Note: the following instructions were written for older versions of PowerPoint. PowerPoint 2013 and newer: you can skip the step to convert a picture placeholder to a shape and go directly to editing. 

Picture Placeholders are a great way to add images to presentations, while maintaining a consistent placement, size and style. Since the picture formatting is defined on a Slide Layout within the template, it’s easy to insert new pictures without having to realign, resize or edit styles.

Picture Placeholders are a great way to add images to presentations, while maintaining a consistent placement, size and style. Since the picture formatting is defined on a Slide Layout within the template, it’s easy to insert new pictures without having to realign, resize or edit styles.

Did you know that Picture Placeholders can be easily transformed into any of the pre-defined shapes in PowerPoint?

In Slide Master View, select a Slide Layout with a Picture Placeholder (or Insert Layout and Insert Placeholder, Picture). Select the Picture Placeholder, click the Drawing Tools Format tab, Edit Shape, Change Shape and choose any shape from the gallery.  Tip: drag the adjustment handle (yellow diamond) to refine the shape by making corners smaller, modifying an angle or arrowhead).

But what if you want a specific shape that doesn’t exist in the gallery?

With PowerPoint 2010, you can edit Picture Placeholders to create very unique, custom shapes. There are a couple ways to accomplish this.

In Slide Master View, select a Picture Placeholder, click the Drawing Tools Format tab, Edit Shape, Change Shape and choose a shape from the gallery. Tip: a rectangle is a good choice to start, but you can select any shape that is closest to your desired final result.

Click Edit Shape again, then Edit Points. Right-click on any point or segment to begin adjusting the Placeholder. Note: this works in PowerPoint 2007, too!

With PowerPoint 2010, it’s much faster to edit Picture Placeholders by using the Combine Shapes commands. These commands allow you to quickly create custom forms by merging shapes together, intersecting them, or by deleting a portion of one shape from another.

To access this command, you must add it to the Quick Access Toolbar, located above the File tab.  To customize the Quick Access Toolbar, do the following:

1.   Click the arrow next to the Quick Access Toolbar, and then under Customize Quick Access Toolbar click More Commands.

2.   In the PowerPoint Options dialog box, in the Choose commands from list, select All Commands.

3.   In the list of commands, click Combine Shapes, and then click Add.

Again, you must change the shape of the Picture Placeholder prior to editing. In Slide Master View, select a Picture Placeholder, click the Drawing Tools Format tab, Edit Shape, Change Shape and choose a shape from the gallery.

Next, draw shapes that you will add to, or subtract from, the Picture Placeholder shape. In the example, I’ve drawn circles on top of each corner.

Select the Picture Placeholder, then one of the new shapes and choose either the Shape Subtract or Shape Union command from the QAT. Repeat this step for all other shapes.