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Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create illustrated characters in PowerPoint

PowerPoint is a versatile application. You can use it for all sorts of things from presentations to online training programs. In previous posts I’ve shown you how to customize clip art and create your own graphics.

Today’s tip comes courtesy of blog reader, Daniel Albarrán. He sent me an email stating that once he understood the versatility of PowerPoint it opened his eyes to all sorts of possibilities—one of them being the ability to create illustrated characters.

How to Create Illustrated Characters in PowerPoint

Here are some of the graphics he created in PowerPoint.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - examples of illustrated characters created in PowerPoint

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - more examples of illustrated characters created in PowerPoint

As you can see, PowerPoint’s a capable application. Pretty cool, huh?

Tips When Creating Illustrated Characters in PowerPoint

Want to create your own illustrated characters? I created a couple of more tutorials with a few extra tips to add to what Daniel started. You can view the tutorials below.

Part 1: Working with PowerPoint’s curve shape.

Click here to watch the PowerPoint tutorial.

Part 2: Working with the custom shapes.

Click here to watch the PowerPoint tutorial.

Here’s a roundup of the PowerPoint tips:

  • Practice using the Curve tool so that you can control the curve and not create too many points. The fewer the points, the easier it is to edit.
  • Edit the shape. Right click on the shape to access the Edit Points feature. From there you can move the points and make adjustments and small tweaks.
  • Show & hide shapes using the Selection Pane.
  • Name the shapes in the Selection Pane for easier management of the image.
  • Use the Shape Union feature to merge the shapes. You can also group them if you want editing control in the future.
  • Right click to save the image. Select .png format to retain the transparency.
  • Don’t worry about being perfect. Also, the less detail the easier it is.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll never want for the right image. Play around with the gradients and layered objects to create more texture and richness.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - an illustrated character created in PowerPoint

Here’s the character I created for the tutorials and the one Daniel shared with me. Feel free to look at how they were created.

Now it’s up to you. Do a practice character and see how it goes.


Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

21 responses to “How to Create Your Own Illustrated Characters in PowerPoint”

I took a stab at creating a self portrait last night. Here it is

Not bad, Tom!

July 1st, 2014

This is a brilliant idea! I spend too much time looking for the right stock photo but I think I could use this trick to create my own. Thank you Tom!

July 1st, 2014

It was nice to see how the Curve tool can be used to create illustrated characters. I think PowerPoint’s Artistic Effects options are also great for making photos look like illustrations, especially the Cutout, Paintbrush, and Pencil Grayscale options. If nothing else, one could apply an Artistic Effect to get a better idea of what shapes to draw for an even more “illustrated” look.

July 1st, 2014

Here’s an animation done in Powerpoint, with text to voice dialog.

@Lucy: once I made it, I was able to squeeze it in about 10% 🙂

Thanks for the tutorials. I took a stab at it just using a random photo I found. Here’s what I came up with.

@Tas: pretty cool; how much time do you think you spent on it?

July 1st, 2014

Thanks Tom for the tutorial…I decided to try my hands on one picture I had on my system and create an Illustrated Character from it. It was challenging and I hope to use it more for my work…
View at
Time…I spent almost 3 hours doing this.

@Tom: I’d say about an hour give or take. I anticipate it would get faster as I became more comfortable using all the tools, and choosing colours and gradients etc. I’m still a bit of a beginner when it comes to those things.

It’s easy and good – but can someone shed some light on copyright issues? For example, if I grab a picture at random from the internet and transform it using this technique, can I use it, or am I infringing a copyright?

@Daniel: nice job; I think as you become more familiar with the curve tool and how to manipulate it, the time to produce definitely would improve.

@Miguel: that’s a good question on copyright. Building an illustration from an image reminded me of the conflict over the Obama hope poster.

Generally I’d shoot my own images to get the core poses to avoid any conflict. However, even if you used a stock image as a template, there’s a lot that you can do to make it your own and distinct from the original source material. Illustrator, Jen Betton, has a good perspective on copyrights.

July 2nd, 2014

Hey Tom… great tutorials and help. I’m just discovering what great tool PowerPoint can be and Illustrated Character, I’m doing a lot with it now! Now I shouldn’t have issues with getting & creating images for my blog.
The first Illustrated Character I designed yesterday was

I have since done a few others and I think it is getting better and faster.
Thanks and great work!

July 4th, 2014

Hi Tom, your self portrait is very good! And your tutorials (with those nice singing birds in the background) are great. An additional tip is using Ctrl, Alt and Shift keys when drawing and manipulating the dots, I´ve noticed that they give a softer control.

What’s the next step? Animation?
For example, might one be able to do a stop motion type video using only the mouth to synch with audio. Yes, it might have a Monty Python feel to it but that could be an attention getter in itself. Do all of this on a green or blue background and use chroma key to bring your character onto a stage such as in front of a PowerPoint presentation.

July 7th, 2014

Thank you for these great tutorials, Daniel and Tom! I had fun with this and created my Articulate Community profile using PowerPoint after watching your videos. 🙂

It took a couple hours and could still use some work, but it was good practice with the Curve tool, which I’m not used to using.

Thanks for the tips!

@Amy: looks good; I think you did a great job.

Cool and powerful

Thanks for creating this, Tom. You have a gift for coming up with and explaining useful tips. Dig the self-portrait, btw.

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