Excel Drawing – creating graphical object data

This tutorial will introduce the reader to creating simple drawings in Excel by using the “Freeform” auto shape.

Later on, we will be able to convert this data in x-y-z vertex information for various models by using a macro.


Drawing in Excel – part #1 – an introduction tocreating freeform type autoshapes

– On this blog we will soon need to create models that contain animation and simple 3D objects such as
weapons, vehicles, aircraft, ships UFO’s and possibly very simple humans. Initially these will be wireframe
3D objects, but later we can use filled shapes to render more realistic objects.

– Excel is speed limited in handling objects with more that a few hundred vertices (2007-2010) and a
few thousand vertices (2003 and earlier).

-In Excel 2003 for instance, keeping the
number of vertices below 500 for instance
could produce reasonably fast models.

– This is a brief introduction into creating
freeform autoshapes based on pictures
imported from the outside of the workbook.

-This section of the presentation describes
the process of creating a freeform shape,
changing the coordinates of its vertices and
adding or deleting vertices. Retrieving the
vertex coordinates in an x-y worksheet table
will be described in a future presentation.

-The second section will describe the graphi-
cal handling of chart point coordinates.

by George Lungu


Creating freeform autoshapes:

– This tutorial is not intended for artistic drawing in Excel or PowerPoint (you can
find plenty of those tutorials on YouTube) but it is strictly targeting the generation
of x-y-z vertex data for simple 3D objects to use in animated models.

– Make the drawing toolbar visible: View => Toolbars => Drawing

– Insert a picture: Insert => Picture => From File => navigate to the file => select the file name =>

– On the bottom of the page, in the drawing toolbar select: Autoshapes => Lines => Freeform then click
over the point in the picture where you want the line to start.

– Continue clicking around the periphery of the object until you reach the starting point for a closed
shape or the end point for a non-closed shape.

– You don’t need to be very precise you can easily later adjust the position of the points by right
clicking on the shape => Edit Points. After that, all the vertices will appear as small solid black squares
that can be easily dragged across the screen using the mouse.

– After the shape is finished and you enter the “Edit Points” mode you could easily insert new points
by simply clicking anywhere on the curve between any two existing points and dragging the new point
(you have to drag the new point a little, simple clicking is just not enough to create it).

– You could also delete any of the points by hovering on top of it until the pointer change shape then
right clicking and selecting “Delete Point” from the drop down menu. Of course you need to first be in
“Edit Points” mode to do this.

Creating freeform shapes – an example:

– Here is the example of
drawing Lisa Simpson’s head
by first generating an outline
(blue line).

– You can see the outline in
“Edit Points” mode, moved
away from the picture (far

– After generating it without
too much precision, the
position of the points can
easily be adjusted while the
shape overlaps the picture.

– Furthermore, extra points could be added or deleted any time later to improve the drawing precision.

– The created shape is not smooth and a higher density of points as well as a larger template picture
size would improve the curve resolution.

– Working with large pictures is a good thing because once the coordinates are retrieved by a macro, a
scale down operation could be performed on the final x-y vertex data table. Since the digitization
affects the precision of vertex coordinate data collection (a larger the picture is affected less by a
constant pitch digitization) but the numerical scaling operation is very precise, the overall copying
precision will increase with the template picture size.

Finishing Lisa Simpson’s head:

– There are a total 17 shapes included in the sprite. All are drawn with the template picture
underneath in order to keep the correct shape size and alignment. The series of steps in producing the
object is shown below.
– Four shapes have to be filled, the head contour, the nose and the eyes.
– The order of the shapes is also important. The eye pupils are on the top most followed by the eye
balls and followed by the nose. The head contour in on the bottom. A future tutorial will create a
macro which generates a table of coordinates from a group of shapes in a quick and easy procedure.
to be continued…

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