Posts Tagged 'expressions'

Drawing in PowerPoint: Emoji


Emoticons and emoji were invented to add emotional context to emails, texts, social media posts, etc. Initially, emoticons created from characters like ” :-)” were used to assure that emails were not misinterpreted. Later, emoji (stylized faces based on the “smiley face” and other symbols) were introduced to provide a clearer indication and a wider range of emotional clues.

I have written several posts on introducing characters and emotional context to PowerPoint presentations. I’ve shown you how to create expressions and personalities using simple cartoon-like figures. And I’ve used similar techniques based on Lego toy figures. In this post, I’ll show you how to add emotional context with emoji created with standard PowerPoint shapes.

But wait! You can find millions of emoji on the web; why would you want to create your own? There are several reasons:

  • You may not be able to find precisely what you need on the web; for example, maybe you need a sad doctor.
  • You can create a set of emoji with a consistent appearance and style.
  • Since the emoji are PowerPoint objects, you can modify them to create new versions.

Of course, these points may not be important in your application; go ahead and use web images to punch up your presentation – I won’t tell anyone.

I have used standard PowerPoint shapes, to create these objects; occasionally, I use Merge Shapes to combine standard shapes to create new ones. This method avoids drawing and editing Freeform shapes because some readers may not be comfortable with “hand drawing.”

Some emoji drawings have a dimensional look; I think this is partly because the smiley face was used as a pin-on button early in its career. This can be done in PowerPoint; here are examples comparing the flat look with the “button” look, both created in PowerPoint:


You could use 3D Bevels, Materials and Lighting to get the button look. You could also work with Gradient Fills to create shadows and highlights. However, I don’t recommend it. You will find it much simpler to stay with the flat look, especially as I will add additional features to the basic face.

turdI have written dozens of posts on 3D drawing (search this blog for “3D”) and have often complained about the inconsistencies and issues with PowerPoint 3D tools.

Here’s how the basic “happy” emoji is constructed:


The face is a circle, the eyes are Ovals. The mouth outline is a Moon shape, rotated. The teeth shape is made by applying Merge Shape/Intersect to a copy of the mouth outline and an Oval as shown. Fill and outline colors are added to create the final emoji.

Here are a few basic tips:

  • Set Grid Spacing to 1/10 (or whatever you like) and set Snap to Grid. This will help in drawing and aligning the shapes.
  • You can override the Snap when needed by holding down the Alt key.
  • Create a circle using the Oval shape and holding down the Shift key.
  • Use Drawing Guides to help align and center shapes. The Alignment tools will also help – here’s an example showing how Guides are used to center the parts of the face:


  • I aligned the eyes and Grouped them (see above); then, I centered the Group to help space the eyes.
  •  Use Rotate and Flip tools to get accurate rotations (rather than free rotating using the handle). The Moon shape is rotated 90 degrees to form the mouth.
  • I used the Eyedropper fill tool to copy the “yellow” face color from a web image.
  • For convenience, I Grouped the elements of the face to form a single object.
  • You will probably need to resize your emoji; here are some tips:
    • Check the Lock aspect ratio  for the group in the Format Shape/Size pane. This will assure that you will not distort the emoji when you resize it.
    • Be aware that elements measured in points (lines, text) do not resize along with the shapes. One way to preserve the proportions of the object is to Copy and Save Special as a picture. The PNG type is best since it does not have an opaque background. More on this here.

Here are three “happy” variations using different shapes for the features:


Version A replaces the Oval eyes with rotated Moon shapes. The mouth shape is Filled with white to provide the additional teeth. Rotated Chevron shapes form the eyes in version B and a Teardrop shape is added. In Version C, the eyes are Moons and the Moon shape forming the mouth is adjusted (flattened) using the adjustment handle.

Adding eyebrows adds expressiveness; here are some examples using the same face with different eyebrows:


The faces suggest sadness, anger, concern and another form of anger, all distinguished by differently oriented eyebrow shapes.

Here are a few more expressions using different mouth shapes:


These are some more intense versions:


The teeth shape in the second version is made by intersecting two Moon shapes. To make the eyes, group the eye and the eyebrow, duplicate and flip horizontally, align and group the two eyes.

Traditional comic artists have developed a vocabulary of symbols that you can use to intensify emotional impact:


The “steam” line is created by intersecting two Double Wave shapes. For more examples including idea light bulbs and speech balloons, see my post on character expressions.

You may want to create individual emoji characters to tell your story. One way to do this is by occupation.

Some occupations can be signaled by head gear:


The “headband” shape is made from a Rectangle and two Ovals; one Oval is Unioned with the Rectangle and the other is Subtracted. This shape is used for the police officer, the scholar and the chef along with other standard shapes as shown.

NOTE: Shapes must be sized and positioned carefully to get good results from Merge Shape operations. Use Drawing Guides and Snap to Grid to help here. Sometimes the order in which the shapes are selected before the operation is important. For example, the second object selected is Subtracted from the first.

A suggestion of clothing and “accessories” can help identify occupations:


The added parts are made from standard shapes as shown. The wrench head is made by Subtracting a rotated Hexagon from a circle. The pitchfork is made from a Block Arc and Rectangles. Notice that the farmer’s hat is behind the head.

Here are some more elaborate examples:


Rounded Rectangles form the fingers of the computer user. The teacher’s glasses are made from rotated Trapezoids and a Line. An Intersection of a Triangle and a Trapezoid form part of the collar and tie group; adding the triangle and Trapezoid complete the neck wear for the teacher and the doctor.

The doctor’s iconic stethoscope is made from Block Arcs and Rectangles. By using another face, I made the doctor worried.

These emoji are gender/ethnicity/age neutral and that’s a good thing since they have universal meanings. If you really need some diversity, hair shapes and color can help:


Use skin and hair color and/or facial hair for more variety; see this post for ideas.

Some emoji are not faces; here’s an example:


This thumbs-up/ok/like symbol is made from standard shapes as shown:

Here’s a favorite of mine:


A shape formed from the Union of two Ovals and a Block Arc is used twice in the result. The top part is a union of an Oval and a Teardrop. An Oval completes the composition.

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 – Emoji

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 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.
  • The real 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, simply 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:


The head of the wrench is a Hexagon subtracted from an Oval.

It will make things easier if you use only simple 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:

lgo16If 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 u

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.


PowerPoint People – Expressions, etc.

This series has been about creating characters to illustrate our marketing, sales and teaching stories. In the first post, I showed you how simple figures can be constructed and “posed” to represent a surprising range of situations. The second post added costumes and other features to create individual characters. This post will show you how simple facial features and other tricks can put your characters in recognizable emotional situations.

Here’s Mike with his face:


The brows, nose, mouth and profile ear are Arcs; the eyes are Ovals and the front view ears are Rounded Rectangles. The hair is a union of Chord shapes (shown in red). The shapes are changed in some of the expressions (later).

Following the theme of this series, I have kept the face very simple. Yet, as you will see, a surprising range of expressions can be created with these simple elements.

I could have drawn the eyes as white-filled ovals with a “dot.”  Although this would offer additional expressiveness, I decided to keep it simple. You may want to experiment with the eyes.

Here’s Millie:


This are the same elements as in Mike’s face except the nose is a little smaller. The front view hair is a series of Ovals; the side view hair is three Chords.

You may not like the way that the brows collide with the hair. This is not unusual in comics; the brows may leave the face entirely. You can fix this if you want to by re-designing the hair.

You can search the internet (cartoon/comics faces/expressions) to find examples and various styles of faces registering emotions. Use these for tips and inspiration.

In our case, expressions are formed by simply manipulating the brows, eyes and mouth. Here’s Mike with a range of expressions from smile, to grin, to laughter:


The smile is the original face. The grin opens the mouth and raises the brows. The laughing face is created mostly by the brows and eyes (angled lines) although the mouth is more open. In general, more intense expressions use the brows and eyes in a similar way. The side view mouths are Intersections of an Oval and a Chord.


Additional facial features (“frown lines,” forehead wrinkles and such) can be used. For simplicity, I’ve not used these but you may want to experiment with them.

Here are examples of sadness:


The first sad expression modifies the brows to extend down the side of the face (I don’t know why this works) and the downturned mouth. The brows and closed eyes along with a more downturned mouth create a sense of despair.

Here’s Millie in two stages of surprise:


Raised brows and the rounded mouth provide a surprised look. The bigger mouth and straight angled brows create a more concerned expression

Here’s a couple of angry expressions; the compressed eyes and squarish open mouth transform irritation into fury:


Here, mismatched elements signal confusion while angry eyes and a wide grin create a vengeful expression. Mike’s mouth and Millie’s eyebrows are two Arcs:


Over the years, comic strip artists (a vanishing breed) developed a vocabulary of symbols representing emotional states and other aspects. In 1980, cartoonist Mort Walker cataloged (and whimsically named) these objects (“symbolia”) in The Lexicon of Comicana. Remarkably, these symbols are almost universally understood and can be used to signal or emphasize emotions. Here’re some examples:


Sweat droplets (“plewds”- Teardrop shape) indicate effort or stress. The wavy line (“indotherm”) suggests heat or anger. The light bulb (with “emenata”) represents an idea and the starry objects (“squeans”) show intoxication.

The wavy line is made using the Curve tool – drag and click along a zigzag path (shown in blue) to create the line. The light bulb is a Union of shapes as shown.

Comic artists also use symbolic content in speech balloons:


The question mark indicates confusion or uncertainty. The thought balloon can show a character’s preoccupation, in this case, with money. The typographical symbols (“grawlixes”) represent profanity. The balloons are built-in PowerPoint shapes (Callouts). The font is, of course, Comic Sans.

The payoff for all of this is to combine poses, facial expressions and “symbolia” to create characters actively participating in our stories; here are two examples:


This running figure includes horizontal lines indicating speed (“hites”); the construction worker includes “swalloops:”


Facial hair, glasses and earrings provide a little more diversity. Components are shown in red; the blue Oval is Subtracted to help form the young woman’s hair:


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

Powerpointy blog – PowerPoint People – Expressions u

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.

Follow powerpointy on