Posts Tagged '3d lighting'

Archive: Creating 3D Objects in PowerPoint


I’ve written a lot of posts involving PowerPoint 3-D drawing tools, so I’ve decided to list some of the more useful ones in this archive.

NOTE: This post is about the 3-D drawing tools that were introduced in PowerPoint 2007. In 2018, the ability to embed standard format 3-D models was introduced; the 2018 release does not include tools to actually create these kinds of 3-D objects in PowerPoint.

The 2007 3-D tools are limited and frustrating – I hope the techniques developed in these posts will help you get the most (such as it is) out of them.

The list is in reverse chronological order. Generally, the posts include links to earlier posts that may explain techniques more thoroughly.


Putting Text INTO Pictures embedding text within pictures adds a lot of impact. To make this convincing, you might have to make the text match the perspective of the picture – this post shows you how to do this with 3-D tools (and some effort).



PowerPoint Secrets: Rotation – some object properties don’t behave as you might expect when the object is rotated, including 3-D rotations. This post attempts to identify when unexpected results occur.


PowerPoint People – 3D Robotsr1.pngthis post is one of a series on creating characters to help tell your stories. It uses the basic techniques developed in the posts on vehicles, buildings and blocks to draw a variety of 3-D robots.



Drawing in 3D – Carscar10.pngcreating the complex shapes of automobiles is a challenge with the PowerPoint 3-D tools. However, some of these turned out rather well.



Drawing in 3D – More Vehicles mve7.png– Trucks and buses are easier to draw than cars; here are some examples that are a little more complicated than the simpler examples in the last post (below).



Drawing in 3D – Simple Vehicles veh2.png– a boxy car, a truck and a city bus are created.





Drawing in PowerPoint – 3D Houses This post tackles some more complicated houses than the basic version in the previous post (below).





Drawing in PowerPoint – 3D House Basics drawing a simple house and dealing with more complicated roof shapes.





Drawing in PowerPoint – 3D Buildings drawing high-rise buildings and other building types.





Drawing in PowerPoint – Wires and Pipeswire4.png Use 3-D Bevels and other techniques to create wires and plumbing components.




3d Network Demo Part 2: Layoutlayout1.pngThis is one of a series of three posts on creating a 3D computer network and animating it. This post shows how to lay out objects using an isometric grid.



3d Network Demo – Part 1: Iconsicons11.pngCreating standard computer/networking icons in 3D.




More Word Clouds in PowerPoint – 3dwireless concerns 6.pngOne of a series on word clouds, this post uses 3D text to create more impact.




Drawing in PowerPoint: Spheres, Planets and BallsOne of my most popular efforts, this post shows how to create spherical objects using PowerPoint 3D. It also identifies some of the issues with 3D in this application.



Drawing in PowerPoint: A Tower Icontower.pngdetails of creating a watchtower icon using the techniques developed in the posts on toy blocks (below).




Drawing in PowerPoint – More Alphabet Blockspersp 6.pngcombining rotated “faces” of an object to create a 3D version. This is the basis for most of the other posts on this subject.



a block 3.png

Drawing in PowerPoint – Alphabet Blocks – understanding and using basic PowerPoint 3D to create alphabet blocks.



test object w text 3.png

PowerPoint Secrets – 3D – Explores 3D formatting and explains the relationships between Depth, Top and Bottom Bevels, Contours, object outlines and text contained in the object.


I hope this post will provide some guidance and inspiration for working with “old” 3D in PowerPoint. These tools are far from perfect but, with a little help, you can create useful  3-dimensional images.



Putting Text INTO Pictures


I’ve written a number of  posts on adding impact to text using images. Among other things, I’ve shown you how to  put pictures into text; this post is about putting text into pictures.

Here’s how television ad designers use this technique:


As you can see the text is not a caption or overlay, but appears to be part of the photo.

The F-150 campaign also inspired an earlier post on kinetic (animated) text.

There are (at least) three tricks to this:

  • The text appears to be behind some elements of the picture and in front of others – this embeds the text in the scene.
  • The text is in the same “perspective” as other elements of the photo.
  • Lighting of the text matches other picture elements.

You don’t have to cover all three of these aspects to get an effective result; here’s a simple example:


This is made of three layers, the original image, the text and the “overlay:”


The back layer is the original image; the next layer is the text (I added a hard shadow to increase the legibility). The front layer is created from the original image using the Picture Tool/Remove Background.  By the way, using the Select Pane will make it easier to select a layer.

The Remove Background tool is very difficult to use. My advice is to select images that have pronounced edges (like a building against the sky) and to work slowly – select only small areas to keep or remove.

turdI think there are four reasons for the difficulty. First, I don’t know how it works so that it’s all trial and error. Second, when the tool tries to predict what I want, it’s usually wrong. And finally, there is no flexibility – similar tools in other apps have sensitivity adjustments.

Here’s another example:


Here are the layers for this one:


As you can see, the overlay is not the entire lower half of the picture; in fact it could be smaller and still work. You only need the the area near the text for the overlay – this makes the Remove Background process easier.

The text is Gradient filled, using colors from the photo (Fill/Eyedropper) – this helps integrate the text into the scene.

This example uses a Stencil font and the text Fill is a Large Confetti pattern, using black and the box color as the Background:


Since the box is oriented (almost) parallel to the viewing plane, no perspective is applied to the text. This is either very lucky or involves a long search for an image with this property. Usually, if you want to create text that appears to be part of the image like this, you will have to pay attention to the perspective in the image.

Here’s another example:ptext6.png

Here, a preset 3D rotation called Parallel/Off Axis 1: Right works pretty well. Very lucky again.

Usually, you will have to apply a more difficult rotation to achieve the effect; here’s an example:


Here the problem is that the Text Box must fit fairly precisely but the size, proportions, and 3d orientation are unknown. Here’s my approach:

  • Create an outlined but not filled rectangle; try to make the rectangle is larger than the expected size of the book label.
  • Overlay the rectangle over the label and apply 3d rotation until the edges of the rectangle are parallel to the edges of the label or as close as you can get. The size of the rectangle doesn’t matter at this point:


  • I have struggled with (and complained about) PowerPoint 3D rotation before and I wish I could give you a rational process for making the rotations. However, I can provide some hints:
    • Apply a Perspective (not Parallel) rotation to the rectangle group to start. Pick one of the presets that gives you a head start (I started with the Perspective Relaxed preset).
    • This step not only gives you a starting point, but assures that subsequent rotations maintain the perspective.
    • You will probably have to alter X-, Y- and Z-rotations as well as Perspective (which controls the degree of foreshortening) and Distance from Ground.  Use the arrow buttons along with the numeric values for fine adjustments.
    • Work in small steps and Duplicate the slide frequently so that you can go back to a previous state if things get out of hand.
  • Once the outline fits, you can add text and other details without removing the rotations. I added an outline and gradient fill as well as centered Old English text.
  • Finally, I copied and converted the label to a PNG and added a Cement Artistic Effect for texture before placing it in position (using PNG rather than JPG provides a transparent background):


Here’s an example that involves perspective and layering:


Here’s the original image, documenting an old McDonald’s advertising campaign; my example is meant to convey the ubiquity and questionable nutritional value of PowerPoint as it is commonly used:


Some notes:

  • I used the same process as for the book label to create a rectangle for the sign.
  • The Eyedropper was used to copy colors from the original.
  • I added 3D text effects (Bevels) to mimic the signage.
  • The golden arches are an overlay created using Remove Background as before. I wasn’t too careful here since all that I need is the part that overlaps the rectangle.
  • Since the red rectangle extends outside the original picture, I converted the elements to a single PNG and Cropped it.

My last example is an animation (you’re surprised?):


I copied the image and “punched holes in it” using Remove Background to make the overlay; here are the layers (original image, text and overlay):


It is not possible to be precise with this kind of image using Remove Background. This doesn’t matter much in this example since the Removed areas are only glimpsed when the animated text moves behind the overlay.

The text is Jokerman font and the animation is Spiral In – pretty flamboyant!

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 – text IN pictures

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: Rotation

I often rotate a shape to create a new shape, usually to fit into a layout or design. For example, in my post on jigsaw puzzles, I rotated puzzle pieces to create other pieces that fit into my puzzle layout. Sometimes I just need a new shape and the easiest way to get it is to rotate one of the standard shapes; here’s a standard Trapezoid and a copy rotated 90 degrees:


There are three ways to rotate an object:

  • Freehand, clicking and dragging the “rotation handle.”  If you need a precise rotation (e.g., 20 degrees), freehand rotation may be difficult.
  • Using the Rotate tools. You can rotate precisely 90 degrees, right or left, or Flip  the object horizontally of vertically (a flip is not strictly a rotation – so sue me).
  • Using the Format Shape/Size pane and setting the value of Rotation (plus or minus degrees). This is the most precise way to rotate to a specific value.

So far, so good. However (there’s always a however), some characteristics of a shape depend on the rotation and some don’t. In the rest of this post I’ll try to demonstrate this and show you ways to control it.

NOTE: This is pretty arcane stuff. If you want a shorter version, skip to the Summary.


Most of the fill variations allow you to specify if you want the fill to rotate with the shape. Here’s a (deliberately garish) Gradient fill:


The original shapes (a Trapezoid and two rotated versions) are shown in red outline. The second column shows the result of the default fill; as you can see, the fill is rotated with the shape. The third column shows the results with the Rotate with shape option unchecked.

If the gradient is used to simulate the appearance of light on the surface of the object, it makes sense that the fill should not rotate with the shape.

Picture/Texture fill also has this option; here are examples:


It may be useful to uncheck Rotate with shape with Picture fills; you can see that this will keep the picture upright even though the shape has been rotated. In the 30 degree rotation example, the X offset has been adjusted to keep the face near the center of the shape.

This option is not available for Pattern fill. Here are some examples:


The fill pattern does not rotate with the shape. In the case of 90 degree rotation,  you can pick another version of the pattern to match the rotation (shown in red). Of course, this doesn’t help for other rotations. Converting to a picture before rotating causes the fill to rotate but JPG, PNG and GIF do not reproduce the fill pattern accurately. An EMF file appears to work. Notice that converted objects do not retain some features of the shape; e.g., the yellow adjustment handle.

Background Fill reflects the background regardless of rotation.

Shadows, etc.

Here’s how shadows are rendered for rotated shapes:


A shadow is the result of a light source; if the shape is rotated, the shadow should stay in the same relative position. As you can see, the outer shadow is oriented correctly; the inner shadow is not.

For the 90 degree rotation, you can select a variation of the inner shadow that provides the correct result. A solution that works for all rotations is to create a version of the rotated shape that is, in fact, not rotated (the rotation handle is at the top, relative to the slide). Here’s how:


I drew a rectangle (yellow) and Intersected it with the rotated trapezoid; the result is a rotated trapezoid with the handle on top. Be sure to select the rectangle first since the result of Intersect inherits the properties of the first shape selected. The inner shadow is now oriented correctly.  As before, the result is no longer a standard shape; e.g., the adjustment handle is missing.

You can think of this operation as “resetting the rotation handle.”

By the way, if your object is a group, you can reset the rotation handle by ungrouping the object and then grouping it again (you can use Regroup). A new group has an upright orientation regardless of the rotations of its components. Here’s an example:

The first row shows a group (Trapezoid and Right Arrow) followed by a 90 degree right rotation of a group. The rotation handle indicates its orientation. Next, the group is ungrouped and regrouped. The rotation handle of the result indicates its upright orientation.

This suggests that grouping a shape with an invisible shape (no fill/outline), ungrouping and regrouping will effectively reset the orientation (shown in the second row above). However, the invisible element may affect other operations on the object.

Reflection, Glow and Soft Edge effects are not affected by the rotation of the object.

3D Lighting and Rotation

These examples show an Oval with rotations and a 3D Bevel (the Bevel makes the 3D Lighting effect visible):


The second column shows the highlight created by the lighting; notice that the highlight is rotated. Like a shadow, the highlight orientation should reflect (!) the environment, not the orientation of the object. You can adjust the Lighting Angle to correct this (a trial and error operation) or use an intersected version of the Oval (yellow) to correct the orientation of the highlight.

turdPowerPoint’s attempt at 3d lighting has other problems, especially when two or more objects appear together; see my post on 3D cars for more on this.

3D Rotations are also affected by an existing (2d) rotation. Here are some examples (I added a small Depth to the shapes for clarity):


The 3D Rotations of the rotated Trapezoid (second row) are unexpected, to say the least. The results of 3D Rotations of a version created by the intersection method (yellow) are correct.

turdModifying PowerPoint’s preset 3D rotations by adjusting the rotation values manually is a mystifying and generally unsatisfying process.


Generally speaking, text objects and shapes exhibit the same behavior under rotation. So, the details you have learned (?) above apply to text.

However, text offers an additional rotation option called Text Direction – it offers four options for orienting text within the text box: horizontal (default), 90 degrees, -270 degrees and “stacked.”

TIP: A text object is always a “text box.” That means that text always has an enclosing shape, usually a rectangle. If you use the Format Shape pane, you will need to select Text Options to assure that the effects you select apply to the text and not the surrounding shape.

Here are some examples of Fill and Shadow applied to a text object and rotated versions:r10.png

As you can see, the same anomalies apply to rotated versions of the text as I described for rotated versions of shapes. Using an intersection (yellow) corrects the fill and shadow orientations. The “grouping” technique, however, does not correct the anomalies.

NOTE: The object created by the intersection technique is not text; i.e., it cannot be edited as text.

Here are some examples of 3D Lighting and 3D Rotation applied to a text character:r11.png

If the text box is rotated, the orientation of the highlight and the 3D rotation are incorrect (since the Shape is rotated). Using the Text Direction results in the correct orientations but there are limited options. Using Intersect to create a shape yields correct results.

There are seldom-used operations called Transforms that warp text into various shapes; these effects apply only to text. (In my version of PowerPoint, I can only find Transforms under Text Effects in the Drawing Tools ribbon.) There are thirty-six different transforms available; a few are actually useful.

NOTE: I used text transforms in my post on word clouds and my post on “wheels.”

Here are some results of applying Transforms to rotated text:

A transform (Triangle Down in the example) is always oriented relative to the rotation handle. You can’t create a different orientation using an intersection; the intersection is a shape and Transforms do not apply. In some cases, you may be select another transform that provides the result you want (Fade Right in the example).


Some animation effects have a direction option; Wipe and Fly In, for example. These animations always reference the slide, not the orientation of the object. Wipe/Up, for example, wipes towards the top of the slide regardless of the rotation of the object.

This is consistent, at least, but it does eliminate some possibilities – a diagonal Wipe, for example.


If you apply fills, shadows and 3d effects to shapes or text that have been rotated, you may not get the results you want. There are some techniques that might help:

  • Some effects have options (Gradient Fill for example) that change the results (“do not rotate fill with shape”, for example).
  • If the object is a rotated Group, you can reset the rotation by ungrouping and regrouping. You can group your shape with an invisible shape to reset the rotation handle. This doesn’t work with text.
  • Intersecting your shape or text with a rectangle creates an object that looks like the original but with the rotation handle on top – this will change the result of these effects (3D Rotation for example).

If you found this helpful (or if you didn’t) please share your question or opinion with a comment. If you want email updates when a new post appears, “follow” this blog.

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:

turdMy 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:

turd 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.

turd 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.

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