Lets face it, sometimes combining and merging shapes in PowerPoint can be a little confusing. Especially when there are different options to choose from.

In this short ‘how to’ guide I am going to show you the easiest way to combine and merge shapes in PowerPoint.

It only takes a few easy steps and once you’ve figured it out you will be able to create custom PowerPoint shapes in no time at all.

Inserting Shapes

The first step is to insert some shapes into your PowerPoint slide. To do this click on Insert > Shapes and select the shapes you want to use:

draw shapes PowerPoint

For the purpose of this guide we will be using a circle and arrow shape:

circle arrow shape

Selecting Shapes

Selecting shapes in PowerPoint is relatively straight forward with a simple point and click of the mouse. To select multiple shapes you can either drag a section box around the shapes, or press shift whilst clicking each of the shapes in turn.

The order in which you select the shapes is an important consideration as most of the Merge Shapes commands will retain the formatting from the first selected shapes.

If you are working with detailed PowerPoint slides and not sure where elements are on your slides, or if they are hidden behind other objects, you might consider using the Selection Pane. Accessible under Home > Arrange > Selection Pane.

Merge Shapes Menu

After selecting the shapes the ‘Shape Format’ toolbar will appear:

shape format toolbar

From here you have access to the ‘Merge Shapes’ menu:

merge shapes

Combining and Merging Shapes

PowerPoint has the option to ‘Union’, ‘Combine’, ‘Fragment’, ‘Intersect’, or ‘Subtract’ shapes.

Union Shapes

The Union command allows you to unite two or more shapes. The benefit being that you can create more complex shapes that would have been difficult to create otherwise. Union does not subtract anything and will retain the formating of the first selected shape.

In this example I selected the arrow first and the new shape uses that shape’s color:

Combine Shapes

This option will combine non-overlapping areas of the shapes and subtract areas of a shape that do overlap. If shapes do not touch then the appearance will be of a grouped object but with no option to un-group.

Fragment Shapes

This option will create new shapes from any overlapping areas of the selected shapes. The new shapes will retain the formatting of the first shape that was selected.

Intersect Shapes

Intersect Shapes will create new shapes based on any overlapping area of the selected shapes. Any areas that do not overlap will be subtracted.

Subtract Shapes

A useful option that allows you to subtract parts of the first selected shape, with another shape. All overlapping area of the first selected shape will be removed as will all other selected shapes.


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