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(Note: Creating and combining custom shapes is a tool introduced in PowerPoint 2010 that lots of presenters find useful. We first published this post in February 2010 and ever since then people have been looking it up so here it is again.)
PowerPoint has a lot of great preset shapes, but sometimes what you really need is a custom shape tailored-made for your presentation. If you’re looking to go beyond the Freeform Tool to create more complex custom shapes, we’ve created a new feature in PowerPoint 2010 called Combine Shapes to help you do just that! Using the principles of Boolean Geometry, the Combine Shapes tool allows you to create new shapes by combining multiple shapes in one of four ways: Union, Combine, Subtract, or Intersect. This is a relatively advanced feature, so it doesn’t appear by default on the Ribbon. To enable Combine Shapes, add it to your Ribbon via the PowerPoint Options dialog: PowerPoint Options > Customize Ribbon > Commands Not in the Ribbon > Combine Shapes. (For more information on how to add items and customize your Ribbon and QAT, see this post).
In just a few clicks, you can quickly and easily create intricate and unique geometries by combining simple shapes in various ways. Here’s an example where we create a key shape using only ovals, rectangles, and triangles. Step 1: Draw the silhouette of a key using several basic shapes, and merge them using “Shape Union” to create the body of the key:
Step 2: Draw shapes to represent the negative areas (i.e. the “holes” in the key). Select the body of the key first, then select the “holes”, and use “Shape Subtract” to cut them out:
Want even more control over the shape’s geometry? Custom shapes created using the Combine Shapes tool are freeforms, so you can take advantage of the Edit Points feature to further fine-tune your shape:
Add a gradient fill and some 3D effects to turn your custom shape into an eye-popping graphic!
With PowerPoint 2010, you no longer have to worry about not being able to find the perfect shape or Clip Art… if you can’t find one, create one yourself! Here are a few more examples of custom graphics created by PowerPoint’s Product Planner, Tal Krzypow, using the Combine Shapes tool:
Download the Office 2010 Beta today and try your hand at creating your own custom shapes. We’d love to hear what you think!
Chris Doan Program Manager, Office Graphics
Updated (Feb 2): Changed the instructions to reflect the location of this feature in the PowerPoint 2010 Beta. Originally we posted instructions on how to find this feature in the released version.
Great features! I have been waiting for these features. With these tools and Equation Editin, you've given me everything that I wanted in PowerPoint. Keep Up the Good Job!
Amazing information, and amazing feature !!!
I've added Shape Combine to my Ribbon (Picture Tools Format), but unable to access...just grayed out. What to do?
Is this feature also available in Powerpoint 2008 for Mac? Have been looking for it for more than 2 hours now, but can't find it. Annoys the hell out of me!
But can I change the shape of a picture that already exists on the slide, as I could easily on PP 2007?
all I want to do is change a rectangular picture on the slide to a round picture. Is there any way to do that?
Joan, You're in luck; there is an easy way to do this. Click on the picture, go to the Picture Tools -> Format tab, and click the drop-down menu under the "Crop" button. There, you'll see an option "Crop to Shape." From there, just choose the circle. -Chris
This is great. What I would like to do is to be able to combine two rectangles of varying heights (so that I have a thick one and a thin one forming a single shape). Then I want to be able to change the width of each part independently (perhaps a yellow diamond that controls the previously seperate rectangles independently).
Great feature! Use it all the time. Just wish it would work on free form lines. For example, I use the free form tool to trace graphics but sometimes the free form tool will finish before I am able to close the free form object, creating a kind of line. It'd be nice if I could just click on the free form tool and continue tracing and then after-the-fact select all my free form lines and combine them into one shape.
I downloaded 2010 free trial version and what a dissappointment! I prepare lectures and I needed the combine option to combine open segments into more complex shapes and then fill them. However the combine feature works only on closed shapes which is almost useless for me. The shape drawing itself is improved but the capabilities of the package are still not up to where adobe framemaker was 20 years ago. I like the organizing capabilities of powerpoint but I hate the junk. I'll just have to wait a bit longer until you guys figure it out.
My custom shapes button that I put on my ribbon is grayed out why is that?
As per previous posts, how do you get the tool to not be greyed out?
Microsoft seems to eliminated lots of tools in Powerpoint 2010. I'm using both Microsoft Powerpoint 2010 and Excel 2010 and cannot recommend them to anyone! The freeform polygon tool is missing. The "freeform" looks and acts like the scribble tool. I could not find the difference. Constrain key does not work with them. The "Combine Shapes" looks like a watered down version of Canvas-- it is tough to locate as are most useful tools. Then, once it is added as a "Custom Menu", you have to ask the question "Where is the UnCombine Shapes"? Also, the tool does not work as expected. Combining two disimilar rectangles does not allow a line to be drawn AROUND the combined shapes. I may not understand the tool and there is the example above, but there have been some explanations left out (Group first? add lines later? endless combinations). Once again, the scientific user is completely forgotten. We need Times New Roman, Symbol font, super/sub scripts easily accessible. Powerpoint 2010 and Excel 2010 are once again two separate products that follow two separate sets of rules and do not copy and paste between applications without totally unexpected results. Try pasting figures that have rotated text and see the result. Adding icons to the title bar is a total mess. Give us back title bars.
By using the Shape Union Tool, we have created an truely realistic iPhone5 image (using only powerpoint shapes). Can you tell the difference between the real image (from the apple site ) and the powerpoint shape version? Enter our contest and win the image + a bonus: