depth were created by eye without using yellow “sections” as guides.
  • The right arm is a copy of the left arm, Flipped twice.
  • The eye shapes have a smaller depth than the head; here’s a close up:


TIP: Selecting an object within a group can be tricky, especially in 3d; the image above shows that the head is selected and the eye is selected within the group (faint outline). Use the Selection Pane if you have trouble.

Here are the details on constructing a robot with another form of locomotion:


  • The arms are Line Arcs. You could draw a freehand line using the Curve tool if you’re comfortable with that.
  • The hands are Pie shapes.
  • I used a section (yellow) to help position the legs; the other parts are positioned by eye.
  • The rocket plume is a Triangle with a Gradient Fill.

If you need a villain in your story, try this one:


  • Two parts are made from the outline drawing: the head/chest/shoulder unit and the whole body. Each is Unioned.
  • The two parts are rotated and Depth is added.
  • Material, Fill, Line and lighting are set as before but with darker colors.
  • The two parts and a copy of the smaller part are “stacked” as shown to complete the figure.

Robots are also modeled from nature; here’s an insectoid version:


The robot is made using the techniques discussed above except that an additional X-Rotation has been added to the front and back legs. Here’s  what the 3D Rotation looks like for a couple of the legs:


The middle leg has the preset Isometric Left Down rotations; the back leg has the X-rotation reduced by 10 degrees. WARNING: Do not use the rotation icons (circled in red) for this; mysterious, undocumented things happen when these are used.

RANT: I haven’t been able to find adequate documentation on rotations, materials, lighting, etc. If you know some sources, please let me know by adding a comment.

You can exercise your imagination by adding body segments, antennas, stingers, wings, etc., and other coloring. Why not consider other beasts as models for your robots?

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

Powerpointy Blog – 3d Robots

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, please like or follow this blog.

Drawing in PowerPoint- Glass


Glass is transparent. But, if it is perfectly transparent, it is invisible. Conventional drawing techniques add color, reflections and other features to create more or less visible renditions of glass.

In this post, I’ll show you how to use PowerPoint techniques to create some glass objects; you can judge the success of this effort for yourself. In particular, I will use transparent Fill colors, 3D Materials, and glass textures available on the web to approximate the properties of glass. I will also use 3D Depth and Rotations with these tools.

The simplest approach is to use a non-zero Transparency setting for a Fill color; here’s an example:


This is a Rectangle with a blue Fill; conventionally,  blue, gray or green is used (unless you want “colored” glass). The second rectangle has Transparency set to 67%. The other examples have a 3D Depth and a Rotation.  The fourth example is a copy of the third with the Lighting Angle changed; this makes the top edge darker,

A more satisfying approach uses transparent Gradient fills to provide reflections/highlights. A diagonal gradient is often used as a generalized reflection:


The third and fourth examples use a white gradient that is nearly opaque in the center; this seems to be a more convincing effect.

PowerPoint gradient tools seem clumsy to me; maybe it just takes practice. Here are the settings for the third and fourth examples:


You can also use gradient fills in text:


When you apply effects to a text box, you will have an option to affect the text or the shape.

You can also create reflections by drawing appropriate shapes; here is an example of a stylized beaker that I used in my post on animating liquids:


This is a deliberately “cartoony” style signaled by the heavy outlines and flat rendering. Here’s how it’s made:


I used standard shapes and Merge Shapes/Union and Subtract to make the parts of the beaker.  The diagram shows Unioned objects in red and Subtracted objects in green. The beaker and the highlights are semi-transparent.

Here are some more examples of this style:


Another way to create “glass” objects is to use the 3D/Format Material property; in these examples I’ve used the Translucent/Clear option:


You can see that curved surfaces are highlighted. The last example has a slightly curved surface created by applying a Top Bevel/Circle; this creates highlights/reflections.

You can use other 3D tools to create “glass” objects:


This  is an Oval with Line but no Fill. The first example uses Transparent/Powder  material and the second is Transparent/Clear. Both are rotated with about 200 pt Depth.

I strongly suggest you read my post on the peculiarities of PowerPoint 3D, particularly the interaction among shapes, Fills, Lines and Bevels, before you experiment with 3D objects.

Here’s another glass object with some notes:


This is another example of a unfilled Oval with a bottom Bevel; the red version shows how the Bevel affects only the Line.

This version looks like an unfilled Oval but it’s not:


Here the Oval has a 99% transparent Fill; this forces the bottom Bevel to apply to the entire shape (blue version).

Here are a glass ball and a dome, made from an Oval:


The ball has a Top Bevel/Circle; the width and height of the bevel are equal to the radius of the Oval in points (1 in = 72 pts). The dome adds Depth and is Rotated.

This example shows the construction of a wine glass; Transparent/Clear Material is used for all the parts:


The base has an Angle Bevel and a small Depth.

If you are interested in these examples, you may also like my post on balls and spheres and the one on wires and pipes.

You can also use Material/Clear on text:


You can find glass “textures” on the web; these are usually photographs of real glass. Here are some examples:


To make a photo image transparent, create an appropriate shape, fill the shape with the photo, and set the Transparency as needed. Here’s the process:


I usually Copy the picture and use Fill/Picture or Texture/from Clipboard to fill the shape with the texture. The last version above applies 3d Depth and Rotation as before. You can also use Fill/Picture, etc., with text:


Here’s an application of a transparent texture; the “glass” is in front of an image of a menacing guy:


This example is improved by using an Artistic Effect/Mosaic Bubbles on the guy image to simulate the refraction that would be caused by the water drops:


I also adjusted the brightness and contrast of the guy image to eliminate a background created by the Bubble effect.

I have had issues with Artistic Effects since I first experimented with them – sometimes the options are unresponsive or grayed out. This may be a resource/performance problem with my $400 Chinese laptop. I have briefly researched this and found only a few reports of these problems (one of which speculated that it is a performance issue) and no resolution. I suspect that these features are rarely used or that potential users simply abandon them because of the issues. Try it for yourself and report problems to Microsoft.

Here’s another example using textured glass:


Here I used the Glass Artistic Effect on the image. The texture was made transparent using the Picture Fill technique and reduced in size to more closely match the “grain” of the Artistic Effect.

One more example (no Artistic Effect this time):


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

Powerpointy blog – glass

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.

Drawing in 3D – Cars


This is another in a series of posts about creating “3D” (isometric) vehicles in PowerPoint. The previous posts are here and here; you may want to review them.

I have shown you how to draw some “boxy” vehicles. But, creating accurate versions of contemporary automobiles with their sculptural features and curved lines is simply not practical in PowerPoint. So, if the examples here don’t work for you, you may find acceptable clipart on the web. Or you use different graphics software.

Here’s a “crossover” vehicle that will give you an idea of  my approach:


Here’s an exploded version:


I made flat drawings of most of the surfaces using groups of standard shapes (Triangles, Rectangles, etc.). Then I applied 3D rotations and carefully positioned them to form the car. Surfaces that are not parallel to one of the three axes are drawn as Freeform shapes (outlined in yellow above). Some of the elements are used for alignment purposes and not part of the final drawing (red outlined elements). I used 3D Format/Depth to add, well, depth to the wheels, wheel wells, and the outer “style” element on the side.

One of the more challenging aspects of this technique is getting the colors right. For example, I would like the top surfaces to be lighter in color than the sides (as if the car were lit from the top) but not a different shade of blue.

Here’s why this is so complicated; there are four different factors that interact to determine the color of a rotated 3D object:

  • Fill (and outline) color – obviously, if your object is red, it should remain red when rotated. However, the precise shade of red will be different.
  • Lighting angle – The color will vary when you change this value; presumably this represents a the effect of a light source from different angles but I have not been able to deconstruct the algorithm here. I recommend trial and error.
  • Material – this choice affects the result of the light on the surface. Since you can’t turn the damned light off, you have to make a choice here. I recommend Matte (not the default); it seems to be the simplest.
  • Depth color – If  you use Depth, a default color will be applied; I usually change the color.

Here’s how I started the crossover vehicle:


This “3-view” (side, front, top) was inspired by a couple of photos on the web; one of the photos was a profile. You can also find complete 3-view drawings of automobiles.

Trace the elements of the profile using Rectangles,Triangles and other standard shapes. Don’t try to capture all the detail. Then, using Drawing Guides to align the parts, create the front and top views. I have used Merge Shapes operations (like Union) to eliminate some of the lines. I used different outline colors to distinguish the major parts.

The Merge Shapes operations are very unforgiving; you will often get unwanted bits of outlines in a Union, for example. This is not a big problem here since the outlines will be eliminated.  In other cases, you may have to resort to Edit Points to simplify the resulting shapes.

Here are the parts of the crossover with details and color added:


The red rectangle and the green line on the body are used to align the mirrors in the assembled view.

Here’s how I started the assembly for the crossover vehicle:


A part of the top view (“plan”) is used for alignment (I used the Parallel/Off-Axis 1 preset rotations for this example). The gray rectangles are rotated and aligned to form the back of the two visible wheel wells.

Here’s the next step:


The rotated side view is aligned with the appropriate line (blue) and the wheel well outline (red) on the plan.  Next, I added Depth to the body and the wheels; the depth color for the body is gray, not the default blue:


Notice that the depth for the body appears at the top as well as the wheel openings; fret not – this will be covered by other elements.

The next step adds the side detail (abbreviated fenders/wings) aligned with the outer line on the plan. I also added Depth to the side detail:


Next, I added the front and top (with the cargo rails):


I added a couple of rectangles to the top to help align the cargo rails.

Finally, I drew the missing surfaces as Freeforms (the two surfaces of the hood/bonnet and the gray surface under the grill). I also added, aligned and added a Bevel to the visible mirror:

car10I temporarily added a profile to the hidden side of the car to help provide reference points for the hand-drawn Freeforms. Here are some additional notes:

  • In actual vehicles, the sides of the top (where the side windows are) are slanted inwards. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I choose not to reproduce that feature since it makes it more difficult to add windows and other details in this area.
  • You can create a variety of acceptable wheels using Ovals, Donuts and various Stars; here’s how the wheels for the crossover are constructed:


  • The cargo rails are made from two Rounded Rectangles using Merge Shape/Subtract functions; here’s the process:


  • I did not detail the steps I used to adjust the colors in this example; see above for the considerations involved.
  • I usually have to go through the construction process a few times to get the alignments and layering right. It’s a good idea to do this before you add color and details.

The next example is a more traditional sedan; this one is inspired by a Cadillac:


Here’s the exploded view:


I used Isometric rotations for this example.

The wheel openings on this kind of vehicle are smaller than on the crossover; the back of the wheel well isn’t needed.

The Cadillac is constructed like the crossover except that the side includes three layers: the outer trim that surrounds the wheel openings, the side of the body, and the inner surface representing the top of the passenger compartment. The side of the body is in two parts so that two different Edges can be used; the lower part’s Edge is the wheel well surface and the upper part provides the lighter “shoulder.” Here’s a simplified picture with red Edges that may make this clearer:


The final example is a “five door” automobile (inspired by a drawing of a Kia):

car16Here’s the explosion – basically the same as the Cadillac construction:


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

Powerpointy – cars

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.

3d Network Demo – Part 1: Icons


Presentation experts tell you to simplify and avoid complexity. However, in the real world, your challenge is often to make complexity simple. This series of posts will demonstrate several techniques that may help.

My project is to describe a typical enterprise computer/IT network, introduce my solution and demonstrate how my solution can defeat certain security attacks (I’m not a real expert so you are not allowed to be critical of the content). The same techniques can be used to demonstrate other kinds of complicated systems, manufacturing and chemical processes, business procedures and traffic within a cityscape or village.

In this post, I will construct 3d (isometric) network icons. I will lay out the network and add the animation in subsequent posts. Of course, you can use existing icons or create your icons using other tools (converted to images – png, preferably).

Here are some of the icons used in the project:


Some notes:

  • The icons are consistent with the client’s brand colors and graphical style.
  • The isometric/parallel view is common for this kind of application and simpler to deal with than perspective views.
  • Some of the icons are stylized representations of the actual network elements (the server stack and the laptop); others are symbolic (the router). The symbolic icons are standardized in the networking industry.

Preliminaries (isometric rotations, re-sizing and duplicating)

The icons are constructed from simple Shapes with 3-D Rotation/Parallel and 3-D Format/Depth applied. Some of the icons are made with more than one shape with different rotations. The rotations are standard presets (default options) – no fiddling with manual rotation. This diagram shows the results of the specific preset rotations and depth that I will use:icons2

One thing to be careful of here is the “top” aspect; this is used to create the laptop keyboard, for example. To get the desired result after rotation, the original object must be constructed in a “landscape” orientation (the purple version). The red version is constructed in a more natural “portrait” orientation but neither of the preset rotations provides the desired result.

You may think that you could simply rotate the portrait version before applying the 3d rotation. Sorry; this won’t work:


Another issue involves the stupid PowerPoint convention that some things are measured in inches (or cms) and others in points (1/72 inch) and re-sizing affects things that are measured in inches but not those measured in points! Since you will usually construct the icons at a convenient scale and reduce them in the final layout, this is a pain in the ass.

This example (the router icon) shows what happens:


Simply re-sizing the icon yields the result shown at the top. The proportions are not preserved; neither the depth nor the line feature (contour) are scaled properly. The somewhat inconvenient work-around is to convert (Copy/Paste Special/PNG) the icon to an (uneditable) png image and re-size that.

Some of the icon details involve arrays of repeated shapes (mulch) – the laptop keyboard and the server front panel, for example. A process that I am pleased to call “dupe and group” can make these kinds of objects easier to create.

This process takes advantage of a property of the Duplicate operation; a duplicated object will appear in the same position relative to the original each time it is duplicated. So, if you duplicate an object and then, without clicking anywhere else, align the duplicate, the next duplicate will also be aligned. Pictures are better than words in explaining this:


In this example, once I have created a row, I group it and apply the same process again to create several aligned rows.

Server Icons

Create the smaller server from a rectangle with details added using the “dupe and group” technique. Group the rectangle and the details; rotate the group. Then, select the gray rectangle only and apply the depth; the depth color is the same gray as the rectangle. You may find it a little difficult to select only the rectangle in the rotated object. The cursor will change shape and the rectangle will be faintly outlined when it is selected.

Here’s the process:


The server stack is made by duplicating and aligning the small server.

A larger server icon is made the same way:


Sometimes a client will want a more realistic icon, particularly of her own product. If you can find an appropriate photo, you can use it as the “front face:”

icons7Note that a full frontal photo is used.

Here’s another “realistic” icon:

icons8In this case, a rounded rectangle is filled with the photo to get the result.


The laptop is constructed of two parts: the keyboard and the screen. The screen is made in the same way as the server; the keyboard is a little different:


Notice the orientation of the keyboard construction. Also, after rotation and the addition of depth, the lighting angle is adjusted so that the right face is dark, like the screen.

Symbolic Icons

The symbolic network icons are made from simple shapes, grouped and rotated using the Top Up option. Depth and contour are added:



The printer is made of four objects, separately rotated (with depth and contour added) and grouped together:


The printer body is a Rounded Same Side Corner Rectangle (!) with Isometric Right Up rotation.  The paper tray object is used twice with different rotations. The buttons are a separate group.


The firewall icon makes use of contours to provide the detail on the side and top:


The object is a group of rectangles, duped and grouped, with alternate rows flipped horizontally. Fill and rotate; add the contour to the whole group rather than an object in the group as before.

The next post will create the network using these icons.

To get the free PowerPoint file for this post use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file containing these objects:

Powerpointy blog – network demo – icons

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.


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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