Posts Tagged 'isometric rotation'

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 – 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 – More Alphabet Blocks

Warning: This post uses PowerPoint features in ways that apparently were never intended by the designers. As a result, some fairly arcane meddling goes on.

In an earlier post, I brilliantly demonstrated how to create alphabet blocks using PowerPoint “3d,” but these blocks had letters on only one surface.  In this post, I will show you how to make blocks with letters on all visible surfaces.

In another post, I hinted at the difficulties of doing this by claiming that you can make the first image below with PowerPoint 3d, but not the second (at least not in one step):

2 blocks

Here’s the trick:

2 blocks 2

As you can see, the green face is a separate object with a “complementary” rotation. This “divide and conquer” technique can be used to make the blocks we’re after.

To make the simple block, create three square shapes with a border and text. Then apply the Preset rotation Parallel/Isometric Left Down to the “A” block. Apply Isometric Right Up and Isometric Top Up to the B and C blocks. Finally, carefully position the three rotated shapes to form the block. This process is shown below:

persp 1

This one is particularly easy because the three rotations are available as Presets. For other rotations (perspective, for example), you must create the appropriate rotations manually, using the tricky X, Y and Z settings. This is inordinately difficult; I have yet to figure out a systematic scheme for doing this.

As noted in the previous posts, most toy blocks have the letters and borders carved in relief. Drawing a 3-sided block like this presents problems, even in the simple isometric version. Following is my solution; let me know if you have a simpler approach.

As before, we create the block face and border as separate objects. However, the outline is made of 8 rectangles:

persp 2

The reason for this construction is that you can set the depth of selected edges and corners separately; I’ll show you why this is useful later.

The process is the same as outlined in the previous post. Create 3 square shapes with a single text character; then, using Format Text/3-D Format/Depth, add depth (9 pts) and Depth Color to the character. Then apply Parallel/Isometric rotations to the square shapes as in the simple example above. Now add depth and the appropriate rotation to three copies of the outline. The results should look like this (I added an outline to the squares for clarity):

persp 3

So far, so good. But there is a problem when the pieces are combined. Let’s look at the left and top outlines when they are “joined;” the left side is in Front of the top in the first case and the top is in Front in the second:

persp 4

Something doesn’t look right here. In the first example, the surfaces of the top outline don’t match; in the second the surfaces on the left outline don’t match (the red boxes highlight the problem).  Even though the Lighting Angle is the same for both, the colors don’t match when the objects are rotated.  I have a suspicion that the lighting source rotates with the object – BAD IDEA, PowerPoint designers!

You may think this is a trivial detail but it seems to me this visual anomaly is distracting – the last thing you need in a presentation.

My solution involves removing the depth dimension from parts of the outline so that the faces overlap convincingly. Here’s the result:

persp 5

I set the depth of the front edges of the top outline to zero, including the corners. This will cover the tops of the left and right faces without conflict. The left edge of the right outline has also been set to zero depth.

You can change the depth by selecting the piece (e.g., the corner) of the outline and using Format/Shape/Depth – you don’t have to remove the rotation or ungroup the object. Here’s the final result:

persp 6

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

Powerpointy blog – 3d blocks

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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