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How to Format the Overlapping Circles of a Venn Diagram in PowerPoint

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There are a variety of ways to break out the overlapping pieces of a Venn diagram in PowerPoint (all described below)…

…but before you dig into ANY of these tutorials, I need to ask:

Are you using SmartArt to build your Venn diagram?

If so, you first need to break your SmartArt graphic before continuing on with these tutorials…otherwise you’ll be stuck with a “fuzzy” overlapping middle piece which is not what you want.

"PowerPoint Venn Diagram Comparison for Introduction

To break your Venn Diagram SmartArt graphic apart, simply hit  CTRL + SHIFT +  G twice on your keyboard.

For help with the group and ungrouping shortcuts, see top shortcuts #5 and #6 in the below video.

If you need helping using SmartArt to build your Venn diagram (which is significantly faster than doing it manually), see our other post here.


Why even bother formatting the overlapping circles of a Venn Diagram?

As you probably know, Venn diagrams are great for visualizing the relationship between things by highlighting the commonalities, differences and synergies among them.

For example, if you were building a slide and want to highlight that your company is overspending on marketing in ten different states, you could put your data into a Venn diagram, using the techniques we’ll cover below, to visually highlight your point as follows:

Example of a two circle venn diagram with the center colored in

With your data presented like this, it’s easy for your audience to visualize the overlap; which is why being able to break out the middle overlapping part is so important.

Scroll down to find your version of PowerPoint (the methods are radically different), or use the links above to navigate this page.

For help creating other data visualizations (and learn why they are so important to your presentation), see our guide here.


PowerPoint 2013+ Venn Diagram

If you have PowerPoint 2013 or later, you are in for a treat!

The new fragment tool makes breaking out the center piece of a Venn diagram EXTREMELY easy (regardless of how complicated your graphic is).

That said, it still won’t work if you’re using a SmartArt graphic… you need to break the graphic apart first. So if you've inserted a SmartArt graphic, simply select it and hit Ctrl + Shift + G twice.

With that said, below is both a video guide and written tutorial to help you out.


1. Select your overlapping circles

Holding the Shift key on your keyboard, select your shapes (as many as you have) that you want to create the middle portions for.

Two

2. Select the Fragment Tool

Navigate to the Drawing Tools Format tab, open the Merge Shapes dropdown, and select the Fragment Tool (this is a brand new command introduced in PowerPoint 2013…all of your colleagues will be jealous!)

Select your overlapping objects and from the Drawing tools format tab, open the merge shapes tool and select fragement

Here’s what you’ll get after using the Fragment Tool:

Selecting fragment, the overlapping pieces of your objects are broken into indivdiual shapes you can format

Note: When using the Fragment Tool, the fill color of the shape you select first will be applied to all of the other shapes you use the Fragment Tool on.


3. Type your text (or color) the middle piece of your Venn diagram

Using the Fragment Tool, the overlapping pieces of your PowerPoint shapes are split into their own individual pieces, that you can now type text into, or color, anyway you see fit.

Example of typing text and formatting the overlapping pieces of the venn diagram

PowerPoint 2010 Venn Diagram

So if (and only if) you use lots of Venn diagrams in your presentations, I highly recommend upgrading to PowerPoint 2013, as it takes less than 30 seconds to break a Venn diagram apart (regardless of how complicated the graphic is) with the new fragment tool.

Also, don’t forget, if you are you using a Venn diagram SmartArt graphic, you need to break the graphic before proceeding with this tutorial (otherwise it won’t work).

So if you have a SmartArt graphic, select it and hit Ctrl + Shift + G twice to break the graphic apart before you continue on here.

First things first, you need to “uncover” the combine shapes tool in PowerPoint 2010 before you can breakout the center piece of a Venn diagram.

The command exists within PowerPoint 2010, but for some reason the developers decided to hide it from you…so first you need to bring it into play.


1. Find your Quick Access Toolbar

Find your quick access tool bar above or below your ribbon

Find your QAT, it is either directly above or directly below your Ribbon (see below diagram).

To learn why your Quick Access Toolbar is one of the best features ever added to PowerPoint, read our article here.


2. Launch the More Commands dialog box

At the end of your QAT, click the downward facing arrow and from the drop down, select More Commands to launch the More Commands dialog box.

Opening the more commands option in the customize quick access toolbar drop down

3. Add the Combine Shapes tool to your QAT

Within the More Commands dialog box:

  1. Filter the drop down to Commands Not on the Ribbon
  2. Select the combine shapes tool
  3. Select Add to put in on your QAT
  4. Visually confirm that the tool is on your QAT
  5. Select OK to close the dialog box.
Filter your quick access toolbar commands to Commands Not in the RIbbon to find and add the combine shapes tool to your QAT

4. Create duplicates of your slides

You need one duplicate slide for each piece that you want to create.

As I have only two overlapping circles, creating three individual shapes, I will hit CTRL + SHIFT + D on my keyboard twice, so that I have in total, three copies of my slide.

Duplicate your slide three times so that you have 3 overlapping venn diagrams

5. Subtract the first piece of your overlapping cirlces

Starting on the third slide, first select the grey circle and then the orange circle.

Then from the Combine Shapes tool on your QAT, select Subtract, which leaves you with just the grey circle, with part of it cut out.

On the first of your three slides, select your shapes and subtract out the first chunk

Note: When using the Subtract tool, you always want to first select the PowerPoint shape that you want to keep, and then select the PowerPoint shape you want to subtract from it.

Example of the first chunk subtracted out of your graphic

6. Subtract the second piece

On the next slide, you want to do the same thing, except select the shapes in the reverse order. So first select the orange circle, then the grey circle and from the Combine Shapes tool, select Subtract.

On your second slide, subtract out the opposite side of your venn diagram

This leaves you with just the orange circle, with part of it cut out.

Example of the second part of the graphic subtracted out

7. Subtract the middle piece

For the middle piece (the last slide), select all of the shapes, but this time, from the Combine Shapes tool select Intersect.

Subtract out the middle piece of your graphic on the third slide

And now you’re left with only the middle piece.

Example of the middle piece of the graphic subtracted out

8. Collect all of your Venn Diagram pieces

With all of your Venn diagram pieces now broken out, copy and paste your pieces onto a single slide and delete all of your duplicate slides.

With all the pieces collected, you can now add color and type text into the middle piece of your Venn diagram.

Copy and paste all of the broken out pieces to reform your venn diagram, allowing you to format the overlapping piece in the middle

PowerPoint 2007 Venn Diagram

Take a deep breath and relax…

Creating the center piece of a Venn diagram in PowerPoint 2007 is fairly painful, as you have to use the “edit points” method as described below, and it only really works for very simple Venn diagrams.

As you increase the number of overlapping objects in your graphic, using PowerPoint 2007, the center shape becomes increasingly more difficult and time-consuming to create (if not impossible).

Think about upgrading to the latest version of PowerPoint.

If you frequently need to do this, I highly recommend upgrading to the latest version of PowerPoint as it takes less than 30 seconds to pull off with the new fragment tool (good job Microsoft!), regardless of how complicated your graphic is.

Also, if you are using a SmartArt graphic, I still recommend breaking it before trying to pull off the center piece using this method. So if you have a SmartArt graphic, select it and hit Ctrl + Shift + G twice to break it apart.

Below is both a video guide and written tutorial to get you on your way. Also, don’t miss out on the free slides below the video, enjoy!


1. Take away your shapes' fill color

Select the shapes that you want to create the center piece for, and from the Drawing Tools Format tab, select No Fill.

With the shape fills gone, you can now see exactly where we need to create the new shape for our Venn diagram.

Example of the shape fill removed from the graphic, so that everything is white with a black outline

2. Insert a square into the center of the graphic

Insert a square into the overlapping part of your venn diagram

From the Insert Tab on the Ribbon, select a rectangle. Then, position your mouse in the overlapping area of the Venn diagram, and click once to create a perfect square.

  1. Navigate to the Insert tab
  2. Open the Shapes drop down
  3. Find a Square
  4. Draw and position it on your slide

3. Rotate your square

Right-click your square and select Size and Position.

Right click your square and find the size and position dialog box command

Within the size and position dialog box, change the square’s rotation to 45 degrees, and then close the dialog box.

Set your rotation to 45 degrees inside the size and position dialog box

4. Middle align the square to one of the circles

Middle align your square over your graphic using the Align tool, Align middle command

Holding the Shift key on your keyboard, select both the square and one of the circles.

Then from the Home tab, open the arrange tool, find the alignment tool and select Align to Middle.


5. Distribute horizontally

Select both of your circles and the square, and from the Home tab, open the Arrange Tool, find the Alignment Tool and select Distribute Horizontally.

Distribute your square horizontally using the Align tool from the Arrange drop down

6. Select edit points

With the square now perfectly aligned in the middle of our shapes (which makes this easier), select the square again and then:

  • Select the Drawing Tools Format tab
  • Open up the Edit Shapes drop down
  • Select Convert to Freeform (and then re-select the Edit Shapes dropdown)
  • Re-Select the Edit Shapes Dropdown and this time select Edit Points
Select your square and in the Edit Shape drop down select Edit Points

Doing so, you should see a red outline around your square, signifying that you are now in Point Editing Mode.

Square in the edit point mode in PowerPoint

7. Manually adjust the ends of the square into position

Grab the points and stretch them out to reach the top, bottom, left and right of the middle area.

Manually move the points of your square to fill in the overlapping piece of your venn diagram

Note: This can only be done manually, there is no clever trick (that I know of) for doing this.


8. Use the handle bars to mold the shape

Selecting one of the points, notice that there are white handle bars that appear. You can use these to adjust and warp the edges of the shape.

Using the handle bars of the right and left points, warp the edges of the square until it fits perfectly the middle area of the Venn diagram.

Using the edit points handle bars to massage your square into a perfect oval

Note: This is horribly painful to pull off, and might take a little bit of time to get right. Be patient and/or upgrade your version of PowerPoint (it’s much easier in later versions).


9. Format the center part of the Venn diagram

With the new shape created, you can now color it and type text into the middle part of your Venn diagram.

Format the middle piece of your venn diagram which is the square you reformed into the overlapping piece

Troubleshooting your Venn Diagram

Knowing that there is a Combine Shapes tool in PowerPoint 2010 and a Merge Shapes tool in PowerPoint 2013, it’s important to keep in mind that if you add the 2013 command to your QAT, and then open PowerPoint 2010 on your computer, the command will disappear.

Why?

Because PowerPoint 2010 doesn’t recognize the 2013 command. So you’ll need to either find a version of 2013 to use, or go and add the Combine Shapes tool to your QAT.

In the opposite scenario, if you add the PowerPoint 2010 Combine Shapes tool to your QAT and then open PowerPoint 2013 on your computer, the Combine Shapes tool will remain on your QAT, but it will not have the added features of the Merge Shapes tool. So if you want the Merge Shapes tool on your QAT, you need to add it specifically using 2013.


Conclusion

The easiest way to break your Venn diagram apart is with one of the later versions of PowerPoint, PowerPoint 2013 or later.

This is because you can now use the fragment tool to quickly break apart your Venn diagram, regardless of how many overlapping circles you have which you can see me do here.

If you enjoyed the depth of this tutorial, covering all versions of PowerPoint, you will LOVE our PowerPoint training courses which you can learn more about here.

What's next?

Updated on October 30, 2019

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