Last time, we looked at how to incorporate, customise, and animate 3D models in PowerPoint. This time around, we’re looking the various customisation options available for 3D models – how to change the material, texture, and lighting 3D shapes and models in PowerPoint.

Material and lighting effects in PowerPoint can provide a wide variety of surface materials and lighting styles to help your 3D models stand out clearly and create an impact. After adding a 3D model into your PowerPoint (Insert > 3D Models > This Device / Stock 3D Models), you can customise the 3D object by right clicking it and selecting Format 3D Model.

3D, 3D Material and Lighting in PowerPoint From here, formatting 3D models is very similar to formatting images. Under the Shape formatting option, you’ll notice some new options you don’t get from 2D images, particularly under 3D Format and 3D Rotation dropdown menus. Under 3D Format you’ll see Material and Lighting options.

3D, 3D Material and Lighting in PowerPoint By default, your options for Material and Lighting are set to Warm Matte for Material and Three Point for Lighting. Changing up the Material and Lighting options allows you to really customise the look, feel, texture, and presentation of your 3D objects, so let’s explore these options in greater detail.

PowerPoint 3D Material Options

The Material option in PowerPoint determines the sheen, texture, and brightness of surface of a 3D shape. There are three types of settings available for Material. They are: Standard, Special Effect, and Translucent.

There are a number of options within each of those settings. We would be able to understand the impact of these options when we apply the effects on a sphere as shown below:

3D, 3D Material and Lighting in PowerPoint While PowerPoint groups these effects based on standard, special effects, and translucent, we’ve found it more practical dividing them in the following ways:

Soft and Professional, such as Matte and Warm Matte. If you want your shapes to look professional and understated use Warm Matte as your Material choice.

Plastic-like feel with increasing intensity, such as Plastic, Metal, Dark Edge, Soft Edge, and Flat. Using these options for material makes your shapes stand out. Apply these effects only when you want to draw your audience attention to your on-slide shapes.

Wireframe, allows you to create some interesting vector designs, which can be extremely useful when editing and animating particularly tricky images and models. Otherwise, Wireframe is not a Material option you would choose normally as it renders most of the image invisible.

Glass like effect with increasing transparency, such as Powder, Translucent Powder, and Clear. Use these options to create effects like a transparent bubble. These options have specific purpose on a slide and can’t be used as commonly as the other options.

Remember, it’s best to stick to the same material effects for all your on-slide objects, unless you want a specific shape to be highlight through the use of a different effect/material.

PowerPoint 3D Lighting Options

Below is the different type of ‘Lighting’ options available in PowerPoint.

3D, 3D Material and Lighting in PowerPoint While the options above look promising, providing different lighting styles based on the time of day and the coolness of the lighting effect, we’ve found that only the Neutral group provides any real change or effect worth using. Neutral includes Three Point, Balance, Soft, Harsh, Flood, and Contrasting.

The other lighting groups are okay, but they won’t really create much visual contrast compared to the Neutral group. However, these group options are as follows: Warm lighting options are based on the time of day, which includes Morning, Sunrise, and Sunset. The Cool lighting options are Chilly and Freezing. The Special lighting choices include Flat, Two Point, Glow, and Bright Room.

The Warm and Cool options should only be considered if your design will be used in an outdoor setting, so you can tweak the lighting based on the time of day and weather conditions. However, we found that the Special lighting choices are a bit too bright, which can be useful to properly highlight your shapes, but use these options with caution as it can be distracting for audiences.

In terms of Material, we recommend between Warm Matte and Dark Edge depending on whether you want the surface of your model to look subtle or more ostentatious.

Once you choose the material, click on the various lighting options under Neutral to decide on how much lighting you need. The brightness in lighting increases in the options from left to right.

Once you’ve landed on a combination that works, stick with it for the rest of your presentation. This will help create consistency and provide a more professional looking presentation.