Bezier Curves

Bezier curves are handy little drawing nodules that give you much more control over your lines, paths and curves. (These will be especially important when creating animation paths, a new feature in PPT 2002.) The easiest way to learn them is to practice, practice, practice.

To get to the Bezier curves in PPT, first draw a line of some sort. Note that you can tear off the lines from the Autoshapes menu–handy if you need to draw a lot of things. Double-clicking any of the lineshapes in this menu will make that line control “sticky”–you won’t have to click to select the line type before drawing each one.

1.Use one of the tools to draw a line. Note that if you use the Curve or FreeForm tools, you’ll have to double-click to release the tool. Single clicks actually add navigation points–also known as vertices (or vertexes if you check the PPT help files) to these kinds of lines as you can see below on the right.

I find it easiest to use the Curve or FreeForm line tools as opposed to using the scribble line tool. The scribble might seem easier to draw with, but it adds so many vertices it makes the shape more difficult to work with.

As with most drawing programs, holding down the SHIFT key while clicking/drawing the line will allow you to create straight lines. In PPT, pressing the SHIFT key constrains your lines to 15-degree increments.

Anyway, select your line and right-click to get to the Edit Points option. (Edit Points is also available by clicking on the “Draw” menu at the bottom of the page.)

2.Add a point. To do this, right-click the line again and select “Add Point.” The point or “vertex” (a black node as you can see below) will be added wherever you right-clicked. You can also use CTRL+Click on a line to add a vertex. CTRL+Click on the vertex itself will delete the vertex.

3. Now that you’ve added a point, you can select what type of point/vertex you want it to be–smooth, straight, or corner. Do this by right-clicking on the black vertex itself. Auto Point is the default vertex type, and it seems to work mostly like a smooth point (but this might be dependent upon the type of line you’ve drawn in the first place).

4. Notice the funky blue lines that pop up after you’ve determined what point/vertex type you want to use. These are how you manipulate the curve. I have no idea what these lines are called, so I’ll call the blue lines “funky blue lines” and the white vertices (the little boxes) on the ends the “handles.” (Technical terms, those. <g>)

5. Grab the handle at the end of one of those funky blue lines and draaaaaaag it as shown below. As you can see, PPT displays a dashed line to let you know what your line will look like when you let go of the handle. If you release about where the hourglass is below, your line will become a nice S-curve. Note that the further away you pull the handles, the larger and smoother your curve will be.

6. You can move the point/vertex around if necessary. Just left-click the black vertex and drag. PPT will show you how your curve will change (dashed line) as you move the vertex around. Or clicking directly on a line, as opposed to a vertex, and dragging will reshape your line and add a vertex.

7. Close Path is a handy little feature, too. Simply click elsewhere on the slide to get out of Edit Points mode, then right-click on the line to select it and bring up the popup menu. Choose Close Path (right below Edit Points).

8. Corner points are useful as well. Start out as above, but this time choose Corner Point. Notice I made my line longer than I ultimately wanted my shape to be–I added the corner point vertex midway on the line.

9. Now grab the black vertex at the far right and move it down. The corner vertex will swell, but be patient. You can fix it by using the handles to move the funky blue lines to the appropriate spots.

10. You can extend any of your lines by just grabbing the black vertices and dragging them into place.

Final Note. Bezier Curves can be frustrating, especially at first. But with practice, Bezier Curves will be your friends. <g> They are extremely useful tools to help you draw more accurately in PPT. They’re not available in PPT 95–definitely one more reason to upgrade.

I also highly recommend Glen Millar’s tutorial on 3D Bezier Curves! Glen has an amazing way of looking at the world and then explaining to us how he does it.