How to Draw a Jigsaw Puzzle in Microsoft PowerPoint
Part three of a five-part series of blogs

This blog series shows you how to use some advanced drawing techniques in Microsoft PowerPoint to create a set jigsaw puzzle shapes. If you've ever wondered how pedantic a person can get about aligning objects in PowerPoint, read this article to find out!

  1. Creating Jigsaw Puzzle Shapes in Microsoft PowerPoint
  2. Duplicating and Positioning Shapes in PowerPoint
  3. Aligning Shapes Accurately in Microsoft PowerPoint (this blog)
  4. Grouping and Ungrouping Shapes in PowerPoint
  5. Creating Cut Out Effects in Shapes

Posted by Andrew Gould on 15 June 2011

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Aligning Shapes Accurately in Microsoft PowerPoint

So far in this series we've seen how to create a grid of neatly laid out squares that should be ready to be turned into a jigsaw puzzle!  If you haven't been following the previous steps in this series you can download an up-to-date PowerPoint 2007/2010 presentation by clicking here, or a PowerPoint 2003 version by clicking here.

Drawing a Perfect Circle

To make our squares look like jigsaw pieces we're going to draw circle shapes that will overlap the squares to make it look as though they're joined together.  The first job in this step is to draw a single perfect circle, just as we did in part one of this series when we drew a perfect square.  The starting point for drawing a perfect circle is to choose to draw an oval.

An oval in PowerPoint 2003 An oval in PowerPoint 2007 or 2010
You can find an oval in PowerPoint 2003 by clicking the AutoShapes tool and looking for Basic Shapes. In PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, head to the Insert tab on the Ribbon and click the Shapes tool to find an oval.

Once you've selected the oval shape from one of the above menus, you can click and drag with the mouse to draw one on your slide.  If you want the oval to be a perfect circle, hold down the Shift key as you draw it.  Alternatively, you can draw the oval first and then modify its dimensions using a dialog box.  To do this, right-click on the shape and then:

  • In PowerPoint 2003,  choose Format AutoShape... from the menu, and then select the Size tab on the dialog box that appears.
  • In PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, choose Size and Position... from the menu.
Setting the size of the circle

Here we're making the circle 1.2cm wide and 1.2cm tall, which is roughly one quarter the size of the square we drew earlier.

 

At this point you should have a circle sitting somewhere on the slide, ready to be formatted and then moved into position.

The freshly drawn circle

The next job is to format the circle in the same way as one of the square shapes.

 

Copying the Formatting of Shapes

We need to format the circle we've just drawn in the same way as one of the square shapes.  One way to do this is to remember all of the formatting options we applied to the square, and then laboriously apply them all to the circle.  Alternatively, you can use the Format Painter tool to achieve the same result in three clicks of the mouse!  To do this:

  1. Click on the shape whose formats you want to copy (we're going to use the first square shape for this example).
  2. Click on the Format Painter tool (see below for how to find this).
  3. Click on the shape you want to copy the formatting to (the circle shape we've just drawn).

You can find the Format Painter button on the toolbar or Ribbon, as shown in the diagram below:

The Format Painter in PowerPoint 2003 The Format Painter in PowerPoint 2007 or 2010
You can find the Format Painter on the toolbar in PowerPoint 2003. In PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, make sure you're on the Home tab of the Ribbon.

The end result of this is that you should have a circle with exactly the same formatting as the square.  Now we're ready to move the circle to the correct position.

The formatted circle

The Format Painter is by far the quickest way to copy the formatting of an object.

 

Positioning the Circle Shape

To get the circle in the correct position involves three steps:

  1. Aligning the blue circle horizontally with the left hand edge of the pink square.
  2. Aligning the blue circle vertically with the middle of the pink square.
  3. Nudging the blue circle to the left so that it partially overlaps the blue square.

None of these steps is particularly complicated, but there are a couple of small things that might trip you up, as described below.

Aligning the Square and Circle Horizontally

When we align the circle with the square we want to ensure that the square shape doesn't move.  Remember in part two of this series we saw that when we align shapes in PowerPoint, everything moves to sit in line with the shape that is at the most extreme position in the direction we're aligning with?  If not then the diagram below should explain things more clearly!

Unaligned shapes Incorrectly aligned shapes
If we choose to align the left edges of these two shapes... ...the square moves in line with the circle because the circle is more to the left to begin with.

The easiest solution to the problem shown above is simply to make sure that before you choose to align the shapes, you position the circle to the right of the square!

Non-aligned shapes Correctly aligned shapes
If you start with the circle to the right of the square... ...when you align their left edges, the square will remain in position.

If you can't remember how to align shapes, you can follow these steps:

  1. Select the shapes that you want to align.
  2. Choose to align the three shapes using one of the following options:
  • In PowerPoint 2003, from the menu select: Draw -> Align or Distribute -> Align Left 
  • In PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, from the Ribbon select: Home -> Arrange -> Align -> Align Left

Aligning the Square and Circle Vertically

Now we need to make the circle move so that its middle is aligned with the middle of the square.  To do this, select both of the shapes and then:

  • In PowerPoint 2003, from the menu select: Draw -> Align or Distribute -> Align Middle 
  • In PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, from the Ribbon select: Home -> Arrange -> Align -> Align Middle

Unfortunately, this causes a small problem.  We've seen that if we try to align shapes to one of the four edges there will always be one shape which stays where it is.  However, if we choose to align the middle of the two shapes they will both move towards each other, as shown in the diagram below:

Shapes before they are aligned Circle and square aligned through their middle
Choosing to align these shapes to the middle... ...means that both shapes will move towards each other.

It's at this point you'll probably be losing the will to live - clearly, building a jigsaw puzzle isn't as easy as it first appears!  If you still have the motivation (and you haven't thrown your computer out of the window yet), read the next part of this series to find out how to finally get our shapes in the correct position.

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