Posts Tagged 'PowerPoint characters'

PowerPoint People – 3D Robots


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

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

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

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

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

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


Here are some notes:

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

The next step is adding the limbs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Here’s how the walking robot is constructed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Powerpointy Blog – 3d Robots

See this page for more on downloading files.

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

PowerPoint People – Expressions, etc.

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

Here’s Mike with the elements of his face selected:


The brows, nose, mouth and profile ear are Arcs; the eyes are Ovals and the front view ears are Rounded Rectangles. Notice that the eyes and brows are foreshortened in the profile. The line width is consistent with the rest of the features. In some of the expressions (later), these shapes are changed.

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

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

Here’s Millie:


This are the same elements as in Mike’s face except the nose is a little smaller. The mouth is red (Millie’s personality seems to have crept in).

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

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

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

exp3The smile is the original face. The grin opens the mouth and raises the brows. The laughing face is created mostly by the brows and eyes (angled lines) although the mouth is more open. In general, more intense expressions use the brows and eyes in a similar way.

In examples from other sources, you may find additional facial features (“frown lines,” forehead wrinkles and such). For simplicity, I’ve not used these but you may want to experiment with them.

Here’re examples of sadness:

exp4The first sad expression modifies the brows to extend down the side of the face (I don’t know why this works) and the downturned mouth. The brows and closed eyes along with a more downturned mouth create a sense of despair.

Here’s Millie in two stages of surprise:

exp5Raised brows and the rounded mouth provide a surprised look. The bigger mouth and straight angled brows create a more concerned expression

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

exp6Here, mismatched elements signal confusion while angry eyes and a wide grin create a vengeful expression:

exp7Over the years, comic strip artists (a vanishing breed) developed a vocabulary of symbols representing emotional states and other aspects. In 1980, cartoonist Mort Walker cataloged (and whimsically named) these objects (“symbolia”) in The Lexicon of Comicana. Remarkably, these symbols are almost universally understood and can be used to signal or emphasize emotions. Here’re some examples:

exp9Sweat droplets (“plewds”) indicate effort or stress. The wavy line (“indotherm”) suggests heat or anger. The light bulb (with “emenata”) represents an idea and the starry objects (“squeans”) show intoxication.

Comic artists also use symbolic content in speech balloons:

exp10The question mark indicates confusion or uncertainty. The thought balloon can show a character’s preoccupation, in this case, with money. The typographical symbols (“grawlixes”) represent profanity. The balloons are built-in PowerPoint shapes (Callouts).

Of course, the payoff for all of this is to combine poses, expressions and “symbolia” to create characters actively participating in our stories; here are some examples.

exp11The running figure includes horizontal lines indicating speed (“hites”); the construction worker includes “swalloops.”

By the way, adding faces to the figures makes the addition of facial hair, glasses and earrings feasible for a little more diversity:exp12If you would like a free copy of a PowerPoint file containing these objects, please use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy blog – PowerPoint People – Expressions

See this page for more on downloading files.

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

PowerPoint People – Characters

In the previous post, I showed how simple figures can be surprisingly expressive, adding impact to our marketing and sales stories.  In this post, I’ll begin to create individual characters from these basic figures using clothing and a few other embellishments.

Here’s the first character (Mike) – he’s an office worker, a middle manager and is based on the basic male figure developed in the last post:


Mike is built by modifying the body parts of the basic figure and adding a couple of additional shapes. Here’s how Mike is constructed:


Note: I had originally planned to add clothing to the basic figures (like paper dolls) but I found that modifying the shapes in the basic figure worked for me. You may want to use the paper doll approach but remember to group all the elements of a body part including the “centering circles” when you have completed the part.

Here are some notes on Mike’s construction:

  • Each “hair piece” is a Freeform object and is grouped with the original heads. (You can build a library of hair shapes to help you create a variety of characters.)
  • The front view chest shape has been modified (square shoulders). This involves converting the shape to a Freeform and editing the points. The profile chest is not modified (except for color).
  • The tie is a Freeform and is grouped with the chest, both front view and profile.
  • The lower arm has been shortened and a square added to form the cuff.
  • The front view and profile hip sections (Freeforms) have been “opened” to eliminate the outline between the hip and the legs. “Open Path” is an option when editing points.
  • The legs (front view and profile) have been widened.
  • Editing of the original body parts has been done without ungrouping; additional shapes (like the hair) are grouped with the body part.
  • If you add a shape that partially falls outside the centering circle for the part, enlarge the circle to contain the new shape. This assures that the modified part will rotate properly.

Here’s Mike in a few poses:


The last pose is pretty expressive; Mike’s pet project is probably in trouble.

Here’s Mike’s female counterpart (Millie):


Millie’s construction is similar to Mike’s but there are some variations:


  • The chest is an open shape like Mike’s.
  • The bottom of the coat forms the hip section.
  • The upper legs are replaced by the appropriate half of the skirt. Some overlap is provided so that the legs can be spread (in a ladylike manner, of course).

Here are some notes on the construction of Millie’s profile:


  • The hip section is open to avoid the line at the waist.
  • The upper leg is replaced by the skirt, which is rounded at the top to allow Millie to sit.

Here are a few poses:


Clothing has a lot to do with indicating the role of the character. Here’s Mike on the weekend:


Ethnicity can be signaled by hair and skin color:


Some occupations are associated with a “uniform” and accessories. Here’s Nelly the nurse (who seems to have had a very good day):


Here are a couple of similar examples – a police officer:


And a construction worker:


Check out clip art and other images on the internet to get ideas for representing particular occupations.

In this post, I have tried to show you can start with the basic figures and, with simple modifications, develop specific characters for your story. In the next post, I’ll add a little more expressiveness.

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

Powerpointy blog – PowerPoint People – Characters

See this page for more on downloading files.

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


PowerPoint People – Basic Figures

Sales and marketing gurus advise us to tell stories to engage our audiences. Adding illustrations to our stories will increase the impact but this isn’t easy. You can search the web to find appropriate clipart or photos but chances are that you will be disappointed. Of course, if you have the budget, you can stage a photo shoot to create scenes for your story.

You can of course, create your own scenes. Even if you are not an artist, you can create simplified characters and environments to add surprisingly effective impact to your stories. This series of posts will demonstrate the construction of figures, costumes and other details.

As usual, I’ll use mostly standard PowerPoint shapes to build these “PowerPoint People.” And, I’ll make them modular and reusable to some extent. That way, each new character or pose doesn’t require starting from scratch.

Here’s the construction of a male figure:


This figure has typical cartoon proportions; the overall height is a little more than five times the height of the head (more realistic or “fashion” figures are 7-8 times the head height). These proportions are common for comics and animations. The figure is also similar to the common “bubble head” people icons.

To make “posing” the character easier, I grouped a circle with each body part to establish a center of rotation around the appropriate joint. Here’s what I mean:


The upper arm is shown grouped with the circle showing the center of rotation (the shoulder). The entire body is shown with  the circles in gray. The circles are centered so that the rotation is useful in posing the figures; for example, the head rotates around the upper center of the chest and the chest and hips rotate around the “waist.” Once you have posed the figure, you can make a circle disappear by setting the Line to No Color.

I have used this added circle in other posts to establish a center for the Spin animation; in this case, it’s used to make it a little easier to rotate the parts to establish poses for the figures. There is some cost associated with this; you may find it easier to omit the circles. In any case, posing will require moving the parts as well as rotating them.

Here’s the male figure with some color fills added:


Here’s a livelier version created by simply rotating and positioning the arm parts:


Posing involves several steps; for example, to move the arm, rotate the upper arm first. Then move the lower arm to the elbow and rotate it (you may have to adjust the lower arm after rotation). Here’re the steps:


Next,  move and rotate the hand, followed by other parts as needed.

Here are a few more poses:


Note that the head, chest and hips parts are posed as well as the limbs. Considerable expression and liveliness can be created with these simple figures (without faces or costumes) just by “posing” them.

The profile version of the male figure uses some of the same parts:


The “hip” section is modified (converted to a Free Form and edited) to add some curvature.

Here are some poses of the profile version:


I’m going to limit the characters to only a front and a profile view (kind of a “South Park” approach). This will work for our stories and reduces the complexity considerably.

A female figure is similarly constructed but it is a little shorter and the waist is slimmer. Also, the profile chest and  hips are more rounded:


Here are some poses using the female figure:


Look at people, photos and cartoons to get posing ideas.  Fairly subtle impact can be obtained. For example, compare the male and female running figures. The body lean and higher legs of the female figure represents a more intense activity, compared to the male who just seems to be jogging. Also compare at the walking figures. The straighter legs and arms (and the wrist) of the female look more graceful.

In the next post, I will show you how to create characters for your stories using costumes and other details. But it is worth noting that you can create useful “bubblehead” icons representing activities, industries and occupations using these basic figures and a few embellishments. Here are some examples:


If you want a free copy of the PowerPoint file containing these figures, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download the file:

Powerpointy blog – PowerPoint People – Basic Figures

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.

Robots and Droids in PowerPoint

The best presentations tell stories and need characters to participate in the story. And, of course, visual stories are the most engaging and memorable.

If you are very lucky, you can find appropriate stock images to illustrate your stories. If you are a photographer, you can create “scenes” to tell your story using photos or videos. Or, as a PowerPoint expert, you can use animated cartoon characters.

Cartoon characters have advantages for PowerPoint: they are simple, can be one dimensional and they are not subject to ordinary physics. Robots  are particularly useful as characters; they can be quite simple, have non-human powers (for example, they can fly) and various useful appendages. Also, robots are not necessarily expected to walk or move like a human or animal. So, it is possible to draw and animate “bots” and “droids” in PowerPoint without much difficulty. Of course, as is usual with PowerPoint, don’t expect too much.

In the following, I will show you how I used an animated “bot” in a project.

“PowerPoint Wars”

I wanted to create a series of short animations in a “Star Wars” style that presented “Death by PowerPoint” as an evil infestation. In one episode, bots search the galaxy for evil presentations and destroy them; this effort fails since bad PowerPoint seems unkillable.

In the excerpt I’m using here, a bot arrives and begins to destroy a typical, text heavy presentation:

The Bot

Here’s the bot character:


The bot is a “good guy” (trying to destroy bad PowerPoint, after all) and has a benign appearance. He’s constructed simply with ovals and an arc. Here are some details:

  • The body has a gradient fill to add dimensionality.
  • The heavy outlines are traditional in cartoons.
  • The eyes are inspired by South Park.
  • The second oval in the eyes is a highlight – the fill is white at the center and fades to transparency at the edge. You might be able to get this effect with a gradient fill of the eye but I find this technique easy.
  • The mouth arc has a white shadow.
  • Pay careful attention to the profile layout so that it is consistent with the face view.

In the excerpt, the bot has a couple of appendages: the feet and a gun; here’s a foot:


  • The foot is constructed of rectangles and trapezoids. The side view is constructed of a rectangle and several ovals.
  • Heavy outlines and gradient fills are used.
  • The blue circle is used to establish the pivot point when the foot is animated; it is invisible (has no line color) in the final version.
  • Again, the side view is carefully constructed to be consistent with the front view.

Here’s the gun:


The gun is constructed of a rectangle and a number of trapezoids filled and outlined. The blue circle is used in the animation (the gun swivels in the complete video; this is not shown in the excerpt).


The animation occurs over three slides. This is not strictly necessary – the animation could be done in a single slide. However, I find it simpler to spread the animation over a few slides so that I can keep track of the objects and animation steps.

The sound effects (wav files from Soundrangers) are Inserted as Sound from file (start Automatically); they appear in the animation sequences so that they can be coordinated with the animation effects. The sound effect duration is not explicitly shown in the animation pane.

The first slide layout and animation:



The slide image shows the elements of the slide, the motion path and sound icons. The icons can be hidden but I find it useful to place them “off the slide.” Here are notes on the animation:

  • The bot enters with a Zoom/In along with a custom Motion Path. The motion path is delayed to a point about halfway through the zoom. The sound effect (“flyingsaucer_whoosh04”) starts at about half way through the motion path. The bot ends up over the two feet in position for their deployment.
  • The feet Appear and then Spin to deploy. The sound (“servo_switch03”) starts at the same time.

On the second slide, the bot “walks” towards the slide and deploys the gun:



  • As a result of the slide transition (no transition effect) the bot appears to have (somewhat quickly) turned towards the offending slide. It is very difficult to do a more realistic transition in PowerPoint – this simple approach seems to work in this world.
  • Simultaneous motion paths carry the bot and the foot to a closer position. At the same time,a repeated Teeter effect adds a “walking” effect to the foot.  Again, this is a simple animation that seems effective.  The sound effect (“scanner_type03”)  is simultaneous with the movement.
  • The gun deployment occurs in two steps. First, the “dome” Appears and takes a motion path. The “servo” sound effect is simultaneous with the motion. The gun itself is similarly animated.

The third and final slide contains the firing of the gun and the destruction of the title block on the slide.

Slide 3 must be constructed carefully so that the gun is located exactly where it was deployed in the previous slide. Drawing guides help with this.



  • The gun flash (a gradient-filled oval) enters with a quick Wipe/From left and Disappears, simultaneous with the sound effect (“laser_gun_short_blast_07a lt”).
  • After a very short pause, the slide title object Peeks Out/To Bottom. This effect causes to object to appear to slip downward out of view. This effect is combined with a downward motion path to the floor.
  • Immediately after the title disappears, the debris pile quickly Dissolves In, with a “bounce” (a short up then down motion path). The “landslide02” sound effect occurs while the debris pile appears and bounces.

The animation sequence is quite satisfying (especially the destruction sequence).  I am frankly a little surprised that this can be done in PowerPoint.

More On Sound Effects

I haven’t discussed sound in PowerPoint in this blog so here are a few more notes on the sound effects used in this clip.

  • Visit SoundRangers or some other royalty free sound and music source and check out the broad variety of sounds available. Look in particular categories for sounds that might fit your needs; the sounds in the bot clip are in the “Sci-Fi, Electronic, Fantasy” category.
  • Purchase “.wav” files for PowerPoint. The sound effects cost only a few dollars.  Longer music clips usually cost more.
  • Once downloaded, use Insert/Sound/from File to add the sound to a slide.  Select Automatically in the dialog box.
  • The sound will appear as an event in the Custom Animation pane. You can schedule the sound just like any animation effect except for the duration (see examples above).  For example, you can schedule the sound effect With an animation.
  • It would be handy if the duration were displayed as it is for other effects but this is not the case. You can see the duration by clicking on Effect Options.. and the Sound Settings tab.
  • You don’t need to change any of the other effect options for this kind of application.  The Sound volume option (which might be useful) doesn’t seem to work.


You can see the entire “PowerPoint Wars” episode here.

As usual, if you want a free copy of the PowerPoint file from which the video was made, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy blog – bots and droids

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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