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How to create a churning circle using only a gradient fill in PowerPoint

A spinning hollow circle is a great way to suggest the passing of time in a PowerPoint show. Susan Harkins shows you how to make this simple animation.

Image: monticello/Shutterstock

I’ve been seeing a lot of the blue churning circle on streaming sites. Instead of thinking about how to improve my internet speed, I began to create the effect in Microsoft PowerPoint in my head. It’s extremely simple and a great way to suggest the passage of time. In this PowerPoint tutorial, I’ll show you how to use a gradient fill to make a hollow circle spin. The remarkable thing about this technique is that it requires only one shape and one animation.

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I’m using Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use an earlier version. PowerPoint for the web supports this technique. For your convenience, you can download the demonstration .pptx and .ppt files.

How to make a spinning circle in PowerPoint

This process is so simple that a plan doesn’t seem necessary, but I know when working with PowerPoint I like to know the steps before I start. This process has only three steps:

  1. Insert a PowerPoint hollow circle shape.
  2. Apply a gradient fill color.
  3. Animate the shape.

That’s it! Now, let’s get started by inserting the hollow circle shape in PowerPoint.

Step 1: Insert a hollow circle in PowerPoint

You might be wondering what a hollow circle is. That’s the name PowerPoint gives to the shape that I think of as a donut shape because the circle has no center. To insert this shape, do the following:

  1. Start with a blank slide.
  2. Click the Insert tab.
  3. From the Shapes dropdown, choose hollow circle (Figure A) in the Basic Shapes section.

Figure A

Choose the hollow circle shape.
Choose the hollow circle shape.
  1. Click and drag in the slide to insert the shape holding down the Shift key to create a perfect circle.
  2. Center it and make it as large as possible.
  3. Grab the yellow square (Figure B) and drag in to make the ring a bit thinner (Figure C).

Figure B

Drag the yellow square to reduce the width of the circle.
Drag the yellow square to reduce the width of the circle.

Figure C

We’ll animate the circle to make it spin.
We’ll animate the circle to make it spin.

With the shape in place, it’s time to pick a gradient fill color.

Step 2: How to apply a gradient fill color in PowerPoint

The gradient fill color is the magic that makes this technique so easy to implement. If you animate a solid color, you won’t see it spin — it’s inherent to the basic shape of a circle. The gradient is up to you; choose a subtle fill by using colors that are close in shade or bump things up a bit and use complementing colors, contrasting colors or even shades that contrast a great deal.

With the hollow circle selected, add the gradient fill as follows:

  1. Right-click the hollow circle and choose Format Shape to open the Format Shape pane.
  2. Choose Gradient Fill in the Fill section.
  3. From the Preset gradients, choose Top Spotlight–Accent 5. You might want to experiment a bit and choose another gradient, which is fine. Keep in mind that the gradient contrast is what makes the spinning possible.
  4. Move the Gradient Stop to the center between the white and blue. Again, this is a setting that you can experiment with a bit. If the default settings are different, use Figure D as a guide.

Figure D

You must have a gradient to make the spin show up.
You must have a gradient to make the spin show up.

There’s just one more step—to apply the animation.

Step 3: How to add the spin animation in PowerPoint

The final step is applying the spin animation. With the shape still selected, do the following:

  1. Click the Animations tab.
  2. Click the Quick gallery’s More button (the small down arrow in the gallery’s bottom-right corner).
  3. In the Emphasis section, click Spin. PowerPoint will preview the animation for you—the hollow circle spins!

In the Timing group, the Start setting is On Click. You can change this to suit the way you’re using the churning circle, but we’ll leave it for this demonstration. The Duration setting is two seconds. You can speed up the spin or slow it down. If you want to modify the animation, click the Animation Pane in the Advanced Animation group. Let’s keep it spinning until you click a second time to stop it by using the Repeat option:

  1. With the shape selected and the Animation pane open, right-click the animation (in the pane) and choose Timing.
  2. Click the Timing tab.
  3. From the Repeat dropdown choose Until Next Click (Figure E).
  4. Click OK.

Figure E

Repeat the spin animation until you click.
Repeat the spin animation until you click.

Click F5 to watch the show. At this point, you can make quick modifications such as resizing the center. You might want the ring portion to be even thinner or much thicker. Removing the border makes a dramatic change. You might decide to make the gradient more subtle or more intense.

You have the basic instructions. Make it yours by modifying the settings that suit you and your show’s focus. If you like this technique, you might want to read How to add a bit of spin to a circle in a PowerPoint slide.

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