Posts Tagged 'characters'

PowerPoint People – 3D Robots


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

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

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

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

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

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


Here are some notes:

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

The next step is adding the limbs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Here’s how the walking robot is constructed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Powerpointy Blog – 3d Robots

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, please like or follow this blog.

PowerPoint People – Toy Figures


You can create a cast of characters and develop relationships, conflict, cooperation, affection, competition, solutions, etc., and sell your story! For example, you can show scenarios with an office staff – the boss, an admin, a tech, sales guy, etc. Or you can show doctors, nurses, patients, technicians, etc., working in a hospital setting.

I provided some tips on creating cartoon-style people in a previous series:

You may want to review these earlier posts to learn some of the details. This post will use some of the same ideas to create simpler characters inspired by Lego figures.

If you have copyright concerns using these figures in your work, seek legal advice.

Here is my version of the basic figure, created in outlines, using standard PowerPoint shapes:


Here are some notes:

  • As you might expect, you can find millions of images of these figures on the web; not only are they collectable but some people enjoy customizing their own versions. My version was inspired by  3-view patent drawings found on the web.
  • I set Snap to Grid and picked a grid spacing that makes it easy to draw and align the shapes.
  • As I did in the previous “people” posts; I added circles (yellow) to some of the parts groups to make them easier to rotate. The circles are made invisible (no line color) in the final figures.
  • The toy figures are quite rigid (no elbows, knees or body flexibility); my versions have elbows and I will allow some “bending” of the neck and body to get more freedom in posing the figures.
  • In contrast to the cartoon-style figures I developed in the earlier posts, there is no distinction in overall body shape or size between males and females and body shape (slim, fat, etc.) can’t be used to distinguish characters. Of course, if you need children for your project, make them smaller.
  • The “hand” is a Donut (red) with two subtracted Rectangles (green); here’s the process:


To give you an idea of the possibilities, here are some front view poses:


Notice that a couple of the figures are bent at the neck and the body; this is not possible on the “real” figures. And the real figures don’t have working elbows.

Here are some side-view poses:


Conventionally, the faces are relatively simple but allow some expressiveness; here are some examples (using standard shapes):


Here are some notes:

  • I’m using the conventional yellow skin tone (except when I want an ethnic appearance). You  may choose another color for “white” characters but the yellow adds to the authenticity.
  • Faces are conventionally created with black lines (with some exceptions).
  • The top row uses a solid circle for eyes; the second uses an oval eye with a highlight. Both kinds of eyes showed up in my research; the non-highlighted version may be a feature of earlier figures.
  • The second row also adds eyebrows – these are essential for creating a variety of expressions.

Because the faces are relatively flat, and there are no ears, the side views are limited:


You may want to “fix” this; I have chosen to keep this characteristic and not struggle with putting too much detail in the side views.

Here are some more faces and expressions:


The last row includes some comic book conventions (sweat drops, “steam” line, thought bubble). See my post on expressions for more on this.

Identifying individual characters in your story involves hair, costume and maybe a prop or two. Here are some hair styles created with standard shapes:


The first style is created by Subtracting a Rectangle from an Oval. The others use rotated and overlapping shapes. Here are some profiles:


Costumes distinguish characters and sometimes specify their roles. Here’s a “guy:”


Costumes are created by adding fill color to the body parts and adding additional shapes (the cap, for example). Here’s a business man:


The shirt and tie are a couple of Triangles and a Diamond. Here’s the businesswoman:


The scarf is two Wave shapes and the skirt front view is a Rectangle.

Poses and props can help define a character and a situation; here’s the girls’ gym teacher:


Here, the tool helps identify the worker and the club and pose identify the golfer:


It will simplify things if you use only three views of the hands:


The first examples show a hand grasping a gray cylinder. The second group features a hammer. The third group shows the hand grasping a flat, thick object.

Uniforms can specify the character’s role; here’s a police officer:


If you want to create figures like these; a free PowerPoint file is available to help you learn these techniques; use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download the “source” .pptx  file containing these objects:

Powerpointy blog – toy figures

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 encourage me to keep doing this. Or not.


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