Posts Tagged 'animation rotation'

Drawing in PowerPoint – Simplified Jigsaw Puzzles

I have written three posts on drawing jigsaw puzzles in PowerPoint (part 1, part 2 and part 3). A jigsaw puzzle can represent bringing together parts to form a whole: experts to form a service team, segments to form a market or parts of a solution, for example. The interlocking pieces suggest unity, interdependence or cooperation.

These earlier posts asked you to draw Freeform shapes for the pieces – a tricky task, especially making the pieces interlock seamlessly. Starting with a simpler puzzle layout and using standard shapes, along with Merge Shape tools, is a much easier and more accurate technique, especially if you’re not comfortable with Freeform drawing. Here’s a comparison of a puzzle piece from the earlier posts and a piece created using the simpler method:


The first piece reflects the traditional jigsaw puzzle appearance; each piece is separately  created. The second piece is much simpler and there are only a relatively small number of variations.

It may also be that the simpler approach is graphically cleaner and more appealing; you can decide.

Here’s how:

  • I started by setting the grid spacing to 0.1 inches and setting Snap to Grid. This makes it easier to draw and position objects accurately.
  • Each puzzle piece is based on a 4×4 square. A rectangle forms the basis of the edges. The oval and a small rectangle will form a knob. Size the shapes so that they snap  to the grid. The oval just touches the top of the edge rectangle.


  • Applying Merge Shapes/Union to the parts completes the “knob edge:”


  • To create the “socket edge,” Subtract a copy of the knob edge (orange) from an edge rectangle:


  • Now you can create a bunch of puzzle pieces using the knob and socket edges (plus a filler rectangle). You will need to rotate copies of  the edges; use Rotate 90 degrees and Flip for accurate rotations.:


As a trial, duplicate this puzzle piece several times and apply the Union operation to the pieces. Rotate some of the trial pieces 90 degrees. The pieces should snap together precisely:

If this doesn’t work, the original parts of the piece were misaligned and should be corrected before proceeding. Small pixel size gaps are apparently unavoidable; ignore these.

Tiny steps in the piece outline or extra line segments after the Union operation indicate that the parts are misaligned:

I have found that the easiest way to correct this is to move one of the parts of the piece diagonally a short distance and then move the other pieces to realign them. Of course, the Snap To Grid option is essential (you didn’t ignore that, did you?).

All the puzzle pieces can now be made from these four parts – the “knob edge,” the “socket edge,” the straight edge and the filler rectangle:


It’s a good idea to check Lock Aspect Ratio in the Size Pane for each part.

Duplicate, rotating if needed, selected parts, assemble carefully and apply Merge Shapes/Union to create the six basic puzzle pieces. Again, use Rotate 90 degrees or Flip to get accurate rotations:

You can create all of the (internal) puzzle pieces you need by rotating one of these six pieces.

You can make all the edge and corner pieces by rotating these nine basic pieces:

I will use a 3D Bevel to get a realistic puzzle piece. The appearance of the bevel is influenced by 3D Lighting which depends on the rotation of the piece:

The first row shows a puzzle piece and the same piece with Bevel applied. The second row shows the original piece rotated right 90 degrees and the rotated piece with the same Bevel applied. You can see that the results are different by comparing the top edge. This becomes more obvious when differently rotated pieces are assembled into a puzzle.

I want all the pieces in a puzzle to be uniform. Since many of the pieces will be rotated, I will want to reset the rotation handle on these pieces. To reset the rotation handle, Union the piece with an unrotated rectangle; here’s the process:

Select the rectangle first before the Union operation; an object created by a union inherits its properties from the first object selected.

NOTE: I plan a separate post on resetting the rotation handle for different kinds of objects.

Here’s a puzzle layout created from these pieces:

Here’s an application of this layout:

Rather than fill each piece with a fragment of the picture (as I did in the previous puzzle post), I used the puzzle layout as a semitransparent overlay with Bevel/Top/Circle to give each piece the rounded edge effect. The Material is Clear providing the transparency.

Here’s a 3D rotated version:

The 3D lighting caused the image to wash out so I increased the contrast of the image to compensate. I also added Depth to the underlying picture to create the edge.

If you want to animate the assembly or disassembly of this puzzle, each piece must separately contain a fragment of the image. In the original puzzle post, I did this with Fill/Picture; an easier way is to use Merge Shape/Intersect (see the post on animating breakthroughs for details of this method). Here’s a breakup animation using these techniques:

Each piece is animated by a motion path combined with Exit/Basic Zoom/In Slightly.

You can also assemble puzzle pieces with separate images to show a team, for example:

The original puzzle post used Fill/Picture to create the pieces. It’s easier to position the puzzle piece over the image and use Merge Shapes/Intersect:

For this kind of application, you may want to build your puzzle pieces with smaller knobs and sockets; this leaves more space for the individual pictures.

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 – simple jigsaw puzzles

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.


Weighing Your Options – Balances

Scales and balances are useful presentation metaphors; they can show changes that result from adding (or deleting) objects or concepts. Balances compare two weights and can show comparative changes. Here’s an example:

The blue objects shift the indicator from red (danger) to green (safety) as they overcome the evil black stuff. Labeling the objects, using call-outs or synchronizing with text adds specific meanings, as in this version:

NOTE: I made an animated balance in an earlier post; I  did it again here because the animation is simpler (I hope).

Here’s how the balance is constructed:


  • The objects are made from standard PowerPoint shapes. The “beam” is made from two slightly different Braces combined using the Merge Shapes/Combine operation:
  • The balance is made up of 4 objects: the stationary “post” including the indicator background (blue outlined), the “beam” including the pointer (red), and the two pan assemblies (green). The right pan assembly includes the Cloud shaped load.
  • Each of the moving parts is grouped with a circle (dashed line) that determines the center of the part for animation purposes. In particular, the circle grouped with the pan assemblies sets the center at the point where the pan assembly attaches to the beam – this makes it easier to create the motion paths for the pan assemblies.
  • Four radial lines (black) are included that identify the rotated positions of the beam – 10 degree increments.
  • The parts are arranged and sized so that they don’t interfere during the animation.

Here’s the next step (animating the beam and the two pans):

  • The beam rotations are 10 degrees counterclockwise.
  • The first Line motion path added to the pan assembly will snap to its “center.”
  • The motion path is edited so that the end point of the motion path is located at the intersection of the dashed circle in the beam group and the appropriate radial line (black).
  • Subsequent motion paths also snap to the center of the pan assembly but are then moved to snap to the end point of the previous path. The end point is then positioned as before.

TIP: Motion paths in close proximity are difficult to edit since the endpoints tend to arbitrarily snap to the endpoints of a nearby path. You can overcome this annoyance by zooming in to do the editing and using the Alt key to override unwanted snap actions.

Next, the load elements (balls) are added and the first one is partially animated:

  • I added center lines to the balls to help with the animation.
  • Using the Animation Painter, I copied the movement of the left pan to the red ball. Then I reordered the effects in the Animation Pane so that the movement of the red ball is synchronized with the movement of the pan. Here’s the Pane:

Animating the second and third balls is a little tricky; they only move with the second and third motion of the beam. Applying the motion paths of the pan to the second ball using the animation painter copies all of the paths to the second ball – the path corresponding to the first motion of the pan is not needed. Just deleting the path does not do the job. Here’s an example showing how to successfully delete the first path:

turdBe careful; the Animation Painter copies all of the animations from the first object and replaces all the animations of the second object. This tool could have been designed with more flexibility but wasn’t.

  • Select the first motion path on the slide and hit the delete key; alternatively, select the path on the Animation Pane and select Remove on the pulldown.
  • At this stage, the object would jump to the starting point of the motion path before the motion path is executed. To fix this, the object needs to be moved to the starting point. However, moving the object will also move the motion path.
  • To avoid this, you need to Lock the motion path one of the motion path Effect Options. This fixes the position of the motion path on the slide. Now the object can be moved so that its center coincides with the starting point of the second motion path.

This is the first time I have ever used the Lock/Unlock option. I guess this is why it’s there.

  • Continuing the process with the third ball, adding the appearance effect to the balls (Float Down) and re-ordering the effects completes the animation; here’s the slide:

  • Here’s the animation pane:

Here’s another balance type; in this design the pans are constrained to move vertically:

Here’s the construction:

  • All the parts are constructed from standard PowerPoint shapes. The “post” is a Trapezoid with a smaller Trapezoid Subtracted (Merge Shapes) to provide the window.
  • The red-yellow-green indicator is formed from three Block Arcs.
  • The dashed circles and radial lines are used as before.
  • A black horizontal line is added to the pan assemblies to help locate the motion paths.
  • I used the same steps as before to animate the balance.

You can also  use spring and/or digital scales in your presentations; the next post will show you how.

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

Powerpointy blog – balances

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. If you want to contact me directly, use the contact form on the “about” page.

Drawing and Animating Gears – Planetary Gears


This is the third in a series of posts (here and here) on gears in PowerPoint. It might help you to read those first.

This post is about “planetary gears;” here is a photo of a real planetary gear set:


The center gear is called the “sun” gear; the surrounding gears are called “planets” or “idlers.” The outer gear is called the “annular” gear. (Nomenclature varies.)

From the point of view of the arithmetic, the outer gear (with the teeth inside) acts just like a large ordinary gear. As we learned before, the trick for laying out gears that mesh is to keep the ratio of the number of teeth to the diameter the same (and not a fraction) for all the gears. Here’s a combination that will work:


Here are the numbers for this combination including the relative rotations:


As I did in the first post, I added radial lines (corresponding to tooth positions) and an inner and outer circle to each gear layout:


Then I experimented with the tooth size and shape until I found a version that did not create too much interference where the gears mesh:


By the way, these “gears” don’t work in reality since there is some (unnoticeable, one hopes) interference and/or gaps where the gears mesh. Real gear teeth have a special curved shape so that the teeth “roll” against each other smoothly.

Again, I used the techniques in the first post to add the teeth to the gears. Briefly, for the gears with an even number of teeth I grouped a pair of opposite teeth together and duplicated and rotated the group around the gear layout. Use Drawing Guides and the Format Object/Size pane to center and rotate the tooth pairs. For the gear with an odd number of teeth, I temporarily added a line (in red) to a tooth to help with positioning:


To complete the inner gears, I deleted the layout lines leaving only the teeth and the smallest circle; then for each gear, I used Merge Shapes/Union to combine the teeth and circle into a single object:


For the annular (outer) gear, I merged the inward-facing teeth with a Donut shape:


Finally, position the planet gears at 60° intervals and add the simultaneous Spin animations: use the rotation numbers above and a common duration (10 seconds in this example). Voila!

It is worth noting that some people complain that PowerPoint animation can create dizziness or nausea in the audience – not a desirable effect. This may in fact be true for this example; you have been warned.

Undaunted, the brave folks over at Acme Services created this rather extravagant version to support their position that “Acme drives the universe!”


Well, here are some notes:

  • The sun gear contains the Acme logo; the planet gears represent Acme’s experience areas (manufacturing, finance, etc.). The universe is represented by the star field.
  • A larger Donut shape was merged with the outer gear (so that it fills the slide) and a star field photo was used to Fill the gear.
  • If you use Fill/Picture for the other gears (the logo and icons), you will find that the result is rotated. This is because the gears have been rotated during construction and the Fill process remembers the rotation. Merging the logo and icon pictures with the gear shape retains the desired orientation. (See this post for more on this “cookie cutter” method.) Here’s a diagram showing the difference:


  • Actually, the star field was rotated but it doesn’t matter.
  • Using the Merge technique loses the animation; once the gears have been positioned, you can use the Animation Painter referring to the “plain” version to restore the animations.

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 – planetary gears

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.

Animating a Roller Coaster


A roller coaster ride isn’t always fun. This project uses a roller coaster to symbolize undesirable fluctuations in cash flow (whatever that is) and suggests that my (fictional) company may be able to help.

Here’s the animation:

You will notice that the cars move and rotate to follow the track. In PowerPoint terms, motion paths are combined with Spin effects. If I were to use a realistic roller coaster profile, it would be difficult to synchronize the Spins with the motion path to get a smooth action. On the other hand, if I use a series of straight lines and circular arcs to define the path, there will be no rotations required during the straight segments and a single Spin will work for the arcs. However, I will need to do a little arithmetic to time the Spins. All of this will become clear, one hopes, as we progress.

Here is the layout for the track profile:


Note: You can always click on these images to see a larger version. Click Back on your browser to return to this post.

To make this easy to construct, I used 45 degree lines with equally sized circles and, as you can see by the green dots, I allowed the lines to snap to the 45 degree points on the circle. With this construction, each peak/valley will require a 90 degree Spin, either clockwise or counterclockwise.

The roller coaster will have several cars. Since the animation is not simple, I don’t want to manually animate each car; there are two ways to accomplish this:

  • If your version of PowerPoint has the Animation Painter, you will be able to transfer the animation you built for the first car to the next car in a couple of clicks. This is the method I will use but there is a wrinkle for this project; details later.
  • If you don’t have the Animation Painter, animate a rectangle picture-filled with the first car image. Then, after the animation is applied, duplicate and change the fill of the rectangle to create animated versions of the next car.

In either case, duplicate the second car several times and position all the cars at the starting point. Then add a delay to the start of the second and following cars to create a “train.”

The cars are create using standard shapes and applying a black fill. I decided to do this project in a silhouette form; you may want a more colorful roller coaster and cars. Here’s my construction:


The wheels are equidistant from the center of the car and the wheel spacing is the same for both cars.

Next, the lead car is sized so that so that the car will go through a “dip” without colliding with the track:


Now, I want to build a series of “targets” on the track to help with the animation; this is a technique I use often in these posts to create accurate motion paths. I converted the lead car to a png and added an outline. I added Lines to the png to identify the center; the Lines (red) snap to the midpoints of each side:


The reason for the conversion to png is to allow these center lines to be easily drawn. Group the lines with the png. Then, position copies of the target at selected points on the track profile and rotate appropriately:

The first target is placed at the starting point, off the slide to the left. The next target is placed at the point where the car enters the curve – the front wheels are at the transition point. I added a rotated target at the bottom of the curve and at the exit, continuing to rotate and position all of the targets.

Next, position the original car at the starting point. Apply a Custom motion path drawn through the center points of each “target.”  Eliminate the Smooth Start/End for the path. Edit the points of the motion path to add the curves. Set the appropriate segments to Straight. Here’s what the motion path (red) looks like:


Now the car will follow the track profile but it does not rotate as it should; that’s the next step.

The speed of the car is constant; it is determined by the duration of the motion path. So, I need to know the distance for each segment so that I can determine the start time and duration of the rotations. To get a “distance,” I drew a dashed line along the track profile and counted the dashes. Here’re the numbers:


The first (straight) segment is about 16 dashes long; the curved segments are about 6 dashes long, etc. Since the smallest increment in animation timing is 0.1 seconds, I won’t need greater accuracy.

I set the duration of the motion path to 3.5 seconds and the total path distance is 54 dashes. Now, the first segment duration is

((number of dashes in the segment)/(total number of dashes))*(total duration) =
(16/54)*3.5 = 1.0 seconds.

That is, the duration is proportional to the distance. By the way, this says that the start of the first curved segment is at 1.0 seconds so this should be the start time of the Spin. I did a little spreadsheet to calculate the duration and start time of each segment (for a 3.5 second total time):


To add the first rotation, select the car and apply Spin/Quarter Spin/Counterclockwise animation effect With the motion path. The start time for this segment is 1.0 seconds and the duration is 0.4 seconds. You can adjust the timing directly on the animation pane by moving and changing the size of the bar representing the effect; using Zoom In on the animation path makes this easier. Here’s the animation pane for the path and the first rotation:


And here’s the result:

Adding the additional rotations using the calculated timing results in this animation pane:


I will use the Animation Painter to add the second car; however, the second car is shorter than the lead car and doesn’t quite track. To fix this, group the second car object with a rectangle that is the same size as the lead car; the rectangle can be made invisible (No outline) later. Here’s the process:


Now, select the animated lead car, select the Animation Painter, and click on the second car group. Position the second car at the starting point of the animation. Using the Animation Pane, delay the effects for the second car by 0.2 seconds. Here’s the Animation Pane:


Duplicate the second car and add the delay as many times as you like to create the “train.”

All that’s left is to create the roller coaster structure. The “track” consists of three lines: the rail (a 4.5 pt line), the ties (a 4.5 pt dashed line) and the base (8pts):


It will take a little fiddling to line these up with the layout and each other.

The structure is built using the “group and dupe” method outlined in an earlier post. Create a group of aligned vertical lines along with groups of lines at plus and minus 45 degrees. Position the three groups over the layout like this:


Now, edit the lines to fit the track; if you hold down the Shift key while editing the lines, the angle will tend to “stick”:


The flags are a Wave shape with a vertical line.

I added the text and the logo to create the final version; I also changed the color of the structure to a light gray to de-emphasize it.

If you want a free copy of the PowerPoint file for this post, please use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy blog – animating a roller coaster

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.


Animations for “Cutting, Slashing and Trimming” – Scissors


You may use phrases like “cut your costs,” “slash your budget” or “trim your overhead” in your presentations. Using an animation will add impact and help sell your product or proposition.

This post uses scissors to build the animations.

If you check out scissor images on the net, you will find a variety of shapes, some fairly complicated. I want a simple version that can be constructed from standard PowerPoint shapes. But to be a “working” pair of scissors, it must have two blades and a common pivot point so that, when closed, the blades overlap (more or less) and the handles don’t interfere with each other. Some static clipart scissors won’t really “work.”

Here’s my version of half the scissors (a “scissor”?) with the lower handle and upper blade:


The object consists of a Donut and a Rectangle for the handle, a rotated Isosceles Triangle for the blade, and a circle for the pivot. I used the Drawing Guides as shown to help align the parts. Group these parts for the complete half.

Next I added a circle, centered on the pivot point and larger than the object. Fans of this blog will recognize this as a technique to assure that the object rotates around the desired pivot point rather than the default “center of gravity.” The circle will be made invisible (no outline color) in the final result.


I duplicated the object and inverted it to make the other half (blue outline). I also made the centering circle a little larger in the blue (lower blade) version; this makes it easier to select. The two halves are rotated 20 degrees to the “open” position:


Note: For “right-handed” scissors, the upper blade is on the right when the scissors are held in the cutting position. In the orientation shown above, this means that the upper blade (the red half) is in front of the blue half. Theoretically, if you show the scissors pointing to the left, the lower blade half should be in front.

You may have to iterate these steps a few times to get the result you want; I did.

Now add some color and make the circles invisible (set outline color to No Line). Use slightly contrasting colors for the blades and the pivot:


Note: When I create icons, etc., on this blog, I usually try to use combinations of pre-defined PowerPoint Shapes  because this requires less experience and practice than other techniques. If you want to try Freeform drawing, you can create a more elaborate pair of scissors:


For the simple scissors, the animation is pretty simple; simultaneous 20 degree Spins. Make the duration fairly short for a satisfying “snip”:

Note: The PowerPoint animations are smoother than the video conversion shown here.

To represent cutting costs, etc., I want the scissors to cut a symbol for cash; e.g., a dollar sign. Here’s the animation:

Here are the steps:

  • Create a text dollar sign, covert it to png and crop two versions to make two halves of the symbol; here’s the process:


Note: Why do I use png rather than jpg for the converted dollar sign? Here’s why:


The png format supports transparency and PowerPoint uses transparency in the Paste/Special operation.

Align the scissors and the two parts of the dollar sign. The lower half rotates when it is cut; establish the center of the rotation by grouping a circle (red) centered near the upper right corner with the lower half:


  • The scissors animation is the same as before. A Spin is added to the lower half wirh a motion path for the falling piece. The Spin overlaps the end of the cutting action and the motion path:


Here’s another application of the scissors animation. A cost is shown rising regularly with a bar graph and the scissors trim the last bar:

Some notes:

  • The last bar is in two pieces; the bottom half has a Spin and motion path added. A circle is grouped with the bottom piece to establish the center of the Spin. The blue bar/circle is a target for the animation; that is, it is positioned where I want the motion path to end. The motion path has a bounce at the end.


  • The timing is a little tricky. The bars are introduced by a Wipe/From Bottom animation. The Wipes for the last bar (halves) are overlapped since, with the circle, the bottom half is taller.


  • The Spin for the cut-off piece is overlapped with the motion path.

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

PowerPointy blog – cutting, etc – scissors

See this page for more on downloading files.

There are a couple of additional posts like this: they use “axes and knives” and “saws.”

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


3d Network Demo – Part 3: Animation


This post is the third in a series about demonstrating complex systems. The project involves a computer network and the addition of elements to improve the security of the network. Part 1 describes the construction of the network icons and part 2 involves the layout of the network.

This post will add animation. The idea is to introduce the basic network, add the security elements and demonstrate their operation.

Caveat: This is a simplified representation and I am not an expert in the subject matter. My objective is only to demonstrate PowerPoint techniques.

Complex systems can be more easily comprehended as parts and relationships introduced sequentially rather than as a monolithic whole. The process is called “chunking” and, in PowerPoint, is a good application for animation. (For more on “animation for a reason,” see this post.)

Here’s how I introduce the network:

The network appears in parts. starting with the central router icon. The links and the subnetworks are introduced with Wipe animations. This is a compromise that works for the links but is problematic with the network segments. A diagonal wipe animation would be better (showing the subnets “growing” along the isometric grid lines) but this isn’t available in PowerPoint. If this bothers you, you may want to use a different animation for the network elements; this example uses a Fade:

The next step is to add the security elements to the network:

I used a Fly-in animation to introduce the new elements; you may choose something less dramatic. Notice that the new elements have a contrasting color scheme to distinguish “my company’s” products.

It is useful to add descriptive call-outs when the elements are introduced. Here’s how this looks:

The call-outs identify the added security elements. It’s probably not a good idea to add a lot of detailed specification information at this point. The layout of the slide also works as a static slide for your handout.

Next, I want to add animation to represent traffic on a busy network:

  • The “traffic” is represented by blue circles, traveling to/from various network points. The animation paths are visible in this grayed-out version of the slide:


  • Each animation consists of Appear, followed by a motion path drawn along the network links. Auto Reverse is selected on each path as way to easily add activity. The last step is Disappear.
  • The sequence and timing is set up so that there is some overlap (again, to increase the level of activity) and the duration is roughly adjusted to reflect the length of the path. Here’s the animation pane:


  • I created the first animation and duplicated it and edited the motion path to create the others. In a real world situation, you might want to add more traffic; I ran out of patience.

Next, demonstrate the operation of the security system:

This shows the “capture nodes” reporting to the analysis/storage system; at the end, a red flag indicates that something suspicious has occurred. In the real world, of course, this could be much more elaborate.

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

Powerpointy blog – network demo – animation

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.

Animated Icons in PowerPoint

its alive

Icons are simplified/stylistic images used in presentations to represent or amplify a concept. Acme Corp. presents its value proposition using animated icons:

I have pontificated about the value of using PowerPoint objects rather than downloaded clip art as icons in an earlier post. Briefly, you can get the precise image you need and the colors and style to match your branding/theme. Also, you can edit them and use them to build new objects.

Why would you want to animate icons? First, motion is a powerful tool for grabbing attention (the old predator-prey thing) and animation can elaborate the actual meaning of the icon. (See this post for more on rational PowerPoint animation.)

Before I show you some additional examples, here are a few guidelines:

  • Keep icons simple. They should be instantly recognizable but, since they are often relatively small, not detailed.
  • Search the internet for inspiration and image ideas. Search for the concept (“security icon”) rather than the object (“lock”) if you want to see other metaphors for the concept. Remember to keep it simple; you don’t need to try to reproduce images created by professional designers.
  • All of the icons shown in the post have been constructed using combinations of PowerPoint Autoshapes with only occasional use of PowerPoint drawing tools.
  • Use your branding/theme colors; occasionally an odd color may be used if it enhances the icon (like the stack of bills in the video above).
  • Use animation that amplifies the concept; think of verbs (locking, growing, etc.) and common visual metaphors (light bulb illuminating for idea, etc.).  However, keep the animation simple; don’t expect too much from PowerPoint.
  • Animate the object for only a short time immediately after it is introduced; repeated animation is distracting and doesn’t add anything. If you use the icon again (for example, to tie later material to the first appearance), don’t animate it.
  • I usually construct icons at a large scale and then reduce the size for the actual presentation. This means that point-measured components will cause problems when reduced (text, line widths, shadow parameters, etc.) . If you use these components, convert to png before reducing.
  • A motion path associated with an object will not scale when the object is resized.  Resize the icon before adding the motion path or edit the path after resizing.

Security Icon (Lock)

The lock icon with the closing hasp represents security as in the Acme presentation above.

The lock is constructed mostly of Autoshapes:


The slotted end of the hasp is constructed from a Rectangle, converted to a Freeform and point-edited.  You can also use the Shape Subtract tool in PowerPoint 2010.

Here’s the lock with the shapes filled (with brand colors, naturally). The elements of the hasp and the elements of the body form two Groups.


Although it’s not strictly necessary in this case, I’m going to show you a way to accurately set the end point of a motion path.  The idea is to duplicate the object, move the duplicate to the desired location, and set Drawing Guides to the center of the duplicate.  A motion path can then be defined and edited so that the endpoint is located at the center of the duplicate.  Here’s what the construction looks like for the lock (the duplicate is in red outline):


The complete animation includes the Fade In of the body and hasp, followed by the motion path. The Smooth End box is unchecked so that the hasp “snaps” into place. Here’s what the animation pane looks like:lock4

As I noted above, the motion path will not scale when the lock icon is resized.

Profit Icon (Stacking Bills)

A growing stack of currency represents profit or other financial gain (also in the Acme presentation).

The bill is constructed from Autoshapes:bill1

Next apply a 3d Rotation/Perspective Relaxed to the group and add a few points of depth to the outer rectangle. Adjust the Lighting angle to get the right color:


Since the dollar sign and the depth are measured in points, the bill will not scale well – convert the image to a png.

Now scale and stack the bills:bill3

The animation is Enter/Descend, bottom bill first:


You can convert this icon to represent to loss of cash by using Exit/Ascend animation, top bill first.

Productivity Icon (Gears)

There’s more than you want to know about animating gears in PowerPoint here.

Success/Accuracy Icon (Target and Arrow)

Here’s how this one looks:

The trick is to build the target in two pieces and animate the arrow so that it lands in front of one piece and behind the other.

The target half is constructed from standard Autoshapes (Block Arcs and Pies); duplicate the first half and rotate it to form the second half:


The arrow is similar (Chevron, Rectangle and Triangle):arrow

Group each half of the target and arrange them with the arrow like this; set the ordering so that the left half of the target is in front of the arrow and the arrow is in front of the right half:


Apply Enter/Fade and a motion path to complete the animation.  Use the technique discussed under the Security icon (above) to determine the end point of the motion path.

Data/Document Storage Icon (File Folder)

This icon is the usual file folder but animated with a document being stored in the folder:

The folder consists of the front and the back (not grouped) and the document is a Folded Corner shape with rectangles to suggest text lines:folder1

Here are the pieces with color:folder2

This is the animation path:folder3

The document is behind the front of the folder and in front of the back piece.  The animation path was created by selecting the Arc Up built-in motion path and then editing the points to the desired shape. A 90 degree Clockwise Spin occurs with the motion path.  Here’s what the animation pane looks like:folder4


This post has demonstrated four animated icons; I plan additional posts in this series.  If  you want a PowerPoint file containing the icons discussed in this post, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file:

PowerPointy blog – animated 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.

Drawing in PowerPoint – Clock Icons

Clocks can represent time, duration or urgency. This post shows how to draw various simple clock styles that are intended for use as icons, although more elaborate clocks can be drawn using these principles.

Why create your own icons in PowerPoint?  The primary reason is that these can be colored and modified in PowerPoint – see this post for more.

Clock Faces

Note: The constructions in this post (and several others in this series) uses the Grid Spacing/Snap to grid settings shown below:


I have found that this setting is convenient for locating and aligning objects; in this case, the numerals, clock hands and other parts of the clocks. The “snap” action can be overridden if needed by using the Alt (or sometimes Ctrl) key. Note that .042 in is 3 pts.

To draw the clock faces, set up Drawing Guides and draw a circle like this:


The center guides help locate the face, numerals and hands; the horizontal guides help locate the numerals.

Next, create a text box with the text “12” and locate it on the center guides as shown. The text box is sized so that the numeral appears near the top of the circle when the box is centered.

simple 1

The text has Center Top alignment, Wrap unchecked and Do not Autofit selected.

Duplicate the text box, change the text to “1,”  rotate 30 degrees using the Size and Position pane and re-center the box (red outlines have been added for clarity):

simple 2

Note how the size of the box assures that the box will rotate around the center of the face. (This technique was also used in my gears post).

Continue with the “2” and “3” boxes. For the “4” box, duplicate the “12” box, change the text to “4”, set the alignment to Bottom,  rotate -60 degrees and re-center:

simple 3

Continue this process to complete the clock face;

simple 4

Beginning with the “6” box, the boxes will overlay the previous boxes. Also, beginning with the “9” box, the Top alignment is used.

Here’s how this simple clock face looks with the outlines eliminated:

simple 5

Here’s a face with Roman numerals (Times New Roman font) constructed the same way; the “no wrap” setting helps here:

simple 6

Some clock faces have marks around the dial and may not have numerals at all; this kind of clock face is useful for icons. Start this face by constructing an object as shown below:


The  object (red outline added) consists of two filled rectangles inside a larger rectangle. The smaller rectangles are located using the horizontal guides, and, as before, the larger rectangle is centered on the circle.

Duplicate the object and rotate 30 degrees; re-center the object as shown below:

nonum 2

Continue duplicating, rotating and re-centering the object. You will need only 6 copies this time.

Here’s the result:

nonum 3

The numerals on some clock faces remain upright regardless of their position.  To make this kind of face, create a group with a text box within a box as shown below.  This allows the larger box and the text to be rotated independently:

simple u

Now, duplicate the group, change the numeral to “1”  and rotate +30 degrees. Then, select the inner text box and set its rotation back to zero degrees:

simple u 2

Continue the process to create this result:

simple u 3

Here’re a couple of other variations:

2 faces

Clock Hands

Clock hands can be created with combinations of simple objects.  Here’s a pointer style hour hand created from a circle and a triangle:


Group the hand with a circle (in red below); this facilitates “setting” and animating the clock hands  since the group will rotate around the desired center:

hand 2

Make a minute hand the same way but with a taller triangle; fill, eliminate the outlines and rotate the hands to get this result:

hand 3

A more traditional hour hand uses a circle and an elongated Diamond shape:

hand 4

This type of hand works well with the Roman numeral face.  Here’s the finished version:

hand 5

Here are a couple of examples using Rectangles and Rounded Rectangles:

hand 6


You can indicate an interval (e.g., 15 mins) by adding a Pie shape in a contrasting color:



You can use the Emphasis/Spin effect to animate the clock hands.  Here’s an example:

This animation uses these settings:


In this example, the hour hand spins (clockwise (!)) once (360 degrees) while the minute hand spins 12 times (12×360=4320 degrees) simultaneously in 5 seconds.

Several variations are possible. You can adjust the duration and number of spins as long as the 12 to 1 ratio is maintained.  You can Repeat Until Next Click, Repeat Until End of Slide or Repeat a fixed number of times. You can start the animation automatically, on a click, or on a “Trigger.” See this post for a technique that can be used to stop the clock.

Clock Variations

You can create a number of variations using these faces, hands and additional elements.  Here’s an example:


This version uses rectangular hands and a numberless face, recolored. A Donut shape with a gradient fill (Chrome II preset) forms the “case.”  An outer shadow was added to the case and an inner shadow to the face.

Here’s another variation using the same hands and face with 3d effects:


A Bevel has been added to the case along with a different fill color.  Shadows are used as before:

Add Depth to the case and apply a Rotation to get this image:


You can also apply some of the 3d techniques discussed in the alphabet blocks post.

Here are some additional variations:


There are other kinds of clocks, too:


When you shrink these objects for use as icons, convert the clockface to png (Copy/Paste Special) before shrinking (don’t delete the original object).  If you shrink the original object, the number characters will retain their size.

For smaller icons, the numberless faces and simple hands are best.

You may also be interested in my post on animating various kinds of meters and gauges.

If you would like a free copy of the PowerPoint file containing these objects, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy Blog – Clock Icons

See this page for more on downloading files.

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


Drawing and Animating Gears in PowerPoint

Meshing gears are a useful metaphor for an activity or a process and can be used as an icon for thought, intelligence or expertise. Rather than search for gears clip art, you can create gears as PowerPoint objects and animate them for more impact. (Why bother? See this post.)

If you want a copy of the PowerPoint files associated with this post, see the end of this post.

Since this post was written, I have added a couple more on animating gears: more gears and planetary gears.


This video demonstrates some gear “physics:”

It’s pretty easy to generalize the relationship between diameters, number of teeth and number of rotations, but if you’re intimidated by the algebra, here are  some combinations that will work:

gear table

Note added 8/2014: A reader sent me a gear animation with 8 (!) meshed gears that he used as part of a video introduction to his theater’s production of “Willie Wonka.” Kudos!

Drawing the Gears

Next, we’ll build the gears shown in the video. The design of real gear teeth is complicated and since we aren’t limited by reality, we’ll eyeball the tooth shape and size. Here’s the first step in adding the teeth; the blue lines are the center lines for the teeth:

teeth 1

Add some additional layout lines:

teeth 2

The outer circles (red) are 1/4 in larger than the original wheels; the inner Doughnut shapes are 1/4 in smaller  (these dimensions are fairly arbitrary). Also, the small gear-to-be has been rotated half a tooth.

Now, create a Trapezoid shape,  rotate and size it, and position it on the larger gear as shown below.  Rotate and position two duplicates of the shape on the smaller gear:

teeth 3

The teeth are centered on the blue index lines and are positioned flush with the outer circle and extend into the inner shape. The tooth shape and size is adjusted so that there is space between them for the meshing teeth (but not too much space). Don’t obsess with this; it doesn’t need to be perfect to look OK in the final result.

Next, duplicate the tooth on the large gear and rotate/position it on the opposite side of the gear. Group the two opposite teeth together:

teeth 4

Now, copy, rotate and position this group at the appropriate locations on the gears. Repeat the process for the small gear. Use guidelines and the default  Rotates and Flips to make this easier:

teeth 5

Now, delete the layout lines, group the gear parts and apply outline and fill colors:

gears 0

The smaller gear can be moved to engage the larger gear at a different point:

gears 2

You can create a three-gear train using the parameters in the table above:

gears 3

Variations are possible; these  use “3D” format and gradient fills:

gears 4

And, you can apply “3D” rotation:

gears 5

PLEASE NOTE: there are issues with animating these variations – see below.

You can combine the gears with other shapes; here’s my favorite icon for “expertise:”

gear head

Animating the Gears

Apply animation as shown below (click on picture to enlarge):

gears 1

The Spin animation is applied to both gears. The larger gear rotates 360 degrees (1 rotation) clockwise. I have selected Very Slow (5 sec duration); slower speeds seem to look better. The smaller gear rotates With the larger gear – 720 degrees (2 rotations) in the counterclockwise direction at the same speed.

This video shows the result and includes a 3-gear animation based on the table (the smallest gear rotates once at a Very Slow speed):

To rotate the gears continually, apply the Repeat Until Click or Repeat Until Next Slide option (in the Effect Options pane). There are some problems with this – see below.

Some Issues

Spinning gears with gradient fills or “3D” effects are not, strictly speaking, realistic since the shadows and highlights spin with the gears. And, clearing the Rotate with Shape option doesn’t help (a different kind of rotation). You can ignore this particular nit with little danger.  On the other hand, spinning an object with “3D” Rotation might make you ill; this video demonstrates these issues:

I suggested above that you can use the animation Repeat option to continue an animation. Unfortunately, this option resets the spinning object’s position each time it repeats.  For some simple gears, this is not a problem. For gears with asymmetric features, this restart will be noticeable; this video demonstrates:

You can work around these problems by using simpler symmetric gears or by increasing the number of rotations for each gear (preserving the ratios) until each gear rotates one or more full rotations. By the way, the Smooth Start/End options will cause a problem here.

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

PowerPointy blog – drawing and animating gears

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. Liking or following this blog might be a good idea if you think I should keep doing this.


Creating Animated “Meters” in PowerPoint (Updated with Videos)

A meter (a thermometer or speedometer, for example) can be a metaphor for indicating change.  Meters in presentations can show a change resulting from an action.  For example, this slide shows how employee performance can change customer satisfaction:

One advantage of a meter is that it can indicate qualitative change in a definite way.  Of course, if you have the numbers, the meter can show that too.

This post will show you how to construct a meter and animate it. The slide above is the result we want; each time a bullet appears, we want the meter to swing towards positive (three steps).

If you want to see how the satisfaction meter is constructed and animated along with some other examples of meters, see the end of this post and download a “source file.”

Here are the parts of the meter: a rounded rectangle for the “case,” a block arc for the window, and two circles for the range markers.

Use guidelines to align the meter parts.  Also, the block arc should be circular (equal height and width).  Use the shift key while creating or adjusting the block arc to keep it proportioned correctly.  Use the Format/Size pane to adjust the height and width if needed.

Now for the moving part – the needle.  Here we use a trick to set the center point for a rotating object: group the object with an invisible circle whose center point is the desired point of rotation.

The green circle and triangle below form the “needle group.” Again, use the guidelines to position the needle group at the center of the block arc.

I intentionally positioned the needle in the center position to make the next step easier: measuring the desired “swing” of the needle.  To do this, select the green handle and rotate the needle group (eyeball it) to the rightmost position.  Look at the Size and Position pane to determine the size of the rotation; in this case it requires a rotation of 54° to swing the needle group from the center position to the rightmost position.  So, the total swing is 2×54=108° (click on the picture for a larger version).

What’s the point of measuring the swing? Since we want the swing to happen in three steps, we now know that each step is 108/3=36°.

Here’s how to animate the meter: using the Size and Position panel, rotate the needle group by -54° – this is the starting position. Now apply animation to the group:  Spin Clockwise, 36°, On Click, Very Fast.  Use SlideShow mode to check the result.

Now, add two more steps (each animation will rotate the needle group from its last position so each Spin is 36°):

Now that you’ve got the mechanism working, make the meter more presentable. First, make the circle in the needle group invisible by setting Line Color to No line. Then, fill the needle (red) and the case (gray gradient)

Fill the window with white. Create text boxes for the minus and plus and group with the corresponding circle (the minus is 40 pts, the plus is 32 pts):

If you want, add 3D effects to give the meter more dimensionality:

For this effect, apply the Cross 3D bevel to the case,  the Soft Curve 3D bevel to the window and the Angle 3D bevel to the needle.

Now build the slide and sequence the animation (click on the picture for a larger version):

Each bullet starts On Click and the meter animation (Spin) Follows Previous (occurs immediately after the bullet).

Here are some other meter types:

Notes on these meters:

  • You can use red, yellow and green to indicate improvement.
  • Recalculate the swing to add more steps like the 4-step meter shown.
  • Use text on the meter face (percentages, etc.) to indicate the steps.
  • The slider types use a Motion Path for animation; you can use a three-color linear gradient for a multi-step slider .
  • The big dial versions provide more space to label the meter.
  • The thermometer uses several segments of color and Wipe from Bottom animation.
  • Use a semitransparent gray overlay (circles) to dim the bulbs in the light bar – Fade in or out to light and dim the bulbs.
  • You may want to use a “cable” to connect your meter to a text box or other object.

If you want to see how the  meters  are  constructed and animated or if you want to adapt them to your presentation,use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file containing these objects:

Powerpointy blog – animated meters

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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