PowerPoint 2010 has a new feature that’s very hard to find, but people are praising it over and over. It’s called Custom Shapes, and it’s a set of 4 tools that you can use to create your very own shapes–the sky’s the limit!
Why do you need Custom Shapes?
- To make your slides unique!
- For the flexibility to communicate your message in the way that works best for you and your audience
- For a professional, designer (custom-made) look
I’ll be covering the Custom Shapes tools in several posts, because there’s a lot to cover.
Why are they hard to find?
Usually, Microsoft highlights new features, but the Custom Shapes tools aren’t even on the ribbon! As a result, many people don’t know about them. First, I’ll tell you how to add them to your Quick Access toolbar, which is at the top-left corner of your PowerPoint window.
At the right of the Quick Access toolbar, click the down arrow and choose More Commands.
In the PowerPoint Options dialog box, you’ll see a Choose Commands From drop-down list at the top. Choose Commands Not in the Ribbon to make the Custom Shape commands easier to find.
Scroll down the list of commands until you get to “Shapes.” You’ll see 4 commands–Shape Combine, Shape Intersect, Shape Subtract, and Shape Union. Select Shape Combine and click Add. Do the same with the other 3 commands that start with “Shape.”
Click OK to close the PowerPoint Options dialog box. The commands are now on the Quick Access toolbar.
Start creating your very own cool shapes
What can you do with these tools? Almost anything! Here’s a quick summary:
- Union adds two shapes together
- Subtract subtracts them; select the one you want to keep first
- Intersect keeps just the intersection between the two if they overlap
- Combine cuts out the intersection between multiple shapes but also makes the result a freeform so you can edit points
In this post, I’ll show you a simple example using the Shape Union command.
How to use Union to create a simple custom shape
Let’s say that you want to create a SmartArt diagram, but can’t find the shape you want. You want a space for a small, circular photo at the left, some text in the middle, and an arrow at the right. Here’s what you sketched on a napkin:
Here are the steps to create this shape:
- Insert a circle. (Remember, you can press Shift as you drag the circle on the slide to make sure it’s a perfect circle, not an oval.)
- Insert a rectangle to the right of the circle. Resize and move it so that it looks like the above image. You’ll see the outline around each shape, but don’t worry about that now.
- Insert an isosceles triangle. To get the shape you want, you need to rotate it to the right. Press Shift and drag the little green rotation circle to the right. Then resize and move the triangle so that it matches up to the right side of the rectangle.
Your shapes should look like this:
- Select all 3 shapes and click Shape Union on the Quick Access toolbar. (The command button isn’t active unless you select at least 2 shapes.)
Your new, custom shape looks like this:
Go ahead and add a photo (I added another circle on top and filled it with the photo) and text. You can add text to it, just like any shape that comes with PowerPoint! Here’s the final result:
Now go forth and create your own custom shapes! Let me know the results by leaving a comment.
In Part II, I’ll show you how to use the Shape Subtract feature.
Learn easy principles and techniques that designers use. “Slide Design for Non-Designers” shows you, step-by-step, how to easily get the results you want. Plus bonus theme, template, sample slides, and 5 short video tutorials to make implementing the principles easy.Updated for PowerPoint 2016/365. Learn more at http://www.ellenfinkelstein.com/pptblog/slide-design-for-non-designers/
That’s brilliant! Thanks for pointing out that feature,
Thank you for this information. This is very fun to use.
I tried to add a picture, but the picture was filling all the shape, not just the circle as in your example. Did you add another circle on top of the shape to add the picture ?
Wow – I would never have found this! What a great addition to my repertoire! Just a note – you may want to tell people how to find the Quick Access Toolbar. That alone took me a while because it was not checked (show Quick Access Toolbar below the ribbon) and was not on the ribbon at the top.
Yes, I created a separate circle shape and filled it with the image. I didn’t mention it because it isn’t really about Shape Union, but was specific to that shape that I created, but maybe I should have. I also had to add some spaces in front of the text to place it where I wanted it. I could have added a text box on top, also.
Glad you’re enjoying the information!
Thanks for pointing that out. By default, it’s at the very top, but you can set it to show below the ribbon. Glad you like the technique!
Thanks for this post, Ellen. I had no idea about the Shape Union tool. Will have to try this out!
Thanks so much for this, Ellen ! I haven’t seen these features outside Corel Draw and I’m thrilled they’re now in PowerPoint.
Is there any way to save these shapes (not as images, but as shapes)?
Some of the PowerPoint MVPs have requested that once you make a custom shape, you could right-click it and choose Add to Shapes Gallery. It would be cool, right? For now, I would create a presentation library and save it there so you can easily find it again.
Thank you very much. That was exactly what I was looking for.
thank u for the useful information
This is a great tip 🙂
Thank you very much
This is a great tool. The main question I have is how to save this new shape to the list so that it can be used over and over again??
It’s a great idea — and others have suggested it. Here’s where to make the suggestion to Microsoft: http://powerpoint.uservoice.com
Meanwhile, you can create a presentation and put your custom shapes on slides — call it custom shape library or something like that.
[…] and the circle. On the Format tab, choose Merge Shapes, Union. (I cover this feature in detail “How to create your very own cool shapes with the Custom Shapes tools: Part I-Union.” You access is slightly differently in PowerPoint 2010. This feature is not available in […]
Thank you for this information, I have added them to the ribbon but they are greyed out and I can’t use them, do you know how I can activate these shape functions?
Pearl, you need to have 2 shapes selected for the buttons to be active. Does that help?
I have Publisher 2010 but the Custom Shape commands aren’t in the Options to add them to the ribbon. How do I get them?
This solves one of the great weakness of PowerPoint. Thanks so much.I have doing this white line or line matching the background at the intersection of the shapes. This is much easier.
Its a shame it doesn’t work with lines. I’m trying to create crowsfeet objects for ER diagramming and I’m too cheap to pay for Visio!