What is Merge Shapes in PowerPoint?

Using Merge Shapes in PowerPoint lets you combine different shapes to create your own designs. It’s like putting a circle and a square together to make something new and eye-catching.

This tool is great if you’re looking to cut out one shape from another or blend them into a completely new one. It helps make your slides look better and more interesting. With Merge Shapes, you can easily add a personal touch to your slides. This makes it easier for you to share your ideas in a way that everyone remembers.

Why Use Custom Shapes?

Imagine you’re preparing for an important presentation at your ice cream company.

The marketing team has given you an image to use, but we’re aiming for more than just a standard slide with text around it. We want your presentation to really stand out.

Here’s a creative idea: let’s use PowerPoint’s shapes to make a unique design. Think about combining shapes in a new way and then filling that new shape with the ice cream image. This is unexpected. It will catch your audience’s attention and make your presentation memorable.

This method isn’t just about being different. It’s about making your slides visually appealing. This appeal should enhance your message.

Creating a Custom Shape in PowerPoint

Let’s begin by creating a new slide with a “Blank” layout.  Click the lower portion of the New Slide button and select Blank.

Next, we add a few circles from the shape library.  Select Home (tab) -> Drawing (group) -> Oval.

💡To create a perfect circle (or perfect square, perfect triangle, perfect any-shape), press and hold the Shift key while drawing or resizing the selected shape.

Draw a circle.  Now copy and paste the circle two times.  Arrange the circles in what would appear to be scoops of ice cream.

💡You can hold the CTRL key down when moving a shape to create a copy of the shape.  If you wish to place the copy on the same horizontal or vertical plane as the original, press the Shift key with CTRL to perform an aligned-copy operation.

Now add a triangle shape.  Rotate the triangle so the base of the triangle is at the top, like the profile of an ice cream cone.  You can use the rotate tool located at the top of the object when selected.

Edit Points

If you’re not happy with a shape, you can change it however you like.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Right-click on the shape and choose “Edit Points.” This will show you the points of the shape (they look like little black boxes) that you can move around as you wish.
  • You can add a new point by clicking on the shape’s edge and dragging your mouse.
Edit Points for Shapes in PowerPoint

And here are some extra tips for when you’re adding new points:

  • Hold CTRL and click on the shape’s edge to add a new point.
  • Hold CTRL and click on an existing point if you want to get rid of it.
  • To make a new point that turns part of the edge into a curve, just click and drag.

After you’ve finished shaping, you might think about combining all your shapes into one. But it’s better not to do this right now.

If you group the shapes together before adding colors or pictures, it might not look the way you expect.

Instead of grouping, we will Merge Shapes.

Merge Shapes

To combine shapes in PowerPoint into one, follow these easy steps:

  • First, select all the shapes you want to merge.
  • Then, go to the “Shape Format” tab at the top, find the “Insert Shapes” section, and click on “Merge Shapes.”
Merge Shapes in PowerPoint

The “Merge Shapes” feature gives you 5 choices to decide how your shapes will come together. Each option shows you what part of your combined shape will look like (with a gray area indicating the final shape).

Union

“Union” makes it simple to combine two or more shapes into a single, larger shape. It’s like making all your chosen shapes into one big shape. However, unlike just grouping shapes together, when you use “Union,” the look (like color and border) of the first shape you pick will be used for the combined shape. So, pick your first shape carefully!

Merge Shapes - Union

Combine

“Combine” cuts out the parts where your shapes overlap and leaves you with a unique new shape. Imagine if two shapes overlap like a Venn diagram; the “Combine” option removes the middle part where they cross over, creating a shape that’s everything outside the overlap.

Merge Shapes - Combine

Fragment

“Fragment” splits your shapes into different pieces at every point where they touch or cross each other. This means you end up with several new shapes made from both the overlapping and the separate areas of the original shapes.

Merge Shapes - Fragment

Intersect

“Intersect” takes just the overlapping part of the shapes you’ve selected and turns it into a new shape. Unlike “Fragment,” which gives you multiple new pieces, “Intersect” keeps only the part where your shapes cross over, getting rid of everything else. Imagine it as cutting out the common area shared by all the selected shapes to create a single, unified piece.

Merge Shapes - Intersect

Subtract

“Subtract” takes away the part of one shape that overlaps with another, leaving you with a shape that’s the difference between the two. When you choose this option, the shape on top cuts out its form from the shape beneath it, like using a cookie cutter to remove a piece from dough.

Merge Shapes - Subtract

NOTE: With the Subtract, option, the first selected image becomes the result; the successive shape(s) are removed.

If we select the Union option, we now have a shape that we can format as a single object.

Customizing the Shape with an Image

We want to fill the shape’s interior with the image supplied by our marketing department.

Because an image is just a rectangle shape with a picture as its fill, we can leverage our Merge Shapes tool to combine the custom shape with the image.

Place a copy of the ice cream image on the same slide as the new custom shape.  Move the image to the back (right-click -> Send to Back) so the custom shape is in front of the image.

Size and position the shape and picture to the desired size/location you think would appear best once merged.

First, select the image.  (Remember the previous note?  The first selected shape governs the result.)  Next, hold down the CTRL key and click the custom shape.

Select Shape Format (tab) -> Insert Shapes (group) -> Merge Shapes -> Intersect.

Adjusting the Shape/Image Placement

Suppose the shape’s current interior image is not to your liking?  What if you wish to move or resize the interior image?

To make after-the-fact adjustments to the shape/image object, select Picture Format (tab) -> Size (group) -> Crop.

This allows you to move and adjust the size and position of the original image.

Once you have the desired look, click the Crop button to deactivate the Crop feature.

Create Custom Typography in PowerPoint

Imagine taking boring text like this…

…and turning it into this…

You can use any image and merge it with text to create exciting, never-before-seen fonts that will get your audience’s attention and pique interest in your presentation.

Here’s how simple it is to merge images with text.

Step 1 – On a new, blank slide, insert a text box (Insert (tab) -> Text (group) -> Text Box) and add the relevant text, like “ICE CREAM”.

In order for this text/image merge to be as effective as possible, we need to set the font to large point size and thick font style.  The larger and thicker, the better.

Step 2 – Increase the font size (ex: 90 points) and set the font style to something thick, like “Rockwell Extra Bold” or “Verdana Pro Black”.

Our next step is to change the black fill color of the font to our ice cream picture.

Step 3 – Place a copy of the picture on the same slide as the text and place the picture behind the text.

Step 4 – Adjust the size and position of the image so the most interesting parts of the picture are behind the text.  This is subjective, so experiment until you get something you like.

Consider setting the Text Fill to “No Fill” and the Text Outline to “black” or some contrasting color.  This will help you see the exact parts of the picture that will eventually become your text fill.

❗ Please remember, once you combine shapes, including any text, into a new shape, you won’t be able to change the original parts anymore. This means any text will become part of the shape itself and can’t be edited like normal text for content, style, or size. Make sure your text is exactly as you want it before merging.

A handy tip: Before you merge, make a copy of the slide with the shapes and text still separate. This way, if you need to adjust the text later, you can easily make the changes on the copy and then merge the shapes again. This extra step keeps your work flexible, allowing for updates without starting from scratch.

Step 5 – To merge the image with the text, select the image, then hold down CTRL and select the text.

Step 6 – Select Shape Format (tab) -> Insert Shapes (group) -> Merge Shapes -> Intersect.

As we explored earlier, you can use the Crop feature (Picture Format tab) to reposition or resize the background image.

As a bonus, you can right-click the merged text/picture and save the new shape as an image file (“Save as Picture…”).

This can now be used in any program that can read image files.  The possibilities are endless.

Getting Crazy with Letters

By repeating steps 1 through 4 of the previous example, we can create a different type of shape by selecting Shape Format (tab) -> Insert Shapes (group) -> Merge Shapes -> Fragment.

What makes Fragment different from the other merge options is that we don’t end up with a single shape.  We end up with as many shapes (i.e.: pieces) as we have intersections.

When working with text, each letter becomes a shape; even the interior segments of the letters.

Because each letter is a separate shape, you can get creative with placement, sizing, and even animation.

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Leila Gharani

I'm a 6x Microsoft MVP with over 15 years of experience implementing and professionals on Management Information Systems of different sizes and nature.

My background is Masters in Economics, Economist, Consultant, Oracle HFM Accounting Systems Expert, SAP BW Project Manager. My passion is teaching, experimenting and sharing. I am also addicted to learning and enjoy taking online courses on a variety of topics.