Powerpoint tips: Combining shapes

combine shapes to make a female symbol...
combine shapes to make a female symbol…

Ever wish you could make your own “auto shapes” – want something different like a coloured square with a circular cutout that shows things in layers behind… Powerpoint includes this capacity but Micro$oft hides it from you. This post shows you how to activate this function and use it.




Make “Combine Shapes” accessible: Right click on a blank area on the ribbon or quick-access toolbar, and select ‘customise the ribbon’ or ‘customise the Quick Access Toolbar’. I will illustrate with the QA toolbar. select the Choose commands from : Commands not in the ribbon. Scroll down to Combine shapes, and click the Add button. The combine shapes icon will appear on the QA toolbar.

2016-02-20_121122 2016-02-20_121947 2016-02-20_122148 2016-02-20_122255

To use it: Add a shape. Add a second shape. Here I have added a square and then added a circle, all on a slide with a photo background so you can see the effect better. We will make the circle into a hole. Click the Square. Hold down shift to add the circle (the order is important for some combinations). The result – a square with a round hole that shows the background.

2016-02-20_122355 2016-02-20_122449 2016-02-20_122655 2016-02-20_122706 2016-02-20_122741

The combine shapes menu also includes union, combine and intersect as well as subtract. You can use these to make quite complex shapes from simple shapes.

But there’s more. Right click your shape, and select ‘edit points’. Now you can change your shape by moving points, adding points, deleting points … lots of options.

2016-02-20_122913 2016-02-20_122932 2016-02-20_123115

Here is another example – make male and female symbols from basic shapes: use circles and block arrows to make a male symbol; use 2 circles and a couple of rectangles to make the female symbol. Before combining they are a bit of a mess with the outlines of some shapes overlapping the fill of others. Use union to combine the outer circle and the block arrow; use subtract to make the hollow centre …

2016-02-20_1414422016-02-20_141508 2016-02-20_141544 2016-02-20_141600

You can do similar combinations to make the female symbol…


Now you can use outline and fill to set the fill and border colours and you have nice symbols that you can cut and paste and reuse as you like.