Insert and manipulate 3D models in Microsoft Word

House building blueprint plans and house model.  3d illustration
Image: Rawf8/Adobe Stock

Microsoft 365 applications can fake 3D shapes and letters, but the effect is often less than satisfactory. If you have to go the 3D route, getting just the right perspective with Microsoft Word’s features can be tedious. Fortunately, Microsoft 365 now supports 3D models. These files are 3D renderings that update perspective in real time, and dozens are available from Microsoft stock images.

You don’t create 3D models in Microsoft Word, but you can insert and manipulate them in Word. In this document I will show you how to work with 3D models in Microsoft Word documents. The results are more accurate and satisfying than anything you could create with Word’s features.

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Microsoft 365 apps, Office 2019, 2021, and Phone 10 support 3D models. We work in Word, but 3D models are also supported by PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook. The web apps do not support 3D models.

Insert a 3D model in Word

You don’t create a 3D model in Word, but you can insert existing 3D models. 3D models are three-dimensional objects used in animation, simulation and even production. 3D printers print 3D models in production. For example, the next time you need a crown, ask the dentist if they want to use a 3D printer to make that crown – many do.

With 3D models in Word, you can move the model to reveal different perspectives. You can use them in electronic and printed documents such as brochures, flyers and other desktop publishing type documents.

After inserting a 3D model into Word, you can manipulate it by rotating and tilting it to see different perspectives, revealing other features. Let’s insert a 3D model and explore it:

  1. Click the Insert tab.
  2. In the Illustrations group, click 3D Models.
  3. From the Inventory drop-down list, choose 3D Models. Later you can buy or create other 3D model files.
  4. In the resulting panel, click the Toys dialog box.
  5. Check the dice (Image A) and then click Insert.

Image A

Select a 3D model to insert into Word.

Figure B

Word inserts the 3D model into a Word document.

Once the 3D model is in a Word document, you can manipulate it to get the look you want.

How to manipulate the 3D model in Word

After placing the dice, Word offers two tools to change the perspective. The red arrow (Figure B) points to the rotary handle, which you may already know. Use that lever to rotate the object 360 degrees. However, it doesn’t change the perspective. For that you need the 3D control in the middle of the die.

Click on that control and drag it around to see the different angles – perspectives – that reveal more details about the object. In this case, if you move it enough, you will see that the die has 21 pips, just like a real die has.

Drag the button down to see the top of the die. Drag the button up to see the bottom, as shown in Figure C. Drag left to reveal the side to the right and drag the control to the right to reveal the left side. The easiest way to get familiar with the features is to play with them for a while. Remember you can still use the rotary handle.

Figure C

Use the 3D control in the center of the object to change the 3D perspective in Word.

Although you have 3D views, Word treats the model like any other image, so almost anything you can do with a normal image, you can do with a 3D model. Just select it and click the Contextual 3D Model tab. As you can see in Figure Dthe Accessibility, Arrange, and Size groups offer options and settings that you may already know.

Figure D

Use the contextual 3D Model ribbon to change the properties and layouts of the model in Word.

There are a few options that are only available for 3D models:

  • Adjust settings allow you to insert and reset a 3D model. If you choose Reset, the model returns to the newly inserted perspective.
  • 3D model views offer several preset views, most of which you can also access using the 3D control, but the preset options are faster.
  • Most interesting is the Pan & Zoom option, which allows you to enlarge and reduce the image within the frame.

How to use pan and zoom in Word

Working with 3D models in Word is not difficult. Within a few minutes you will have a good feeling for the position. Perhaps the only feature that is new to you is Pan & Zoom. This feature allows you to control how the image fits into the frame.

Click Pan & Zoom and click and drag the object within the frame to move it. Use the zoom arrow on the right to make the object appear larger or smaller within the frame.

Digits E shows the result of clicking Pan & Zoom and then moving the model to the right. As you can see, it’s a bit like cropping. You usually lose some of the visual when you use Pane.

Digits E

Zoom moves the object within the frame.

Reset the die and then use the zoom arrow to enlarge the die within the frame. As you can see in Figure F, loses half of the pips. You can also reduce the size of the object.

Figure F

Pan increases and decreases the size of the object within the frame.

Send 3D models in Outlook

Outlook 2019 and later supports 3D models in email messages. When you create a new email, click the Insert tab and select from the main body. When replying to a message, click Popout to open the Insert tab. Double clicking to open the email does not work. The recipient can only view the model.

How to make a 3D model

Earlier I mentioned that you will not use Microsoft Word to create a 3D model. You can convert a 2D shape to a 3D shape, but this is tedious and these shapes limit the perspectives. SmartArt also has 3D effects, but you’ll be working with letters and basic shapes that are better suited for flowcharts and similar uses.

You can use Microsoft Paint 3D. Though limited, you can glimpse the possibilities. Using Paint 3D, select 3D Shapes or 3D Library from the menu. In the right pane, use the many options to sketch a doodle or select an object. When sketching, you may need to connect dots to create the 3D model.

It’s limited, but it’s a worthwhile way to explore before investing in more powerful and expensive third-party software. If you want to try some serious 3D modeling, explore some of the third-party products – there are many.