Posts Tagged '3d lighting'

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.

NOTE: PowerPoint’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.

NOTE: Modifying 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:

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.

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