How to Enable and Merge Shapes in PowerPoint

Shapes are a versatile design element in PowerPoint that allow you to communicate ideas visually. You can use shapes like circles, arrows, and flowchart symbols to illustrate concepts, draw attention to key points, and make your slides more interesting.

One useful skill is knowing how to combine multiple shapes together into one unified shape through a process called merging. This opens up creative possibilities for making custom graphics, diagrams, and icons.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to enable the merge shapes commands in PowerPoint
  • The different merge shape options and what they do
  • Step-by-step instructions for merging shapes
  • Tips for troubleshooting shape merging issues

Enabling Merge Shapes in PowerPoint

Before you can start merging shapes, you first need to enable the merge shapes commands in PowerPoint. Here’s how:

  1. Click the File tab and select Options
  2. Click Customize Ribbon on the left
  3. Under Choose commands from, select Commands Not in the Ribbon
  4. Scroll down and find the Merge Shape commands (there are 4 – Combine, Intersect, Subtract, and Union)
  5. Click Add after each command to add it to the right column
  6. Click OK to save the changes

This will add the merge shape options to the ribbon under the Drawing Tools Format tab when you have a shape selected.

Enabling merge shapes commands

Now you’re ready to combine shapes!

Merge Shapes Options in PowerPoint

When you go to merge shapes, PowerPoint gives you four options:

  • Union: Joins shapes into one unified shape
  • Combine: Unites overlapping shapes but maintains holes
  • Fragment: Breaks the combined area into its component parts
  • Intersect: Shows only the overlapping area between shapes

The option you choose depends on the effect you want. Here’s a quick overview:

| Option | Result | Use Case |
| Union | Combines all aspects into one shape | Making a complex custom icon |
| Combine | Unites shapes but maintains interior holes/transparent areas | Adding a background shape while preserving the main design |
| Fragment | Breaks apart where shapes overlap | Separating merged elements |
| Intersect | Keeps only the overlapping region | Showing commonalities between shapes |

Experiment with the different options to see which one gives the result you’re looking for. The order in which you select the shapes can also impact the available choices.

How to Merge Shapes in PowerPoint

Follow these simple steps to combine shapes in your PowerPoint slides:

  1. Insert the shapes you want to merge
  2. Select the shapes by holding Ctrl and clicking each one
  3. Go to Drawing Tools Format > Merge Shapes
  4. Choose the merge option (Union, Combine, etc)

That’s it! The shapes will now be merged into a single shape.

Here’s a quick video showing the process:

Gif showing merging shapes

The merged shape takes on the formatting of the shape that was selected first. So make sure to select the shape you want to be the “base” shape first.

You can go back and tweak the merged shape’s color, effects, size, and other formatting options as needed.

Tips for Merging Shapes in PowerPoint

When working with merged shapes, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use the Shift key to select multiple shapes at once
  • Try different merge options if the initial results are unsatisfactory
  • Select shapes sequentially for more predictable merge results
  • Merge a shape onto itself to create holes or transparent areas
  • Ungroup merged shapes (Drawing Tools Format > Group > Ungroup) to edit individually

Save merged shapes in your personal shape library to reuse them across other PowerPoint decks.

Troubleshooting Merge Shape Issues

If you run into problems when merging shapes, here are some things to try:

  • If the merge option is grayed out, select all the shapes individually first
  • Reselect the shapes in a different order
  • Double check that all shapes are fully selected
  • Try a different merge option like Union or Combine
  • Make sure the shapes physically overlap/touch for some merge options to work

With a bit of practice, you’ll get the hang of combining shapes together in creative ways. Let your imagination run wild!

So now you know how to unlock the full potential of shapes through merging. Use this guide to create custom graphics and make your PowerPoint slides pop!

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