How to Draw a Jigsaw Puzzle in Microsoft PowerPoint
Part two 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 (this blog)
  3. Aligning Shapes Accurately in Microsoft PowerPoint
  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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Duplicating and Positioning Shapes in PowerPoint

So far in this series of articles we've seen how to change PowerPoint's built-in rectangle shape into a perfect square, and how to control the size of shapes accurately.  In this part of the series we're going to see how to quickly duplicate the square we drew earlier, and then how to position all of the shapes accurately on the page.

Quickly Duplicating Objects Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Our finished jigsaw is going to be made up of six pieces, so far we only have one.  Fortunately, because all of our jigsaw pieces are going to be the same size, we can quickly duplicate the single piece we already have rather than drawing five new pieces from scratch.  One way to quickly create copies of an object is to use keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste an object.

To quickly copy and paste an object, first select it, and then press Ctrl + C to copy it.  You can then press Ctrl + V multiple times to paste several copies of the object.

Copying an object in PowerPoint Pasting five times
Press Ctrl + C to copy the object. Then press Ctrl + V five times to paste it.

Quickly Duplicating Objects Using the Mouse 

Another way to duplicate objects is by holding the Ctrl key and dragging an object with the mouse. This technique is slightly slower, but gives you more control over where you place the copies of the shape.  To make this technique work:

  1. Click on the shape you want to copy.
  2. Hold down the Ctrl key on the keyboard.
  3. Click and drag the shape to a new position on the slide.
  4. Release the mouse button.
  5. Release the Ctrl key.
Preparing to copy an object

When you hold the Ctrl key with the mouse cursor over an object you should see a little plus symbol - a clue that you're about to create a new copy of the object.


Whichever technique you've used to duplicate the shapes, you should end up with six roughly arranged squares on your slide.  Just before the next step, you might find it useful to change the fill colours of the shapes to make it easier to distinguish between them.

Six, roughly arranged squares

The exact placement of the squares doesn't matter at this point, we'll sort this out in the next step.


Aligning Shapes with Each Other

There are several ways to get our shapes neatly arranged on the slide, the most obvious being simply to drag them around with the mouse until they look like they're in the right position.  We're going to take a slightly more sophisticated approach however!  To begin with, we're going to align the top three squares in a neat horizontal row.  To do this:

  1. Select the three squares you want to align.  You can do this by dragging a selection box all the way around the three shapes, or by clicking on the first shape, holding down the Shift key and clicking on the next two.
Three selected squares

You should see all three shapes with selection handles around their borders. Ignore the bottom three shapes for now.

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

The end result should be that the three shapes should all be in line with each other. 

Three aligned squares

The top three shapes are aligned with each other.


You can repeat these steps with the bottom row of three squares at this point.  The next step is to make sure all of the shapes sit next to each other on the slide.

When you align shapes in PowerPoint, everything is dependent on the current position of the objects on the slide.  For example, if you are trying to align the top edges of a set of selected shapes, the highest shape on the slide will not move - all of the other shapes will move to sit in line with that one.  The same principle holds true whether you are aligning the top, bottom, left or right - all of the shapes will move to sit in line with the shape that is at the highest, lowest, left-most or right-most position.

Positioning Shapes Using the Cursor Keys

As with everything else we've done so far, there are several ways to make sure the shapes all sit next to each other on the slide.  The key thing is that we don't want to risk accidentally moving our shapes up or down from where they are, otherwise we'll have to realign them.  Because of this we're going to avoid moving them using the mouse.  One of the choices for moving your shapes into position is to use the cursor keys to move the shape in one direction at a time.

If you select a shape with the mouse, you can then use the cursor (arrow) keys on the keyboard to nudge the shape around.  This is a great way to avoid accidentally moving the shape in a direction you didn't intend.  There are a couple of things that are worth knowing about about this technique:

  • The more zoomed in you are to the slide, the smaller and hence the more accurate your movements are.  Wise Owl would recommend zooming in to at least 100% if you're going to use this technique.
  • If you hold down the Ctrl key while you press the cursor keys, the movements will become smaller and more accurate.

Positioning Shapes Using a Dialog Box 

You can use a dialog box to set a shape's precise position on the slide in much the same way we used one to change the shape's size earlier on.  Before we can use this technique, you need to know a little about how PowerPoint measures the position of an object on the slide.

Position of an object on a slide

PowerPoint measures the position of an object as the distance between the left and top edges of the shape from the left and top edges of the slide.


If we know the distance of one shape from the left and top edges of the slide and the width and height of the shape, we can then work out where to position the next shape.  You can find the size and position of a shape by right clicking on it and then:

  • In PowerPoint 2003,  choose Format AutoShape�
  • In PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, choose Size and Position� from the menu.
The size of the shape The position of the shape
You can see the size of the shape on the Size tab of the dialog box. The Position tab shows the horizontal and vertical position of the shape. 

Once you've worked out the size and position of the first shape, you can go to the same dialog box for the second shape and type in the values to set its exact position on the slide.

Position of the second shape

You can set the exact position of each shape in this way.

Once you've set the position of each shape, you should be left with a neatly arranged set of six squares.  The next step is to make the squares start to look more like jigsaw pieces!

The neatly arranged squares

With a couple of simple additions, this set of squares will look like an assembled jigsaw puzzle.

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