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Spirographs in PowerPoint

Create amazing spirographs right inside PowerPoint.


Product/Version: PowerPoint

While it is possible to create spirographs in any version of PowerPoint, it is much easier and quicker to do so in PowerPoint 2007, thanks to the new Selection and Visibility task pane and the non-modal dialog boxes.

These slides show a spirograph created entirely within PowerPoint:

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how you can create a basic round spirograph. You can download the finished spirographs here:

  1. Launch PowerPoint – by default it may open with a new slide. Otherwise, insert a new slide in any new or existing presentation (shortcut key to insert a new slide: Ctrl+M).
  2. Apply the Blank slide layout to the new slide. Select the Home tab on the Ribbon, and click the Layout option to summon the Layout gallery that you can see in Figure 1. Then choose the Blank layout option. The Blank slide layout has no text or content placeholders, and works best if you want to create a drawing of a spirograph!

    Slide Layout
    Figure 1: Slide layout
  3. Within the Home tab of the Ribbon, select the Oval option within the Shapes gallery, and drag a somewhat long and narrow shape, as you can see in Figure 2.

    Oval .
    Figure 2: Oval
  4. Spirograph elements normally have no fill, just an outline – so that’s what we will replicate here. To do that, select the oval and then select the Drawing Tools Format tab of the Ribbon. Click the Shape Fill option to bring up the small gallery that you can see in Figure 3. Choose the No Fill option.

    Figure 3: Fill
  5. Press Ctrl+D eight times to end up with nine ovals (one original and eight duplicates), as shown in Figure 4.
    Figure 4: Duplicated ovals
  6. Press Ctrl+A to select all the ovals. Then activate the Drawing Tools Format tab on the Ribbon, click the Align option to summon the Align gallery, and choose both the Align Left and Align Top options (see Figure 5).

    Figure 5: Align left and top
  7. You’ll end up with what looks like an unimpressive, single oval as shown in Figure 6! Don’t worry – the shapes are all there even if they are overlapping each other. For now, just click on an empty area of the slide so that nothing is selected.
    Figure 6: Overlapping ovals
  8. Now we’ll use a new PowerPoint 2007 feature: the Selection and Visibility task pane. On the Home tab of the Ribbon, choose Select, Selection Pane as shown in Figure 7.

    Figure 7: Select
  9. This brings up the Selection and Visibility task pane, shown in Figure 8.

    Selection and Visibility
    Figure 8: The Selection and Visibility task pane can be docked, or moved around as a floating window.
  10. Start working on the stack from the bottom up. Leave the bottommost oval untouched, and select the oval right above the last one. This will select the corresponding oval on the slide. Now select the Drawing Tools Format tab on the Ribbon, and click the dialog launcher in the Size Group (last option to the right) to bring up the Size and Position dialog box.
  11. Select the Size tab in this dialog box, and type in 10 in the Rotation box. Don’t press the Close button to send away this dialog box – just press the Tab key on your keyboard and move the dialog box a little so that it does not overlap the stacked ovals. You’ll also be able to preview the rotated oval as shown in Figure 9. Also, since the Size and Position dialog box is non-modal, you can still leave it open and continue other tasks like selecting other shapes on the slide.

    Size and Position
    Figure 9: Size and position
  12. Now select the third-last oval from the bottom of the stack, and enter 20 in the Rotation box within the Size and Position dialog box.
  13. Do the same thing with subsequent ovals as you work bottom to upwards using the Selection and Visibility task pane. Add a Rotation value that increases by 10 each time so that the Rotation value of the topmost oval is 80. You’ll end up with something akin to what you can see in Figure 10.

    Figure 10: Rotated ovals
  14. Press Ctrl+A to select all the ovals on the slide. Right-click carefully so that you don’t accidentally move any shape, and choose Group | Group as shown in Figure 11.

    Figure 11: Grouped ovals
  15. With the group still selected, press Ctrl+D to duplicate the entire group of ovals. Press Ctrl+A again to select both the groups, and align them both left and top, as explained previously in Step 6 (refer to Figure 5).
  16. Deselect the groups by clicking in an empty area of the slide, then select the top group in the Selection and Visibility task pane, access the Size and Position dialog box again and enter a Rotation value of 90 to end up with a complete spirograph as shown in Figure 12.

    Figure 12: Completed spirograph
  17. If you need to animate individual oval shapes within the spirograph, or change their outline colors, it is a good idea to ungroup the spirograph now. To do that, press Ctrl+A to select all shapes, and then carefully right-click so that you don’t move anything accidentally. Choose Group | Ungroup to end up with what you can see in Figure 13. Spirograph
    Figure 13: Ungrouped spirograph


You can use 5 degree rotation increments for a spirograph with more curves.


You can replace the ovals in the spirograph with other shapes! To do that, make sure you ungrouped the shapes as explained in step 17. Then press Ctrl+A to select all shapes, select the Drawing Tools Format tab on the Ribbon, and choose Edit Shape | Change Shape to bring up the Shapes gallery. Choose any shape that looks the same at the top and bottom – experiment and you’ll achieve spirograph designs so amazing that people will have a difficult time believing this was created within PowerPoint!

Figures 14 and 15 show you some of these variations:

Figure 14: Spirograph with a changed shape

Figure 15: Another spirograph variation

Note: Spirograph is a registered trademark of Hasbro, Inc., for a geometric drawing toy, but unlike many other trademarks, it has entered the common speech as a drawing style.
Related Link: Wonder why you cannot paste one object exactly over the original in PowerPoint? Here's something you should read.

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since November 02, 2000