How to Draw a Jigsaw Puzzle in Microsoft PowerPoint
Part five 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
  4. Grouping and Ungrouping Shapes in PowerPoint
  5. Creating Cut Out Effects in Shapes (this blog)

Posted by Andrew Gould on 15 June 2011

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Creating Cut Out Effects in Shapes

So far in this series of articles we've managed to create a fairly convincing looking completed jigsaw puzzle.  However, if we try to move the jigsaw pieces apart our facade is soon exposed for what it is!

A jigsaw A collection of squares and circles
This one is reasonably convincing. This one?  Not so much.

If we really want the ability to pull our jigsaw to pieces, and even to animate it, we need to make it look as though some of the jigsaw pieces have bits cut out of them, and that's what we're going to show you how to do in this article.

If you don't have the finished jigsaw puzzle from the previous steps you can download a PowerPoint 2007 or 2010 version here, or a PowerPoint 2003 version here.  You might find that you have to ungroup the shapes in order to follow this tutorial.

Creating the Cut Out Shape

The basic method for creating a cut out effect is to place an overlapping shape with the same colour as the slide background on top of another shape.  For our example that means creating white circles and placing them in the same position as the bumps on our jigsaw pieces.  To demonstrate this we're going to work through an example of creating a single cut out.

Jigsaw when together Jigsaw pieces when apart
We want these two pieces to look like this when they're together...  ...and like this when they're apart.

Copying and Positioning the Circle

The first thing we need to do is copy one of the circle shapes - as they're all the same size it doesn't really matter which one, but we're going to choose the one that will slot into the cut out part of the shape.

Selecting the circle The copied circle
Select the circle you want to copy and press Ctrl + C on the keyboard to copy it. Press Ctrl + V on the keyboard to paste a copy of the circle.

Before you do anything else you can change the background colour of the shape you have just pasted so that it matches the background colour of the slide.  It should end up looking something like this:

The coloured circle

It's important that you choose the same colour as the background of the slide, otherwise the effect won't work.


You can now position the new circle in exactly the same place as the original one by aligning their top and left edges.  To do this you'll need to select both circles, and then:

  • In PowerPoint 2003, from the menu select: Draw -> Align or Distribute -> Align Top, followed by Align Left 
  • In PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, from the Ribbon select: Home -> Arrange -> Align -> Align Top followed by Align Left
Before alignment After alignment
Select both the circle shapes. When the circles are aligned you won't be able to see the original blue one, but it's definitely still there!

The last thing to do at this point is to group the white circle with the pink jigsaw puzzle piece to make sure they all behave as one shape.  To do this, select each of the shapes that will make up the completed jigsaw piece, right-click on one of them and then:

  • In PowerPoint 2003, from the menu select: Grouping -> Group
  • In PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, from the menu select: Group -> Group
The three selected shapes The three shapes grouped together
Make sure you don't inadvertently select the hidden blue circle when you do this - the best way to ensure that you don't is to hold the Shift key while you click each shape. The final set of grouped shapes.

You can now move the pink puzzle piece away from the blue one to see the cut out effect.  It's also worth selecting and grouping all of the shapes that make up the blue puzzle piece at this stage. 

Changing the Order of Shapes

At this point, if you were to move the pink puzzle piece away from the blue one everything would look normal, but when you move the two pieces together you can see that the white cut out piece sits over the top of the blue puzzle piece.

This is fine This isn't fine
This is fine. This isn't.

The reason this happens is due to the shape order.  Every shape that you draw on the slide goes into a stack of objects.  Each new shape that gets added to the slide goes onto the top of the stack, including when you group shapes together to create a new one.  Unfortunately, you can't see this stack because you're looking straight down on top of it, but you can change the order of any selected shape.

To make our jigsaw appear to work properly we can do one of two things:

  • We can move the blue puzzle piece so that it is higher in the stack than the pink one.
  • We can move the pink puzzle piece so that it is lower in the stack than the blue one.

In this simple example it doesn't matter which of the two options we choose, but when you are working with lots of objects you will need to think carefully about which shape to move and in which direction.  Here, we're going to move the pink puzzle piece to a lower level than the blue one.  To do this, right-click on the pink piece and then:

  • In PowerPoint 2003, from the menu select:  Order -> Send to Back
  • In PowerPoint 2007 or 2010, from the menu select: Send to Back
On top At the bottom
Before sending the pink piece to the back. After sending the pink piece to the back.

You'll probably have noticed that as well as being able to choose Send to Back, you can also choose to Send Backward.  The difference between these options is quite subtle, but the explanation is:

  • Send Backward - moves the selected shape one step down in the stack of objects on the slide.  This means that it could end behind some shapes, but still in front of others.
  • Send to Back - moves the selected shape directly to the bottom of the stack of objects on the slide.  This means that it will be behind every other object on the same slide.

You can use the steps shown above to create as many cut out pieces as you need in each shape.  The end result should be a jigsaw puzzle that looks just as convincing when it's fully assembled as it does when it's pulled to pieces!

Pulled apart

You'll need to use the shape order options carefully to make sure the puzzle looks sensible when you piece it back together! 

Adding Text to Grouped Shapes in PowerPoint

The final step in creating the jigsaw puzzle is to add text to the individual puzzle pieces.  Normally, when you want to add text to a shape in PowerPoint you can just select it and start typing.  Unfortunately, this doesn't work in quite the same way when you're working with grouped shapes.

Trying to add text to a grouped shape

If you select the whole of the grouped shape and start typing, nothing happens.


The solution to this problem is to sub-select the individual shape within the group that you want to add the text to.  To do this:

  1. Click once on the grouped shape to select the whole group.
  2. Click once again on the sub shape within the group you want to add your text to.
  3. Start typing!
Grouped shape Sub-shape
This is what it looks like when you have a grouped shape selected. This is what it looks like when you have sub-selected a shape within a group.


That's pretty much it for our jigsaw puzzle tutorial.  We've ended up with a reasonably professional looking (bar the colour scheme) diagram and you've learnt an awful lot about drawing objects in PowerPoint along the way.  Hopefully some of the techniques you've picked up will be useful when you find yourself drawing your next serious, business diagram.

If you've missed any of the steps in this tutorial, or you just can't be bothered going through the whole thing right now, you can download a completed version of the presentation for PowerPoint 2007 or 2010 by clicking here, or for PowerPoint 2003 by clicking here.

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