Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to Make 3D Effects with Radial Gradients in PowerPoint

PowerPoint's 3D effects can turn a square into a box and can extrude other AutoShapes, but circles just turn into disks. You can't get a sphere. The way to make a circle look like a sphere is to add a radial gradient, but alas, PowerPoint doesn't have good radial gradients. You need to go elsewhere.
The good news is that most graphics programs have radial gradients. Examples are Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Freehand, CorelDraw, and Macromedia Fireworks and Flash. You can even use the free OpenOffice.org's Draw program. (OpenOffice.org also has a presentation program, Impress.)
If you create a radial gradient in another program, you can use it as a fill for a circle to give the impression of a ball, as shown here:

By adding a shadow (a rotated ellipse), you can make the ball look even more realistic. There are several methods of getting your radial gradient into PowerPoint, but here's one:
  1. Create the radial gradient, making it a perfect circle. You want two colors, one of them white. The white gives the look of a highlight created by a light source. The important point is to place the white part off center, as shown in the image here. Make sure there's no line around the edge. You just want the fill. (I did this in Photoshop.)
  2. Select the gradient and copy it to the Clipboard.
  3. Go to your slide in PowerPoint and paste. With the gradient selected, right click and choose Save as Picture. (PowerPoint 2002/2003) Name and save the image.
  4. Draw a circle.
  5. Right-click the circle and choose Format AutoShape. Click the Colors and Lines tab.
  6. From the Line Color drop-down list, choose No Line.
  7. From the Fill Color drop-down list, choose Fill Effects. Click the Picture tab, and click the Select Picture button.
  8. Find and choose the image you saved. Click Insert.
  9. Click OK twice to return to your slide. Your circle now looks like a ball.

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