Posts Tagged 'graphics'

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.

Building Your Story – Using Construction Equipment


In the last post, I showed you how to “build” elements of your presentation to help capture the audience’s attention and to increase comprehension.  A couple of the examples in that post used devices (a car and a UFO) to deliver an object to the slide. This post extends this idea by using construction equipment to “build” your story.

Here’s an example:

Here an earth mover pushes a substantial block labeled “integrity” into place, presumably to form the foundation of your company’s value proposition. Additional animations might introduce other layers or components.

As I have done before, I used standard PowerPoint shapes and a clipart image from the web to create the machine:


I pasted the clip art image onto a slide and overlaid several standard shapes (Rectangles, Rounded Rectangles, Triangles, Ovals, etc.) to create a simplified version of the machine. I lightened the image for better contrast and used different line colors to help keep track of the component shapes.

I developed this technique to make original graphics easier for users who are not artists or who are not skilled with other drawing techniques. You’re welcome.

I also occasionally use Merge Shape tools to create new shapes. For example, the knobby tire outline is a 32-pt Star (red in the diagram above) with the points cut off by Subtracting a Donut shape (blue).

Here’s the earth mover with color added:


The machine consists of four Groups: the body, the two wheels and the blade assembly. The blade assembly is in front of the wheel. Each of these is animated separately.

The foundation block (the “load”) is a Rectangle containing centered text in an impressive font:


The Rectangle is filled (Picture or Texture Fill) with a marble texture. I added a 3D Format/Front Bevel/Cross for the edge treatment. An Angle bevel and gold fill completes the text. (If you need more help with bevels, etc., there are tutorials available on the web. is a consistently good source for tutorials.)

Here’s the layout for the animation showing the starting and ending points for the animation steps (click on the picture to enlarge it):


  • Like a mystery writer, I started at the end by placing the load at the center of the slide.
  • I placed the machine elements next to the load.
  • I created a ruler with units equal to one quarter of the circumference of the wheels. The circumference is about 3.14 times the diameter (remember?). I set the ruler at the front wheel’s center and extended it left to a point where the machine and load are off the slide to the left. This establishes the starting points for the elements.

A distance increment of 1/4 the circumference is equivalent to a 90 degree rotation of the wheel. Using this increment simply makes it easy to calculate the Spin animation for the wheels.

In creating the animation, I used the Animation Painter to minimize the number of times I had to create identical effects on different objects – the parts of the machine are separate but move together. This may become clearer below.

The Animation Painter is a tool that allows you to copy the animation effects of one object to a second object. However, the tool has a couple of properties that make it less than perfect:

  • The tool applies to objects rather than effects. That is, you can’t select individual effects and copy them.
  • The tool replaces all the animations of the second object rather than adds to them.

Here’s the first step in animating the earth mover and the load:


This is a Motion path/Line/Right effect. I accepted the default Smooth Stop/Start settings for the motion path (more about this later). Next, I edited the default motion path to set the end point at the load “target” location (the red rectangle).

To edit a Line motion path, select the path and move the start and end points (red and green dots). To preserve the orientation of a Right/Left/Up/Down path, hold down Shift while moving the point.

Using the Animation Painter, I copied the motion path to the earth mover body. Here’s the result:


Since the motion paths are identical, the two objects will move together and end up in the same relative position. This is much easier than drawing the path for the body by hand.

Next, I added the path that causes the body to return to its original position. This a Line/Left path with the end points edited. In particular, the starting point is moved to the end point of the first “entry” motion path and the end point to the start of the first path – here’s what this looks like:


The begin/end points of motion paths will “snap” to other motion path points. In this case, this is convenient since I want the paths connected. In some cases, the “snap” is a nuisance.

The two motion paths are now copied to the blade and the wheels. Here’s the result:


During these steps, you will have to re-order the effects in the Animation Pane to get the right result. Here’s the Animation Pane at this stage:


The first group of effects move all the parts to their first positions and the second group moves the parts back to the left, except for the “load” which is left in the center of the slide. All these parts move together exactly since they have identical motion paths.

Notice that the objects have meaningful names rather than the arbitrary default names assigned by PowerPoint. You can rename objects in the Selection Pane. This is extremely helpful for animations like this (and for providing examples for blogs).

The next task is to apply rotations to the wheels. I applied 720 degrees (2 rotations) Clockwise Spin to the front wheel; this corresponds to the distance traveled as the machine moves into the slide. I also added 720º Counterclockwise Spin to the front wheel corresponding to the exit of the machine.

A couple of notes about the Spin animation: first, the Effects Option Pane has an Amount pulldown where you can set the amount and direction of the Spin. In my example, 720º (Tw0 Spins) happens to be one of the pre-set options:


If you want to set a value that is not one of the pre-sets, you can enter it in the Custom field. You must hit Enter after the value in order for the amount to “take.” This is unusual behavior.

Second, the Spin options include Smooth Start/End like a motion path. However, the default Spin does not include these options. So, in my example, I synchronized the rotation and the wheel travel and by setting the Smooth options to match the motion path. If you use motion paths With other effects, the Smooth options will likely not be available.

The final step is to apply the Spins to the rear wheel (using the Animation Painter) and arrange the order in the Animation Pane:


Notice that the order of steps in this process is not arbitrary – it is meant to allow you to use the Animation Painter to avoid having to enter each of the effects separately. In addition, using the Animation Painter to copy motion paths is useful when a group of objects must move together (that is, in a fixed relative position). Doing this “by hand” can be a little fiddly. So, the Animation Painter is not so bad after all.

I have gone into some detail in this post so I’ll have to include some more construction examples in my next post. As usual, if you would like a free PowerPoint file use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” file containing these projects:

Powerpointy blog – construction equipment

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 3D – Cars


This is another in a series of posts about creating “3D” (isometric) vehicles in PowerPoint. The previous posts are here and here; you may want to review them.

I have shown you how to draw some “boxy” vehicles. But, creating accurate versions of contemporary automobiles with their sculptural features and curved lines is simply not practical in PowerPoint. So, if the examples here don’t work for you, you may find acceptable clipart on the web. Or you use different graphics software.

Here’s a “crossover” vehicle that will give you an idea of  my approach:


Here’s an exploded version:


I made flat drawings of most of the surfaces using groups of standard shapes (Triangles, Rectangles, etc.). Then I applied 3D rotations and carefully positioned them to form the car. Surfaces that are not parallel to one of the three axes are drawn as Freeform shapes (outlined in yellow above). Some of the elements are used for alignment purposes and not part of the final drawing (red outlined elements). I used 3D Format/Depth to add, well, depth to the wheels, wheel wells, and the outer “style” element on the side.

One of the more challenging aspects of this technique is getting the colors right. For example, I would like the top surfaces to be lighter in color than the sides (as if the car were lit from the top) but not a different shade of blue.

Here’s why this is so complicated; there are four different factors that interact to determine the color of a rotated 3D object:

  • Fill (and outline) color – obviously, if your object is red, it should remain red when rotated. However, the precise shade of red will be different.
  • Lighting angle – The color will vary when you change this value; presumably this represents a the effect of a light source from different angles but I have not been able to deconstruct the algorithm here. I recommend trial and error.
  • Material – this choice affects the result of the light on the surface. Since you can’t turn the damned light off, you have to make a choice here. I recommend Matte (not the default); it seems to be the simplest.
  • Depth color – If  you use Depth, a default color will be applied; I usually change the color.

Here’s how I started the crossover vehicle:


This “3-view” (side, front, top) was inspired by a couple of photos on the web; one of the photos was a profile. You can also find complete 3-view drawings of automobiles.

Trace the elements of the profile using Rectangles,Triangles and other standard shapes. Don’t try to capture all the detail. Then, using Drawing Guides to align the parts, create the front and top views. I have used Merge Shapes operations (like Union) to eliminate some of the lines. I used different outline colors to distinguish the major parts.

The Merge Shapes operations are very unforgiving; you will often get unwanted bits of outlines in a Union, for example. This is not a big problem here since the outlines will be eliminated.  In other cases, you may have to resort to Edit Points to simplify the resulting shapes.

Here are the parts of the crossover with details and color added:


The red rectangle and the green line on the body are used to align the mirrors in the assembled view.

Here’s how I started the assembly for the crossover vehicle:


A part of the top view (“plan”) is used for alignment (I used the Parallel/Off-Axis 1 preset rotations for this example). The gray rectangles are rotated and aligned to form the back of the two visible wheel wells.

Here’s the next step:


The rotated side view is aligned with the appropriate line (blue) and the wheel well outline (red) on the plan.  Next, I added Depth to the body and the wheels; the depth color for the body is gray, not the default blue:


Notice that the depth for the body appears at the top as well as the wheel openings; fret not – this will be covered by other elements.

The next step adds the side detail (abbreviated fenders/wings) aligned with the outer line on the plan. I also added Depth to the side detail:


Next, I added the front and top (with the cargo rails):


I added a couple of rectangles to the top to help align the cargo rails.

Finally, I drew the missing surfaces as Freeforms (the two surfaces of the hood/bonnet and the gray surface under the grill). I also added, aligned and added a Bevel to the visible mirror:

car10I temporarily added a profile to the hidden side of the car to help provide reference points for the hand-drawn Freeforms. Here are some additional notes:

  • In actual vehicles, the sides of the top (where the side windows are) are slanted inwards. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I choose not to reproduce that feature since it makes it more difficult to add windows and other details in this area.
  • You can create a variety of acceptable wheels using Ovals, Donuts and various Stars; here’s how the wheels for the crossover are constructed:


  • The cargo rails are made from two Rounded Rectangles using Merge Shape/Subtract functions; here’s the process:


  • I did not detail the steps I used to adjust the colors in this example; see above for the considerations involved.
  • I usually have to go through the construction process a few times to get the alignments and layering right. It’s a good idea to do this before you add color and details.

The next example is a more traditional sedan; this one is inspired by a Cadillac:


Here’s the exploded view:


I used Isometric rotations for this example.

The wheel openings on this kind of vehicle are smaller than on the crossover; the back of the wheel well isn’t needed.

The Cadillac is constructed like the crossover except that the side includes three layers: the outer trim that surrounds the wheel openings, the side of the body, and the inner surface representing the top of the passenger compartment. The side of the body is in two parts so that two different Edges can be used; the lower part’s Edge is the wheel well surface and the upper part provides the lighter “shoulder.” Here’s a simplified picture with red Edges that may make this clearer:


The final example is a “five door” automobile (inspired by a drawing of a Kia):

car16Here’s the explosion – basically the same as the Cadillac construction:


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 – cars

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 3D – More Vehicles


This is another post in my series about using PowerPoint’s limited tools to construct “3D” objects. Here are some of the earlier posts that may be helpful:

In this post. I’ll try a few more complicated vehicles. The first is a tanker truck featuring more 3D detail than the earlier vehicle examples and using the 3D Depth option to create the tank component. Here is the “3-view” layout:


As usual, standard PowerPoint shapes are combined to create the views. Drawing Guides are used to align the parts in the views. I created the side and end views first; then I rotated a temporary copy of the end view 90 degrees to help complete the top view (see the basic house post).

As I suggested in the first post in the vehicle series, you can find 3-views for vehicles on the web for inspiration; this tank truck was inspired by commercial isometric clip art.

The method involves selecting parts of the views, applying the appropriate Format Shape/3D Rotation/Preset and assembling the results to complete the drawing. Here’s how this goes for the cab of the tank truck:


I used the Isometric preset rotations for the tank truck. The windshield (outlined in yellow) is a Freeform drawn over the isometric view; I have found this to be the simplest way to create surfaces that are not parallel to one of the three axes.

Here’s what the cab looks like with color fills and details. The details, like the grille and lights, are simple shapes grouped with the  surfaces before rotating:


I added a color outline to the windshield Freeform; this requires adjusting the Freeform (Edit Points) to refit the shape since the dimensions include the outline. The colors are adjusted (top surfaces are lighter) to emphasize the dimensionality. I also added Depth to the “tires.”

To build the rear part of the truck, I started with a top view and added wheels and the visible surfaces of the undercarriage parts:


Next, I added the edges of the platform and the tank end and rectangles to help align the tank:


I added the platform top and color and added Depth to the oval to form the tank. The black rectangle helps determine the extent of the tank. I also added Depth to the tires as before:


To join the two parts of the tank truck, I temporarily added parts of the front view (red) to the back of the cab. Then the two parts are aligned and the object used for alignment deleted:


The next example is a school bus; I used Depth to make the rounded part of the roof and the wheel wells. Here are the views:


The outer circles around the wheels will define the wheel openings. The front view shows the rounded parts of the roof (a Pie).

I combined the two rectangles at the bottom of the side view using Merge Shapes/Union. I then Subtracted the larger circles to create the wheel openings.

Here’s a trial assembly (Off Axis 2 presets) showing how the Depth is applied to the roof and the wheel openings.


I added color and details for this result:


I experimented with color, Material and Lighting Angle to get the color of the rounded part of the top; as you can see, it is not perfect. That’s one of the tradeoffs in using Depth.

The close-ups below show the appearance of the wheel area without and with the Depth. The front-to-back order of the elements is important in hiding the Depth in areas other than the wheel wells.


Here are two views of a pickup truck derived from an image I found on the web:


The truck features large wheel openings; I created these in my model using Trapezoids and Subtract as before. Notice that I ignored the the slanting sides of the cab; this is a helpful simplification that I will also use in my upcoming post on 3D cars.

Here’s a view of the rotated parts:


The Trapezoids aligned with the top view are used as the back wall of the wheel well. The green line on the side view is used to align the mirrors.

Here’s the assembled model showing how the Depth is used to complete the wheel wells:


Here’s the finished model; the truck bed is a Rectangle,  rotated with a Top Bevel (Slope) applied (see this post for details on Bevels). I fiddled with the Bevel Width and Depth to get the appearance I wanted:


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 – More vehicles

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 3D – Simple Vehicles


This is another in a series of posts about drawing  “3D” objects using  the limited tools available in PowerPoint. The recent posts are: 3D buildings3D house basics, and 3D houses. There are a couple of earlier posts about 3D: a tower icon and network demo – icons.  In this post, I’ll create some simple vehicles.

You should review some of these posts if you have trouble with the technique; here are some brief notes about my approach:

  • I use the “parallel” (not perspective) 3D options; this is simpler and is acceptable in many situations.
  • 3-view drawings are used to create object surfaces that are then rotated  in 3D (using rotation Presets) and assembled to form the object.
  • Surfaces that are neither vertical or horizontal (“oblique”) are created by drawing the outline directly (a Freeform). There are a couple of other ways to do this but I use this method for simplicity.

Accurately drawing vehicles with their complex sculptural shapes is not practical with the available PowerPoint tools. I’ll start in this post with some “boxy” vehicles and attempt more complicated drawings in later posts.  In any case, these kinds of drawings may not meet your needs.

The first example is simple and “boxy:”


The 3-view shows the side, front and top of the vehicle (see the simple house post for details on creating the 3-view); I used Drawing Guides to align the parts of the vehicle. The views are created using standard PowerPoint shapes (Rectangles, Ovals and Trapezoids).

Briefly, here’s how to create the top view: make a copy of the front view and rotate it 90 degrees. Use the rotated view and the side view to create the top view. Here’s a schematic:


The 3D view of the vehicle shows how the rotated elements are assembled. I used the Isometric 3D rotation presets.

The windshield is an example of an oblique surface that is created as a Freeform (yellow).

Briefly, here’s how to draw the windshield: assemble enough parts to define the corners of the desired shape. Select the Freeform tool and click on the four corners, double clicking the last one. If you want to adjust the shape, right click on the shape and select Edit Points. Use the cursor to select and move the points. If PowerPoint decides to curve one of the line segments, right click on the segment and select Straight Segment. Reference to other tutorials and practice will help.

Here’s the vehicle with color fills:


Color differences help with the dimensional look. Top surfaces are lighter; vertical surfaces are darker. In this example, the light is supposed to come from the top right. Use fill colors and 3D Format/Lighting Angle. By the way, this would be easier if I could turn the Lighting off.

I added 3D Format/Depth to the “tire” (black filled outer circle of the wheel only) to complete the drawing. Selecting the circle may be a little difficult; using the Selection pane may help.

Here’s a more complicated “boxy” example:


Again, the windshield is a Freeform (yellow). Here’s the truck with color and signage:


In the post on drawing houses, I suggested that you find 3-views/elevations of houses on the web to use as guides for drawing. You can also find 3-views of vehicles; I used one to create these views of a city bus:


The bus image has been faded so that the outlines show up better. Again, standard Shapes have been used to “trace” the image. If you are confident with Freeforms, you can use them for some of the outline parts. The top view is created from the side and front view as explained above.

Here’s a note that may help when sizing or positioning shapes with acute angles. Here are two identical triangles:


The top triangle has the Line property Join Type set to Miter (the default); the bottom triangle has the property set to Bevel (the line is heavy to clarify the difference). As you can see the Miter triangle looks larger than it actually is due to the treatment of the acute angle. The Bevel property makes it easier to align triangles. Of course, there is no difference in the triangles when the outline is removed.

Here are the three view of the bus with color and details added:


The red rectangle in the front view is used to align the rear-view mirror in the 3D construction. I started by copying, rotating and aligning the side, top and part of the front (the grill/bumper assembly). I used the Off Axis 1 rotation presents for the bus.

Then I copied, grouped and rotated the red rectangle and left mirror. I aligned the rectangle in the mirror group with the front edge of the side view and added some depth to the mirror; here’s a picture:


To eliminate the red rectangle, click on it an set the Line Color to No Line; deleting it will throw the mirror out of place.

I temporarily added a version of the side view to provide reference points for drawing the two parts of the windshield (yellow):


Here’s the final result. I added an outline to the windshield; this necessitates resizing the freeforms slightly (using Edit Points) since the outline adds to the dimensions of the object. I also added depth to the tires.


In the next post, I will try a few more complicated vehicles. I will attempt automobiles in the third post in this series .

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 vehicles

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 – Wires and Pipes


Wiring and plumbing are used as metaphors and icons for connections, relationships and processes. And you may want to represent an actual pipe or wire; who knows?

I used wires and connectors in my famous post on meters and gauges.

Wires can be created by drawing a Curve, adjusting the line width, and applying 3d Format/Top Bevel/Circle; here’s what this looks like:


The line is 20 pts wide; the bevel is 10 pts wide (half the line width) and 10 pts high. You will have to pay attention to these dimensions to get the desired appearance.

But what about the ends? They don’t look like a wire.

There are a couple of ways to eliminate the unwanted bevel; both involve first converting  the line to a picture (Cut/Paste Special/Picture (png) or (jpg)):

  • Cropping: use the Crop tool to eliminate the offending parts of the converted line image; as  you can see, this isn’t the best result (although it’s easy):


  • The second method is to use another object and Merge Shapes/Subtract to “trim” the wire image (I have added red outlines to clarify):


The”subtraction” method makes it possible to make the cut at right angles to the wire.

You can use these techniques to create an exposed conductor (starting with a 16 pt line for the conductor):


Lines that loop don’t make a convincing wire:


You can fix this by creating a clipped segment and laying it over the intersection:


You can also use the bevel effect on text. Using simple “skinny” fonts creates a wiry effect; these examples are Gulim and Comic Sans:


I used simple shapes with mild bevels to create a USB connector:


You can make other connectors, too, but let’s wait until after we do some plumbing.

The most familiar kind of plumbing uses rigid pipes along with other pieces (“fittings”) to connect the pipes. Creating a pipe is easy; I used a rectangle 1 inch high with a Circle bevel (width and height 36 pts = 1/2 inch), converted to png and cropped to remove the unwanted bevel on the ends:


This pipe image can be resized and also used as parts of other piping components. Another useful shape is a Donut with a bevel effect. Converting it to a picture and cropping it results in an elbow shape:


The red rectangle (1 inch high) is used to help set the thickness of the Donut to match the  pipe.

Here is the coupler – the element used to attach the pipes and fittings:


Creating this piece is a little tricky; here’s how I did it:


  • Start with the pipe image; resize it.
  • Apply a narrow Circle bevel to the image (8 pts).
  • Convert to png (Copy/Paste Special).
  • Create a Rounded Rectangle (shown in red) to use as a “cookie cutter” to get the right shape (Drawing Tools/Merge Shapes/Intersection). Set the round corners to match, more or less, the bevel. The result has the right shape as well as the rounded corners.

Use the pipe image, the elbow image and two “couplers” to get this:


Here’s how I made a more complicated fitting (a “sanitary wye”):


  • Create the Rectangle and the Block Arc; align as shown.
  • Use Merge Shapes/Union to create the combined shape. (The Union operation may create extra points if the two source shapes are not sized and aligned carefully. This can lead to unwanted artifacts in the “3d” version.)
  • Apply the Circle Bevel.
  • Convert to png and Crop.
  • Group with the couplers.

You can create other parts with the same techniques; here’s a valve:


You can make additional pieces like tanks and pumps to complete your metaphor.

Some of these techniques help in making wiring connectors; here’s a simple example:


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

Powerpointy – wires and pipes

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.

Storms and Swarms – Part 2: Attack!


This is the second in series about “storm and swarm” animations. The first post described a “rain” effect to suggest the growth in wireless devices. That effect uses vertical motion, top to bottom. Horizontal motion can also be used as in this example suggesting hospital security threats:

The building is a simple combination of Rectangles and a projectile is a Union of a Rectangle and an Oval.

The projectiles are placed off the right (left) edge and Fly Out/To Left (To Right) animations are used; this is simpler than using motion paths:

swrm hosp 1

The animation timing is “random;” as I noted in the first post in this series, creating randomness is a challenge. The approach is basically to fiddle with the start times until you get the effect you want. In this case, the durations are all the same:

swrm hosp 2

You can also create effects where the motion appears to come out of the slide, or into it. Here’s an example that’s another kind of attack:

The UFOs are a couple of Ovals; the skyline is a series of Rectangles and Pentagons.

The UFO animation is a Basic Zoom/In To Screen Bottom with the starting positions off the top edge of the slide space. The “In” specifies that the observer moves in (the object gets larger). I also added two instances of the Teeter effect With the zoom to add to the flying saucer effect.

The zoom effects (PowerPoint 2010) are fairly bewildering. The Basic (?) Zoom has 16 variations, 4 of which are identical to the separate Zoom effect. You can, of course, create virtually any zooming effect you want by combining Grow/Shrink with motions.

Here’s the layout and animation pane for the UFO swarm:

ufo swarmIn this case, the sequence is fairly regular so it’s easier than the other swarms. Again, each UFO gets a zoom with two Teeters simultaneous with the zoom.

The next post in this series will create a word swarm.

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 – swarms 2 – attack

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.

Powerful Words


Presentation experts suggest that you rely on “visuals” rather than words to engage your audience. I don’t disagree with this but the result is usually pretty predictable: sunsets, mountains, clouds, clipart and hackneyed royalty-free images featuring smiling people. Really impactful images are hard to find and may not precisely convey the concept you’re looking for.

Never fear, dear reader; there are ways to combine the precision of words with the appeal of images. However, I must post the warning that applies to many of the techniques documented in these pages:

  1. Use these techniques sparingly, lest they become boring or, what’s worse, distracting.
  2. Use these techniques for a reason; that is, use these techniques to support your message and not just because they’re “cool.”

By the way, another way to add impact to text is to animate it; see my post on “kinetic typography.”

The techniques for creating powerful key words and phrases rely on the fact that PowerPoint effects usually associated with Shapes also apply to Text objects; this includes Fills, Shadows and “3d” effects. Of course, there are useful effects (Transform, Font choices, spacing, etc.) that apply only to text.

Here’s a simple example of what I’m going on about:


This image is simply the letters TV filled with the typical “snow” pattern associated with over-the-air analog television. I used a font called Britannic Bold and picture-filled it with a “snow” image; I also applied a Square Transform to adjust the proportions of the text. (This is not necessary; I sometimes do this to make it easy to manipulate the size and proportion of these words. You can apply the techniques here directly to ordinary untransformed text.)

Here are some general notes on the examples in this post:

  • I will often use “heavy” fonts and Bold style; they allow the fill image to be more recognizable than fonts with thin strokes.
  • You may be tempted to use an “unusual” font; this can lead to issues when sharing with users who may not have the font installed. Another font will be substituted on the target system which can lead to unwanted results. You can overcome this problem by “embedding” the desired font in your presentation but this may have some problems. See this article for a pretty complete discussion of the subject.
  • “Textures” work well as fill. I will use some other images but these require more care to make them “readable.” Search for “textures” and/or “backgrounds” for ideas.
  • You can use an image that you create in PowerPoint as fill; just convert it to png or jpg (Copy/Paste Special/Png).
  • I use the Square Transform to make it easy to adjust the size and proportions of the text.
  • In some cases, I reduce the Character Spacing to improve the readability of the image.
  • I occasionally use Shadow or 3d effects; for example, a stone or concrete texture along with 3d effects adds solidity.
  • These effects are found in the Format Text Effects pane, which is different than the Format Shape pane, even though the options in the panes are identical. Using the Format Shape options on a text object affects the text “box,” not the characters.

Here’s another example:


The text is in Gill Sans Ultra Bold font. To create the image, temporarily remove the text fill and select a text outline color that contrasts with the fill image. Apply the Square Transform and position the text on appropriate part of the fill image, looking “through” the empty text. Resize the text and resize and/or crop the fill image to get the effect you want. Then, Copy the fill image (this places it on the clipboard).  Select and right-click on the text and select Text Format Effects. In this pane, select Text Fill/Picture or texture fill. Select Clipboard as the source of the fill. Remove the text outline. Here’s the process:


The second step results in a fill image that is the same size as the text. The Picture Fill option does allow you to resize and position the fill image after filling using numeric Offsets, bu I find this method easier.

This example is in Caecilia LT Roman (not a common font) and is filled with a textured steel image. The character spacing is set to Tight and a solid black shadow is added (apologies to a certain Pittsburgh football team):


Here are two simple examples:


Both are in Arial Black with the Character Spacing set to Tight. The first uses circuit board detail for the fill; the second uses an image of an electrical arc. I used Picture Tools/Recolor on the original circuit board image.

Here’s an example using a flame image fill and Bodoni MT Black font; a black text outline has also been added:


3d effects can be used to add an interesting dimensionality.  This example is in Harlow Solid Italic with a shiny metallic fill, a shadow and a 3d Bevel/Circle:


Here are two more examples using 3d effects:


The first is in Franklin Gothic Heavy and is filled with a grungy concrete texture; the second is in Gill Sans Ultra Bold Condensed and uses a fill that looks like marble. Both use the Perspective Below rotation with depth.

This one uses a weathered wood fill, 3d rotation, depth and Bevel (too much?):


Here’s an example in Cooper Black with a watery fill and using a 3d Bevel; a Wave 1 transform has been applied:


You can use images rather than textures; here’s an example of what I mean:


This is Franklin Gothic Heavy filled with a world map image; this required some fiddling to make the map and the text recognizable; a very tight character spacing helps.

There may be some cognitive issues here. Do you see the text and the image as one or do you flip back and forth? Is this a bad or good thing? You decide.

These examples uses a skyline graphic as fill:


I like the deco-style font in the first example (Broadway) but the skyline image is clearer in the second (Gill Sans Ultra Bold). Here’s the result with a photographic fill:


This may be overkill – what do you think?

This example uses a simplified graphic as fill; does it work?


Finally, here’s an example with effects (fill and bevel) applied to the text “box” and a bevel effect to the text itself:


Added 12/2014: There is another quicker (maybe) way to “picture fill” text; here are the steps:

  • As above, create the text with no fill and an outline that contrasts with the picture. Place the text over the picture and adjust both to get the fill you want.
  • Select the picture and the text and use Drawing Tools/Merge/Intersect. This is like using the text as a cookie cutter.
  • The disadvantage of this technique is that the result is a picture, not text. This means that the text can’t be edited; however, effects like those demonstrated above can be applied.

If you want to try to punch up the key words and phrases in your presentation with these techniques, use this form to request a free PowerPoint file that includes these examples:

Animations for “Cutting, Slashing and Trimming” – Saws

saw banner

Using an animation adds impact to phrases like “cut expenses” or “trim overhead.” This post uses saws as cutting tools for the animation; an earlier post uses scissors.


I try to use PowerPoint’s built-in shapes to create icons and images; this is generally simpler for average PowerPoint users than drawing “freeform” shapes. However, the handle on a traditional saw is difficult to create this way. So, I found some more modern saw images and used them for inspiration; here’s the result:


Here are some notes:

  • The handle is a pretty klunky group of built-in Shapes; you may be able to do better:


  • The blade consists of a Right Triangle, a Rectangle and a group of small triangles for the teeth:


  • The teeth can be created quickly using the “dupe and group” technique (see this post). Create the first triangle and then use the Duplicate tool to create the second triangle. Without clicking on anything else, move/Nudge the second triangle to the appropriate position. Now, use Duplicate several times to create a row of triangles. If necessary, use Align/Middle on the triangles to keep them aligned. Now, group the result, duplicate it, adjust as above, and continue duplicating. Finally group the groups. You will probably make adjustments to the teeth group when you assemble the saw blade.
  • Group the handle and blade and add fill color.

Usually, a handsaw cuts on the downstroke. So, the blade will make progress during the downstroke and the upstroke will move parallel to the blade with very little motion towards the sawyer. This picture shows the path of the saw:


This layout will help in drawing the motion path. Some notes:

  • Add lines (blue) to the saw object to locate its center of gravity.  Flip and rotate the saw to about a 45 degree angle.
  • Draw a line (red) from the center of the saw object down and to the right of the saw and then up, paralleling the saw blade to a point level with the starting point. This represents the first downstroke (that will move the saw to the right as well as down) and the upstroke.
  • Set up drawing guides at the extremes of the red line.
  • Duplicate the red line several times and align (blue lines).

Now, draw the motion path (freeform option) along the lines for this result (the smooth start/stop options are unchecked):

The object that will be cut by the saw represents money; I used a $100 bill image. Here are the steps:

  • Rotate the image, create a rectangle (shown in red) the same size as the image, and use Fill/Picture to fill the rectangle with the image.
  • Next, apply a 3d rotation (Perspective Relaxed) to the rectangle, add a few points of Depth and remove the outline. I also adjusted the Lighting. Here’s the process:


  • Why not just apply the 3d rotation directly to the image? Try it and see.
  • As a result of the sawing process, I want the currency image to fall into two pieces. I made the pieces by converting the bill image to a png (Copy/Paste Special) , and using duplicate and crop to create two pieces:


  • I added a line to the upper piece to mimic the depth.

Adding the currency images to the saw animation yields and adding some additional animation provides this result:

Here are some notes:

  • Place the currency pieces next to the saw blade; adjust the height and width of the saw motion path using the handles.
  • Add a Down motion path to the bottom half near the end of the saw animation and adjust the end point. Add a Spin With the motion path.
  • Add another motion path (Custom Path/Freeform) and Spin for the bounce. The path may snap to the center of the object when you complete it; just move/nudge it to the end of the first Down path.
  • You will probably need to experiment to get the locations and timing so that the animation is convincing.

Here’s the set-up for the handsaw animation:


 Power Saw

I looked at several images of a power/”skill” saw and drew a simplified version using standard PowerPoint shapes:


The blade is a 32-point Star with the depth of the points adjusted. A circle and a Hexagon provide the blade mounting hardware. The upper blade guard of the saw is a Block Arc with handles added. The upper handle is another Block Arc and a Rounded Rectangle; the front handle is an Oval and a Rectangle. The base plate is a Trapezoid.

The lower blade guard (green) is a Block Arc. It will be grouped with the blue circle to assure that it Spins properly.

Note: A Block Arc is one of the PowerPoint shapes that rotates (while editing) and Spins (animation) around different centers; here’s the difference:


The blue lines identify the center of the object when it is rotated while editing (e.g., using the green handle) and the red line identifies the center for a Spin animation. Several other shapes share this anomaly including Arc, Chord and Pie. Surprisingly, transformed text (e.g., Arch Up) rotates and Spins around the same center.

(The PowerPoint animation designers apparently came from a different planet and were not allowed to converse with other designers.)

Here’s the power saw with color added:


I grouped the saw elements into three parts that move independently: the blade assembly, the lower blade guard and the saw “body”:


Here’s how I did the animation:

  • Set up a “target” for the animation; this is a copy of the saw positioned at the desired location. This is a technique I use often for animations (see this post on animating vehicles for more).
  • Set up drawing guides to identify the centers of the three saw parts.
  • Add a Right motion path to each part and edit the motion paths so that the endpoint is at the appropriate center. As usual, Smooth Start/End for the motion paths are unchecked. Here’s what this looks like:


  • Add the Spin animation to the blade assemble so that occurs simultaneously With the motion path. For some Spin values,  the blade may appear to spin more slowly than expected, backwards or to stand still (maybe a strobe effect). Adjust the spin duration so that you are satisfied with the animation. I ended up with 1300 degrees Clockwise Spin in 1.3 seconds. The motion paths and the Spin should have the same duration.
  • The lower blade guard pivots up when it encounters the object being sawn and drops back when the saw passes over the object. I added a Clockwise spin of 115 degrees near the beginning of the action and the corresponding Counterclockwise spin near the end. Here’s the animation pane:


  • And here’s the animation:
  • I added a rectangle to represent the object being cut. Later, I’ll use a different object and adjust the blade guard timing accordingly.

You can use the power saw to “cut’ currency (like the handsaw above), or a dollar sign or bar graph like I demonstrated in the scissors post.  Here’s the power saw in another animation involving a graph:

Here are some notes:

  • The graph is created with a series of horizontal and vertical lines to form the grid, the label, and the arrow representing growth. The arrow is hand drawn (a Freeform) but you could use one of the built-in arrow shapes or a heavy line with an arrowhead.


  •  Duplicate the arrow shape and add Fill color to the two copies; make one copy a slightly darker shade.
  • Convert the arrow shapes to a pngs and make two halves using the technique used on the $100 bill above. The break should align with one of the horizontal grid lines on the graph. You only need the top half of the darker arrow. Invert the dark half and align the parts on the graph. Here’s the process:


  • Add the animated power saw (three parts). Position the saw along the horizontal grid line and adjust the blade guard timing so that the saw “cuts” between the two parts of the arrow:


  • The animation of the cut-off arrow uses Collapse and Stretch animations. There are three steps: first,  the upper part gets an Exit/Collapse to bottom animation. This is immediately followed by Entrance/Stretch/From top for the darker, inverted piece. Finally, there is a Down motion path overlapped with a quick Exit/Collapse to bottom of the darker piece. Here’s the final animation setup:


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 – cutting, etc – saws

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.

3d Network Demo Part 2: Layout


This series of posts is about demonstrating complex systems; in this case a computer network. The 3d (isometric) network icons were constructed in the first post. This post will develop the layout of this network:


The challenge here is to place the icons and create the interconnecting links in a way that is consistent with the isometric/parallel view. I created a grid to aid in the isometric layout; here’re the steps:

  • Create a grid of equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines in a light color; you can use the “dupe and group” process that I outlined in the last post. I used a spacing of about 0.35 inches. The spacing value is not important but you want a fairly dense grid:


  • Group the lines and apply the Parallel/Isometric Top Up 3d rotation:


  • You can also draw the grid using lines rotated to 30 degrees from the horizontal.
  • You could use the grid directly on the slides but it is more convenient to create a Slide Layout containing the grid. Use that slide layout where needed; it will not interfere with your drawing since it is on a different “layer.”
  • To create the Layout, go to the Master Slide View, right click the Blank Layout and select Duplicate Layout. You can rename the new Layout to something like “grid.”
  • Paste and position the grid on the new Layout. You can now select the “grid” layout for a new slide or apply it to an existing slide.
  • If you want to create the network on some other existing Layout, select that one to duplicate rather than the Blank layout.

Now you can use the grid layout on slides where you want to create the network diagram. Once you are finished, select another layout and the grid will disappear.

The grid does not have snap properties. The lines in the grid are used to manually align icons and the connecting links are drawn (by hand) so that they are always parallel with the grid. Here icons are positioned to create one of the “user/client groups” in the network:



  • The grid lines are used to align the two desktops and the laptop in the front row (the dashed red line is added to show this),
  • The icons are spaced so that a grid line intersects the icon at a convenient place for drawing the interconnecting links (I’ll show you this later).
  • The row of icons is grouped and duped to form the back row. The back row is shifted a little so that the links will not interfere with the front row. The green line shows where a link will be drawn.

Next I added the local switch and one link:


  • The link is a Freeform, manually drawn from the leftmost icon to the rightmost. The parts of the link are drawn parallel to the grid. Take some care with this, the eye will pick up on any inconsistencies.
  • I added some thickness to the line (4 pts). The 3D Format/Bevel/Top/Circle was applied to give the line a rounded appearance. The bevel has a width and height of 2 pts.
  • The Line Style/Cap type and Join type are Round. This provides a convincing appearance where the links touch the icons or another link. Here’s a close-up:


  •  Here’s the completed user group:


  • When a link attaches to the back face of the icon, it is aligned with the bottom center of the front face (see the dashed red line above).
  • Pay close attention to the Front/Back relationships of the icons and links so that the result is “realistic.”

The third user group includes a printer and a wireless router, along with a few wireless devices:layout9

  • Duplicate the previous user group and add the additional icons. Extend the “front” link to the wireless router (red arrow) and add the links to the laptop and printer (red dashed lines). Again, set the Front/Back relationships appropriately.
  • There are no links to the wireless devices. If you want to indicate wireless coverage, you might use a group of concentric Arcs, 3d rotated. It will take some experimentation to get this “right:”


Creation of the other parts of the network is pretty similar; some notes:

  • The internet icon is the standard PowerPoint Cloud shape with fill, outline and text. 3d rotation and a small depth is also applied.
  • FYI, “DMZ” (demilitarized zone) is a networking term for a “subnetwork that contains and exposes an organization’s external-facing services to a larger and untrusted network, usually the Internet” (Wikipedia). It is outside the firewall.
  • The corporate server group (lower center of the diagram) is connected via dual switches and has a more complicated connection (it is, in fact, simplified here). This is what it looks like close up:


  • Notice that the two links are aligned with two roughly symmetric points on the bottom of the face of the server (the red lines).

The various groups are assembled and links added to form the overall network diagram. You will probably have to adjust some of the groups so that they are spaced and aligned properly in the final drawing. If you need to re-size elements or groups, you may want to convert them to png form before resizing. This will preserve the proportions of the line widths and the 3d depths (see the first post in this series for a discussion of this).

The next post will add animation to the display of the network, addition of new elements and network traffic.

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

Powerpointy blog – network demo -layout

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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