PowerPoint

Merge Shapes Feature

This post will highlight one of the most useful, yet underutilized tools in PowerPoint when it comes to bringing your slides to the next level.

The Merge Shapes Tool

We are often advised not to get too fancy with our slides when working in a professional setting.  “Just the facts; no showing off your crazy-mad PowerPoint skills.”

But even in a professional setting, the Merge Shapes tool will allow you to infuse your presentations with just the right amount of pizzazz without getting too flashy.

The Merge Shapes tool will allow you to create shapes of any kind, even shapes with images, without using any special software like Adobe Illustrator®.  The other great thing about the Merge Shapes tools is how easy it is to use.  The possibilities are limited only by your creativity.

Prepare to be stunned.

Imagine you work for a company that sells ice cream.  The Marketing Department has supplied you with the following image.

Your task is to use this image as part of your upcoming presentation.  But this is no ordinary presentation.  This presentation must stun and amaze your audience.  The very life of the company may depend on the success of this presentation.

Well… perhaps it’s not THAT important, but it’s still important.

We don’t want to create the same-old boring presentation where we place the image on a slide, perhaps surrounded by text.

We want to get creative.  We want to do something that our audience doesn’t expect.

We want to use shapes from the shapes library to create our own custom shape.  We will then use the image to fill the new custom shape to help present the unexpected.

Creating a Custom Shape

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.

PRO TIP: 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.

ANOTHER PRO TIP: 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.

If you are dissatisfied with a shape, you can edit the shape into any non-standard shape you wish.

To customize a shape, right-click on the shape and select Edit Points.

This will reveal all the natural vertices of the shape (black boxes), allowing you to move them anywhere you wish.

You can also create a new vertex by clicking anywhere on a line segment and dragging the mouse.

Here are some special behaviors you can invoke while adding a new vertex:

  1. CTRL-Click a line segment to add a new vertex
  2. CTRL-Click an existing vertex to remove the vertex
  3. Click-and-drag to create a new vertex with one side a line segment and the other side a curve

Once the shape is complete, you will be tempted to group the shapes together to create a single, fused shape.  Resist this urge.

Grouping the shapes will not yield the desired result when we add colors or image fills.

Instead of grouping, we will MERGE!

Merging Shapes

To merge the shapes into a single shape, select all the desired shapes and click Shape Format (tab) -> Insert Shapes (group) -> Merge Shapes.

The Merge Shapes tool provides 5 options (the gray area represents the part of the image that will become the result):

  • Union

  • Combine

  • Fragment

  • Intersect

  • 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.

Merging Images with Text

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.

NOTE: Be aware that once you merge shapes together, you lose the original shape.  The new, merged shape takes the place of the individual pieces.  This is especially important when working with text.  The text will become a shape.

This means that the text can no longer be edited.  Make certain your message is exactly what you want in terms of content, style, and size.  Alterations to these aspects of the text are unavailable once merged.

Consider creating a copy of the slide before the merge occurs.  This will allow you to perform text edits and remerge to produce an updated shape.

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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