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10 steps to animating clipart in PowerPoint

Clipart doesn't have to be insipid and boring. Try this cool technique to set things in motion.

Experts don't care for clipart, but it offers an alternative for the non-artists among us (that includes me). With a few basic skills, you can turn a piece of clipart into a purposeful message using animation. In this article, you'll ungroup a clipart object and then animate individual pieces to create a simple spring scene. I've kept the example simple to keep you focused on the tools rather than the art. (This article includes instructions for PowerPoint 2003 through 2010.)

Note: You can download the demo files for this technique if you want to see it in action.

1: Insert the clipart

You can work with most any graphic, as long as PowerPoint can ungroup it. The example clipart file is available at Microsoft. com. Download it and then insert it as follows:

  1. Click the Insert tab. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Picture from the Insert menu and then choose From File. Skip to step 3.
  2. In the Images group, click Picture.
  3. Locate your file, as shown in Figure A.
  4. Double-click it or select it and click Insert.

You can also copy most graphics from the Clipboard onto a slide.

Figure A

Locate the graphic file and insert it into a slide.

2: Enlarge it

You'll find this type of work easier with a large object. Using the sizing handles at any of the four corners, enlarge the picture. Be sure to use the corners to maintain the object's proportions. The picture doesn't need to fill the entire slide, so don't worry too much with it. Do be sure to enlarge the picture before you ungroup it.

3: Ungroup it

Now you're ready to ungroup the aggregate so you can work with its many pieces, as follows:

  1. Select the object and click the contextual Format tab. In 2003, right-click the picture, choose Grouping, choose Ungroup, and then skip to step 3.
  2. Choose Ungroup from the Group option's drop-down (in the Arrange group), as shown in Figure B. If PowerPoint dims the Group option, you can't ungroup the selected object using PowerPoint. Without specialized knowledge, it's easier to find a new graphic to work with.
  3. When PowerPoint prompts you to convert the object, click Yes.
  4. Repeat step 2 to ungroup the object a second time. Figure C shows the resulting pieces, ungrouped and selected.

Figure B

The Group drop-down is an icon in the Arrange group.

Figure C

Figure C

PowerPoint ungroups the many pieces in the graphic file, enabling you to work with them individually.

4: Strip out the extra pieces

At this point, assess the pieces you've just ungrouped to discern what you don't need. Click the areas you want to remove and paste them to another slide for safekeeping. You can always press [Ctrl]+Z to undo something. Figure D shows the example graphic with the borders and background shapes removed. After deleting the letters in the middle (Spring), I also added more raindrops and a third cloud.

Figure D

Remove the pieces you don't need and add more where necessary.

This step can be involved and tedious. You can select several pieces at once by dragging and selecting. Be sure you save your work periodically.

5: Start the shower

We want the raindrops to fall from the sky in a gentle shower. To make this happen, select them all -- just hold down the [Shift] key while you click each one. With the raindrops selected, do the following:

  1. Click the Animations tab. In 2003, choose Custom Animations from the Slide Show menu.
  2. From the Animation drop-down, choose More Entrance Effects (just below the gallery thumbnails). In 2003, use the Add Effect drop-down in the Custom Animation pane.
  3. In the resulting dialog, select Float Down (in the Moderate section), as shown in Figure E. In 2003, use the Descend effect.
  4. Click OK.

Figure E

We'll use Float Down effect to simulate rain falling from the sky.

6: Randomize the timing

You can preview the slide in Normal view by clicking the Animation Pane option in the Advanced Animation group and clicking Play. As is, the raindrops fall in unison. You might like that effect, but random raindrops are probably more interesting. Create random rainfall as follows:

  1. Display the Animation pane if necessary.
  2. Click the first animation's drop-down and choose Start After Previous, as shown in Figure F. Doing so automates the sequence during the slide show.
  3. Repeat step 2 for each of the raindrops, selecting either Start After Previous or Start With Previous. Some animations will require precision, but we're simulating raindrops, so the more random, the better.
  4. Play the animation to check your settings and change the start settings until you're satisfied.

Figure F

Choose a start setting.

7: Mix up the timing

You can also make specific raindrops fall faster or slower. Select a small group of raindrops by dragging the mouse over them. Doing so will select the animation items (in the Animation pane) for those objects. Then, do the following:

  1. Right-click the selection and choose Timing, as shown in Figure G.
  2. In the resulting dialog, change the Delay setting shown in Figure H to 0.5 seconds (or a slower speed).
  3. Click OK.

Figure G

Change the timing for small groups of raindrops.

Figure H

Reduce the setting to speed up some of the raindrops.

8: Grow flowers

The next animation will simulate growing flowers. To create this animation, do the following:

  1. Hold down the [Shift] key while you click the flower heads to create a multi-selection. Select only the petal components of each flower (no leaves or stems).
  2. From the Animation gallery, choose Grow/Shrink. In 2003, use the Change drop-down to select the Grow/Shrink Emphasis effect.

Right now, the flowers grow after all the raindrops have fallen, so let's mix that up a bit. With all the flowers still selected (you can tell because their animation icons are orange instead of white) right-click their block of animation items (in the Animation pane) and choose Start With Previous, setting all of them at once, as shown in Figure I.

Figure I

All the flowers are now set to grow with the previous animation.

9: Move the "growing" animations

Step 8 probably doesn't make much sense, as it doesn't change much -- -not yet. To disperse the growing flowers, we need to change the order in which PowerPoint triggers them. First, select a raindrop near or above a flower to select that raindrop's animation in the Animation pane. Figure J shows Freeform 98 selected, just above the first flower on the left. Now, here's what you do:

  1. After noting a raindrop above the flower (Freeform 98), select the flower (Freeform 189) in the Animation pane.
  2. Using the Reorder arrow (at the bottom of the Animation pane), move the flower (Freeform 189) up until it's immediately below the raindrop (Freeform 98), as shown in Figure K.

Figure J

Note the animation item for a raindrop above the flower.

Figure K

Fig

Move the flower's animation to just below the corresponding raindrop's animation.

Here's where step 8 comes in. Because the trigger is Start With Previous, the flower seems to grow when the raindrop above, falls. Now, reorder the remaining flower animations, as follows:

  • Freeform 185 below Freeform 194.
  • Freeform 181 below Freeform 196.
  • Freeform 177 below Freeform 201.
  • Freeform 173 below Freeform 99.
  • Freeform 193 below Freeform 103.
Figure L shows some of the items in the Animation pane. As you can see, the Grow/Shrink animation items are interspersed throughout the Float Down items. Before, they all followed the Float Down items.

Figure L

The Animation pane shows the reordered items.

10: Let it rain!

The last step is to play the animation by pressing [F5]. If you're running the downloadable demo, click past the first slide, which contains the original graphic, and enjoy the spring shower. Figure M is just a single moment; it shows about half the raindrops and a couple of grown flowers.

Figure M

Watch the spring showers nourish the flowers.

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About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

6 comments
lyambor
lyambor

While this method may work and much easier to do than the multiple steps may indicate I can't see average users taking the time to do this. But it is a good technique to use once in a while.

sh10453
sh10453

Goof job Susan. Nice tricks.

SirWizard
SirWizard

Is that a typo or a comment on Susan's "Start Striping" heading? I was wondering why one should add stripes until I realized that she meant "stripping" to remove graphic elements. That's a goof the "spell-ink Czech-her" can't catch.