Skip to main content

How to add a curved shadow to create 3D PowerPoint shapes

It takes only a few shapes to turn an ordinary shape or text box into a fun and unexpected 3D work of art in Microsoft PowerPoint.


PowerPoint has a few built-in shadow effects for creating 3D effects, but they're formal and a bit predictable. There's nothing wrong with them and they'll look fine in any presentation. However, if your subject allows for it, you can be a bit unpredictable, and depending on the shape in question, even a bit fun. In this article, I'll show you how to add a curved shadow to shapes to create an unpredictable and often, fun, 3D effect. You'll be amazed at how simple this look is to achieve!

Disclosure: TechRepublic may earn a commission from some of the products featured on this page. TechRepublic and the author were not compensated for this independent review.

I'm using (desktop) Office 365 but you can use earlier versions. You can work on your own or download the demonstration .pptx file. This article assumes you have basic PowerPoint skills, such as inserting shapes and changing their properties and formats. Throughout this article, I'll use the term shape instead of AutoShape (which is used in earlier versions). The browser displays the finished shapes, but you can't add the soft effect to the curved shadow in the browser.

LEARN MORE:  Office 365 for business

The finished look

The look might be a bit difficult to imagine in your head from a brief description, so let's begin with the finished slide. Figure A shows a simple use of this technique. Once you create one instance of the 3D note, you can copy, move, and change properties, such as color. The thing to remember is you're working with only three pieces: A rectangle shape, a moon shape, and a push-pin clipart. You can use the curved moon technique for any kind of shape, but notes are something all of us are familiar with. The tips of the notes aren't really turned up; it's a simple illusion. 

Figure A



  Three shapes create this simple, but effective, 3D note slide.

How to create the curved shadow in PowerPoint

You'll need two shapes, a rectangle and a moon shape, and a push pin clipart image to complete the look. Let's tackle the curved shadow, made from the moon shape, first and build from there. To get started, insert and format a moon shape as follows:

  • On the Insert tab, click Shapes in the Illustrations group.
  • You'll find the moon shape in the Basic Shapes section (Figure B).
  • Insert the shape and resize if necessary.
  • Use the rotation handle to turn the shape 90 degrees (tips going down).
  • Next, use the yellow shape handle to extend the center of the internal curve so that you have almost a half moon.
  • Using the Shape Format tab (Shape Styles group) or the Format Shape pane, change the color to gray and remove the outline. You'll find colors in the Shape Fill option and the outline in the Shape Outline option.
  • From the Shape Effects dropdown choose Soft Edges. From the resulting submenu, choose 10 point. (You can alter this property later when applying it to your own shapes; more or less might be more appropriate.)
  • SEE: How to create fun bouncing-ball bullet points in Microsoft PowerPoint (TechRepublic)

    Figure B



      Select the moon shape.

    Figure C shows the shadow. Next, we'll add the rectangle to represent the note.

    Figure C



      Format the moon shape.

    How to add the note in PowerPoint

    Adding the note is the simplest part. Using the Insert tab, choose the Rectangle from the Basic Shapes section. Using Figure D as a guide, size it, change the color, and add a light gray outline. As before, you'll find these options in the Shape Styles group on the Shape Format tab or in the Format Shape pane. If necessary, bring the note forward using the Bring Forward option in the Arrange group.

    Figure D



      Add the note to the mix.

    Size the note so that it's a bit wider than the curved shadow. You can explore this later; with some shapes, the curved shadow might need to be less wide or even deeper.

    Once you have the note and shadow the way you want, select both and create a group using the Group option in the Arrange group. That way, you can resize, rotate, and move easily.

    To finish the effect, we want to add a push pin to the top-center of the note. You can quickly insert one using the Insert tab. Choose Online Pictures in the Images group. In the resulting dialog, enter push pin as the search criteria and press Enter. If necessary, check the Creative Commons only option (unless you're willing to look into to paying royalties). Choose (select) a push pin and click Insert. Back in the slide, resize and position the image. Rotate the note if you like (Figure E).

    Figure E



      Rotate the note and add a push pin to the top of the note.

    You might consider grouping the pin with the note, but I suggest that you don't. That way, you can rotate the pin's shadow and position the pins randomly (see Figure A).

    SEE: How to use 3 PowerPoint animations to wow your audience (TechRepublic)

    More ideas

    Once you see how simple this technique is, let your imagination take over. There are a number of ways you can make elements a bit more interesting by adding a simple curved shadow to create a custom 3D look.

    Also see


    Popular posts from this blog

    History of Art Timeline

    The historical past of art is usually told as a chronology of masterpieces created during each civilization. It can thus be framed as a narrative of high culture, epitomized by the Wonders of the World. On any other hand, vernacular art expressions can even be integrated into art historic narratives, called folk arts or craft. The more intently that an art historian engages with these latter sorts of low culture, the much more likely it is that they will determine their work as analyzing visual culture or cloth culture, or as contributing to fields associated with art historical past, akin to anthropology or archaeology. In the latter cases, art gadgets may be called archeological artifacts. Surviving art from this era comprises small carvings in stone or bone and cave painting. The first traces of human-made gadgets appeared in southern Africa, the Western Mediterranean, Central and Eastern Europe Adriatic Sea, Siberia Baikal Lake, India, and Australia. These first traces are general…

    How to Show Art Work when the Gallery Says No Thanks

    There are places in the town where you live where you can show your artwork when the big gallery you solicited said, "No, thanks."
    Other artists may need to find venues other than galleries to show their artworks as well. Visual artists living in art-rich communities where there is a lot of local competition will need to get creative about display opportunities.

    Or on the other hand, in towns without large art venues, it is important for artists to find smaller and less obvious places to show your art.

    How to Show Art Work When The Gallery Says No Thanks

    1. Show Where You Go

    The most successful approach to finding a place in your town to display your artwork is to solicit a place that you go to frequently. Make a list of all the places you go to each day, each week, and each month.

    Make a special trip, or the next time you visit note if the establishment currently exhibits any artwork, if it is local, and if it is for sale.

    Also note if they have available wall space where a…

    Watch: This Crashing Wave Art Installation in South Korea Brings Seaside Tranquility to a Busy City

    Salvador Dalí was one of the most famous painters of the 20th century. The Surrealist's self-promotional antics and bizarre artwork made him an international celebrity early in his career, and there are still traces of him littered throughout pop culture. References to the melting clocks in his most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory, have cropped up on everything from The Simpsons to news coverage of the 2015 New England Patriots's Deflategate scandal. His distinctive personal style is now so iconic that he has become a Halloween costume—one instantly recognizable by mustache al one.The artist's long career was full of unexpected twists, and even if you've seen his work, you probably don't know how far-reaching his influence remains today, more than a century after he was born on May 11, 1904. 1. Salvador Dalí started painting when he was just a kid. Dalí painted one of his earliest known works, Landscape of Figueres, in 1910, when was about 6 years ol…