Posts Tagged 'icons'

PowerPoint Secrets: Shapes and More Shapes

I often draw PowerPoint objects by combining simple “shapes;” here are a few examples from earlier posts:


This post is about shapes and how to get more of them.

Standard Shapes

A library of standard built-in shapes is provided directly in PowerPoint, including the Rectangle, Oval, Triangle and so forth. Many of these shape include one or more adjustment “handles” (yellow squares) that allow certain changes to be made to the shape; here are a few examples:


Here is another selection of standard shapes that are less familiar:


The first shape is called a Sun; the second shape is a Sun after a change in the adjustment handle.  The “drum” shape is from the Flowchart group and is called a Magnetic Disc (does anybody actually use these for their intended purpose any more?). The “house” is actually intended as an Action Button; it can’t be ungrouped.

NOTE: An Action Button is intended to be used to “trigger” animations. Actually, any object can be a Trigger.

What if you need a shape that isn’t available as a standard shape? There are several solutions.


Some font sets consist partly or wholly of symbols – punctuation marks or “dingbats,” for example. A couple of these are probably already installed in your version of Office. Dingbats can be used as-is or converted to shapes. Here are two examples:


The aircraft shape is from the Wingdings font. The first version of the airplane is a text character with a red font color. You can convert text to a shape by Intersecting the character(s) with a shape (a blue rectangle above). The result (the first blue airplane) is a Freeform. The final version is the shape with a gradient fill.

NOTE: Intersect is a Merge Shapes option. To use Merge Shapes, select two or more shapes (or text boxes) and pick an option. Union, Intersect and Subtract are probably the most useful. For Subtract, the order of selection is important.

The thumbs up/like symbol is from Wingbats2. I Intersected it with a shape to create the blue Freeform. Note that the result is not an unfilled shape with an outline; the last example demonstrates a black outline and red fill.

You can find thousands of dingbat fonts on the web. Here’s an example from the Modern Icons font from


This time, I applied Text Outline, Text Fill and Italic without converting to a shape.

Smart Art

Some Smart Art objects contain shapes that are not available as standard shapes. They can be extracted from Smart art objects (Convert to Shapes) and used like standard shapes. Here are a couple of examples:


The first example shows the Upward Arrow Smart Art object and the arrow shape copied  from the converted object. The result acts like a standard shape; it even has an adjustment handle. The gear is extracted from the Gears Smart Art object; the result is a Freeform. A 3D Depth and Rotation have been applied (you can make better gears yourself and animate them – see the series starting with this post).

Drawing Freeforms

The shape option called Freeform allows you to draw an arbitrary shape “freehand” using a click and drag technique. You can find many tutorials on this process on the net so I won’t attempt another one here.

However, you may find Freeform drawing difficult. One of the reasons for this is that Snap-to-grid is not available during Freeform drawing or editing – one of those long-standing PowerPoint irritations that, I fear, will never be fixed.

NOTE: If you want to try Freeform drawing you may find it helpful to “trace” over an image of the object you want to draw; I outlined this method in an early post.

Groups and Merged Shapes

Since my readers may not be comfortable with Freeform drawing, I have avoided using  it in recent posts. A surprisingly useful number of new shapes can be created from combining standard shapes using Group or Merge Shapes. Strictly speaking, a group is not a shape; here you can see some of the differences between grouped and merged shapes:


The result of a merge is a single FreeForm while the components of a group retain their individual identity; this makes a difference for some effects. Also, If you need a shape with a “negative” space, Merge is much easier than grouping.

Here’s how to make a shield shape using the Merge technique:


Using an image as a guide, Ovals and Rectangles are arranged to create half of the shape. In this example the small red Oval is Subtracted followed by the red Rectangles. The resulting shape is Duplicated, Flipped/Horizontal and then Unioned with the other half. Component shapes must be positioned carefully to avoid unwanted lines in the result (see the jigsaw puzzle post for more on this).

Here’s another example – the beaker shape used in my post on drawing glass:


Importing Shapes

In the real world, outside of PowerPoint, shapes are a form of vector graphic. You can find and download these kind of images just as you can JPGs or PNGs.

However, Microsoft has consistently refused to directly support standard or popular vector formats in favor of a couple of proprietary (and limited) formats. But you can import popular vector graphics into PowerPoint in usable (editable) form using conversion tools available on the net.

NOTE: I learned of this process from this Spicy Presentations post (there is a lot of other interesting stuff on this site).  An update: PowerPoint 2013 no longer supports EPS and SVG graphics.

UPDATE: Beginning with PowerPoint 2016, you can insert SVG vector graphics and convert them to PowerPoint objects – more below.

I am not an expert, but it appears that the most popular formats for vector graphics are EPS and SVG. EPS is the output format for Adobe Illustrator and SVG is an international standard. Practically speaking, this means that you will find more results searching for EPS images and, to a lesser extent, SVG images, than other formats.

NOTE: The subject of this post is “shapes” that you can use to create more complex objects like “icons” or other illustrations.  Often, this requires extracting a simple shape from a complex icon or illustration. You can, of course use a downloaded icon or illustration itself for your purposes. I find, however, that you can create exactly the object you need with a consistent color and style by using shapes or by editing the converted original image.

Here’s the process:

  • Search the web for the images you  want in EPS (or SVG) format. A lot of these are available free (with certain conditions) and others are available at reasonable costs. Download the EPS/SVG files – many of these are provided as sets of images.
  • Downloads are usually compressed/zipped files – you will have to unpack the file.
  • If you are using PPT 2016 or later, you can directly insert an SVG graphic.
  • If you are using an earlier version or if you are working with an EPS file, use an online conversion site. Upload the EPS/SVG file and select EMF as the output format. I used – it’s free as long as you don’t do too many conversions in a day. Download the converted EMF file and insert it (Insert/Picture) onto a PowerPoint slide.
  • Apply Ungroup to the inserted EMF or SVG object. A message will appear, asking if you want to convert the object to “a Microsoft drawing object;” click Yes.
  • To complete the conversion and access the components of the converted object, Ungroup it (at least) once more to isolate the specific shape you need. In some cases, you will need to ungroup several times to get at the component shapes. You may get some unexpected results; see below.

Here’s an example using a set of shield shapes from EMF image is on the left – a set of shapes. The converted/ungrouped result is shown to the right.  Each shield is a separate shape; there is also an invisible background rectangle and some text. A couple of shield icons are shown, created from shapes in the set.

Here’s another set (stars) from


After ungrouping, most of the shapes are single Freeforms (like the rounded star). However, there are some exceptions. The large asterisk is two Freeforms – one of the “lobes” is a separate object, shown offset in the blue version. The small asterisk (green) is six Freeforms as is the yellow shape. The variations are a result of how the images are organized for distribution. The outline stars (red) are odd: they are not groups and they cannot be point edited.  None of the anomalies are serious since the usual effects can be applied to the shapes. I applied Fill and Shadows to the red extracted shapes.

Since complex, curving shapes are difficult to create in PowerPoint, downloading vector graphics is useful. Here are a couple of examples:


The “splat” is a Freeform; the flame icon is a group of three Freeforms. I copied the largest Freeform as a flame shape for my purposes; you could use the three shapes grouped as an icon.

Sometimes, things are a lot more complicated. Here’s an example of an EPS object converted as described above to an EMF:


Shown is the original image which has a green gradient surface and a shadow. The second version is the image converted to EMF; an ungrouped version and a red-outlined version are also shown.  A couple of things have happened:

  • The fill of the arrows in the converted image is black rather than the green gradient of the original. I think this is because the EMF format does not support the gradient style of the original – the gradient is replaced with black.
  • The edge of the arrows is a gray gradient in the original. The gradient has been replaced in the converted version by seven (!) copies of the arrow in shades of gray in an attempt to create the gradient.

You may find other issues with the EMF format that make it difficult to extract the shape you need.

While I’m at it, here’s an example of how a complete converted EPS illustration can be modified in PowerPoint:


I have deleted shapes and re-filled others in the original shark to create my “golden” version. I also enlarged the eye.

Editing Points

You can modify a shape (created by any of the techniques above) using Edit Points; this operation essentially converts the shape to a Freeform allowing you to edit it (modifying the lines and points). Here are some examples created by moving points:


A simple change may make the shape you want – otherwise you are engaged in Freeform editing which may be slightly easier than starting from scratch.





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.

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 – 3D Buildings


In this post, I will create a variety of simple “3d” buildings and demonstrate some useful techniques.

Faithful readers will know that I have used PowerPoint “3d” in the past; see the network demonstration, alphabet blocks and a “watchtower” icon. If you’ve seen some of these you will know that PowerPoint 3d is limited in capability and that you shouldn’t expect too much.

But why create your own images? You can find hundreds of 3d building stock images (clipart) on the web, some of which are free. Well, if you take a DIY approach you can control color and style elements to match your branding/theme. You can meet specific requirements: do you need a tall hospital or a tiny factory? You can edit the objects (in PowerPoint) to create variations and new versions. And, you will increase your PowerPoint skills.

The general idea is to use PowerPoint “3d” tools to create an isometric building image piece by piece. This diagram shows the process:


These are the steps:

  • Create 3 objects representing “views” of the building: front, side and top (labeled 1, 2 and 3 above).  In more complicated shapes (see next example), a view may have several parts.
  • Apply the indicated rotations to each “view.” These are selected from the Parallel/Isometric group of 3d rotations.
  • Notice that the Top Up rotation for the top view/roof (as it is drawn) doesn’t produce the desired result. You can fix this by using the Bottom Down rotation or by creating the top view in a different orientation. (Rotating the top view object before applying the 3d rotation doesn’t work; try it.)
  • Nudge the rotated views together to form the “building;” more about this later.
  • 3d Format/Lighting adds to the 3d effect. The  default angle is 0 degrees which produces a result that looks like it is lit from the upper right. You can change this by changing the lighting angle (using the same setting for all the pieces) or by changing the color(s) of  the appropriate view. The steps shown in the example above result in a more conventional top left light source.

Here’s the layout for the first example:


The upper stories of the building are “set back” and the windows are vertical ribbons with some variations. The detail at the bottom of one of the views represents the building entrance.

Here are some (familiar) tips for creating this kind of drawing in PowerPoint:

  • Set Snap objects to grid and select a Grid spacing that allows a palpable “snap” when creating or moving objects; I typically use 0.1 in or 0.05 in. This will help in aligning objects “by hand.”
  • Use Drawing guides to align and center objects.
  • Use Duplicate to create repeating patterns. Specifically, select an object (a window, for example) and Duplicate it. Without  un-selecting the duplicate, move it to the desired position (e.g., horizontally aligned with the original and spaced by a particular amount). Then, without un-selecting, Duplicate again. The third version will have the same spacing and alignment. Repeat to create a row. If needed, group the row and use the same process vertically to create an array of windows.
  • I find it easier to create the window layout first and then add the building outline.

Here’s the layout with fill color added:


The windows are blue, reflecting the sky. There are two tops, one for the lower part of the building and one for the upper part. I put a faint outline of the upper part of the building on the lower top to help with alignment.

Since I expect to use these objects at a relatively small size, I can avoid a lot of detail (contrast the watchtower example).

Here are the building “faces” with the rotations applied and roughly positioned:


Here’s the final assembly:


There is no shortcut for this last step. The Snap to grid setting and other alignment tools are of no use; hold down Ctrl to override the snap and use the nudge (arrow) keys to make small adjustments. It helps to use a large Zoom. You may want to temporarily add outlines to make the edges easier to see.

Here’s a similar example:


This building has individual windows and a simple street level treatment. The window color is the same as the previous example. Since all of the sides are the same, only one version of each part is needed.

The top of this building is a square with a Bevel applied to form the roof. The Bevel is the Angle type with Height and Width equal to half the side of the square. I find that I have to fiddle with the lighting angle to get the colors right when I use a Bevel.

You can experiment with other kinds of Bevels to create additional roof forms; here are some examples:


Here’s the layout for a more complicated building along with a preliminary isometric view:


I created the “barrel” roofs by adding Depth to the curved shape:


I suggest you adjust the depth of the roof(s) to match the other parts after the building is assembled. (Selecting a shape inside a rotated group is a little tricky – using the Selection Pane can help.)

Here’s the resulting building (after some lighting adjustments):


I’ll need other types of buildings; here’s a small factory:


Here are some notes:

  • The brick color and larger windows suggest an older factory.
  • I added a Frame shape with Depth to two of the roofs to suggest a low wall around the periphery. Here’s the process:


  • Similarly, the chimneys are Donut shapes with Depth added.

Here’s a building designed for housing (dormitory or apartments):


And here’s a hospital:


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 buildings

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.

Animated Icons: Tools

bannerThis post is one of a series on creating custom icons and adding impact with animation. Creating your own icons lets you match your brand/color scheme and get precisely the image you need. You can also edit and re-use your icons without special software.

Tool icons can represent software/apps, support or maintenance and sometimes act as a visual metaphor.


The hammer icon, like the other icons in this post, is created using standard PowerPoint shapes and Group/Merge operations. Here are the steps:

tools1The spool-shaped part of the hammer head is made by Subtracting two flattened Ovals from a Rectangle (see Drawing Tools/Merge Shapes). Subtracting a Rectangle from a Moon shape yields the claw part. The handle is made from a Chord shape, a Rectangle and a Rounded Rectangle. The parts are completed using the Union operation. The fill colors are selected from the template for this project; presumably, these would be consistent with the client’s branding.

Other examples of this technique are shown in my Slideshare post. This earlier blog series provides examples of cutting tools.

The layout for the hammer animation looks like this:

tools2Here are the steps:

  • To establish the pivot point for a Spin animation, add the circle as shown (temporarily red) and group it with the hammer object.
  • Duplicate the hammer/circle object and rotate it 90 degrees counterclockwise. This (shown in red outline) provides a reference for positioning the nail and block.
  • Position the block under the reference hammer head; add the nail as shown.
  • Delete the reference hammer object and set the circle to No Outline.

Here’s the animation pane:


The hammer stroke is a 90 degree counterclockwise Spin. Near the end of the stroke, a Down motion path moves the nail, followed by a rebound of the hammer (another Spin).

The duration of the nail motion is very short (0.05 seconds). Timing values less than 0.1 second cannot be set directly in the animation pane; you must use the Effect Options pane.

Generally, some experimentation with timing and other factors is needed when designing this kind of animation. Here’s my result:


Here’s how the wrench is constructed:tools4

  • Union of an Arc and an Oval with a Rounded Rectangle Subtracted forms the wrench “head.”
  • The rest of the wrench is constructed with a Rectangle and a couple of Triangles. This is Unioned with the two heads, rotated.
  • The indentation in the handle is represented by a Rounded Rectangle; this is Grouped (not Unioned) with the rest of the wrench since it is a different color.
  • The nut and bolt are a concentric Oval and Hexagon. The standard Hexagon is not symmetric; you may have to fiddle with it to get to look like a standard bolt.
  • The nut/bolt is is rotated to match the jaw of the wrench.
  • Fills are added as shown.

Here is the animation set-up:


A circle (red) is grouped with the wrench group to establish its center of rotation (just inside the upper jaw. The animation consists of a a motion path to position the wrench followed by 60 degree rotations of the wrench and the nut/bolt. Here’s what it looks like:

Wire Cutter

Here’s how (half of) the wire cutter tool is constructed:tools6

The curved piece of the handle is a Wave shape; the blade is a Pie shape.

To complete the tool, add a circle to the half to establish the pivot point; group the result. Duplicate and Rotate/Flip Horizontal the copy to form the second half. Then align the two parts and Rotate each to open the tool.  Here’s the process:tools7

The animation will cut a piece of “wire;” it’s made of two concentric filled circles, with 3d depth and rotation added:


Here’s the animation set up:tools9

Two copies of the “wire” are used; one behind the cutter blade and one in front. The cutting action uses Spin to move the two parts of the cutter. A motion path and spin are applied to the front wire object after the cut. Here’s what it looks like:

Screw Driver

I plan to suggest the twisting motion of a screwdriver by quickly alternating between two views; here’s how the two views are constructed:tools10

I’ll need a screw; here’s how it is constructed:


The Union of a series of triangles is used to Subtract from the screw to suggest threads.

Next, I grouped each view of the screwdriver with the screw:tools12

The illusion of the screwdriver twisting is created by alternating quickly between these two (superimposed) images; here’s the effect:

Here’s the animation pane; one image Appears and the other Disappears every 0.2 seconds:tools13

If you would like to build these or similar animations, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy blog – tool icons

See this page for more on downloading files.

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

Crawls, Tickers and Film Strips

A “crawl” or “ticker” is a moving line of text, often seen at the bottom of the screen during a TV news or sports presentation. In a PowerPoint presentation, a crawl can be used to introduce a quote or fact in an attention-grabbing way. A “filmstrip” of images can be displayed similarly. Also, a moving background using this technique can impart a sense of motion.

Warning: This technique, like other animations, will draw attention. This can be distracting rather than helpful. In fact, I have only used this in trade-show/kiosk displays and would suggest using it advisedly in typical stand-up presentations.

Here’s an example of a PowerPoint text crawl/ticker:

This is simply a text box with a motion path that moves the box from off the slide to the right to a position completely off the slide to the left. The smooth start/stop is eliminated and the duration is set to 20 seconds so that the text can be easily read. Here’s the set up (the motion path has been highlighted):


Depending on a number of factors, the animation might be jerky; if this is the case, here are some things to try to make the animation smoother:

  • Make sure “hardware graphics acceleration” (in the Slide Show tab) is enabled; this is the default for later versions of PowerPoint.
  • Slow the animation (increase duration)
  • Reduce the size of the animated object
  • Simplify the object; for example, eliminating shadow effects and gradient fills may help.
  • Convert the object to a jpg or png.
  • Use a more powerful PC/graphics card.
  • Convert the effect to a video clip (I’m planning a post on video in PowerPoint that will provide details).

Here’s an example using a “film strip” of images:

This effect uses the Repeat option so that the crawl continues (until the next slide, for example). There’s a trick to this:

  • Duplicate the original strip.
  • Position the duplicated strip end to end with the original and group the two.
  • Place the group so that the right edge is at the right edge of the slide.
  • Apply a Line motion path that ends at the right edge of the slide. Remove the smooth start/end options.
  • Select the Repeat until end of slide option. Here’s the set up:


  •  The blue rectangle represents the slide; the copy of the strip has been recolored for clarity. This video shows how this works:
  • If you want the strip to crawl onto the slide and then repeat, make a copy of the (single) strip, add a motion path so that it moves onto the slide. Then, replace it (Disappear, Appear) with the “double” version animated as above. Here’s what this looks like
  • The three instances of the strip have been colored differently to demonstrate the animation. Here’s the animation pane:strip3

Similar techniques can be used to create the illusion of motion of a foreground object by moving a background; here’s a sketch:

The car enters the scene with a simple motion path; the background “crawls” using the techniques described here. The different rates of the background strips add a sense of depth. Here’s the animation pane:


This sketch could be improved by adding details to the buildings and animating the wheels of the vehicle (see this post for details). You might add clouds as a third layer, moving even more slowly.

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

Powerpointy blog – crawls, tickers and film strips

See this page for more on downloading files.

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

Animations for Cutting, Slashing and Trimming – Axes and Knives

ax banner

Adding an animation to phrases like “cut expenses” helps increase the impact of your message. Other posts have featured scissors and saws; this one uses axes and knives as the cutting tools.


A swinging ax can be pretty dramatic and there is a lot of ax types. Here’s an example of a tree-felling ax composed of standard PowerPoint shapes:


I try to use standard shapes to build these icons and images since this may be simpler for average users than to draw them directly. The process: find an image that fits your needs and approximate it by overlaying PowerPoint shapes (in red above), adjusting size. proportion and orientation to fit. Don’t obsess about detail here – you want an icon. not a photograph. You can color the result as needed.

The ax handle uses a Wave shape as its main part – you probably didn’t even know this thing was available.

If you’re feeling medieval, here’s another ax type:


This headsman’s (or war) ax uses several Moon shapes for its blade (another hidden oddity).

Here’s a fire ax (Jack Torrance’s choice) :


This is pretty complicated (30 shapes!) ; here’s an acceptable version of the fire ax that’s easier to create:


To establish the center for the Spin animation, I grouped the tree ax with a circle. The center I used is at about the middle of the handle; you may want to experiment with this:


I rotated the ax to a nearupright position and set the circle to No outline. I added a Spin/Clockwise 20 degrees for a backswing followed by a faster clockwise spin for the downstroke. Here’s the animation:

I used the ax to cut a stack of bills; here’s the animation:

I made the stack of bills using the process detailed in the animated saws post. Basically, a currency image is given a 3d rotation and converted to png. Using duplicate and crop, two parts of the bill are created and aligned together. The bill is duplicated to form the stack.

Next align the stack with the animated ax. Add a similar Curve motion path to each lower bill half. Each bill half has a Spin simultaneous with the motion path; the Spin values and direction vary. As the motion path and rotation end, the bill half Dissolves Out. Here’s the setup for a single bill:


You might want to use the Selection Pane and Drawing Guides to help construct this animation; see this “secrets” post for details.


There even more varieties of knives; here’s a hunting knife:


The Wave shape helps form the handle and a Moon forms the tip. Some accent lines are added to the completed version.

Here’s a chef’s knife:


Chord shapes are part of the blade; rivets are added to the handle of the finished version.

Also from the kitchen – here’s a cleaver:


I’ll use the hunting knife to slash costs; here’s the animation:

Here are some notes:

  • The dollar sign is a heavy weight font (Eras Bold ITC). The symbol is filled with a fragment of the bill image (Text Fill/Picture) and a 3d bevel is added. The result is converted to png and two pieces are made using duplicate and crop as before. Here’s the process:kn4
  • The knife is animated with a motion path (Freeform) providing the down and across “slash.”
  • The bottom half of the bill has a Exit/Collapse/To bottom animation; a horizontal line Appears at the end of the Collapse. Here’s the setup:


A chef’s knife is used in a particular way when chopping; the tip of the blade rests on the cutting board and the knife pivots repeatedly around this point. I grouped a circle centered at this point with the chef’s knife so that a Spin animation will mimic this motion:


I used a Spin 12 degrees Clockwise with Auto Reverse set for the chopping action. I used Repeat to continue the motion; I set Repeat to 2 for simplicity but you may want a larger number. Here’s the result:

To represent expenses, I created an inscribed “gold bar;” here’s the process:


To make the pieces that will result from the chop, convert the bar to a png.  For the first piece, duplicate and crop. For the second piece crop from the original bar again; this time, the piece lacks an “end.” Crop the “end” from the original bar, resize slightly, and group with the top of the piece. Repeat this process to add an “end” to the remnant. This diagram outlines the steps:


For the animation, position the pieces to form the bar and align the knife to the first cut. The knife swings down, the first piece falls off, the second piece and the remnant move “forward” (down) and the knife chops again. You could do this several more times, maybe with thinner slices if you have the patience. Here’s the result:

Here’s the setup with some notes:


  •  On the first stroke, the second piece us behind the knife; on the second stroke, the second piece is behind the knife. Since an object can’t be on two different “layers” at once, the second piece is replaced (by “2x slice”) immediately after the first stroke. See this post for another example of this issue.
  • An animation path is added to the second piece.

You can probably think of other devices to use in this kind of effect: swords? guillotine?

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

PowerPointy blog – cutting, etc – axes and knives

See this page for more on downloading files.

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

Animations for “Cutting, Slashing and Trimming” – 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.

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