How to Create a Custom Visio Shape

If you are anything like me, you sometimes find that to represent a specific item you need to find a shape that simply does not exist anywhere else.  This may be a piece of equipment, part of a plant, production line or assembly facility, or it might be a shape that will represent some abstract concept.  Very often I find that the client has quite definite ideas about what this should look like, whether it exists or not!

In any event, there will be times when you need to create a one-off Custom Shape to use in a particular drawing but by using Visio 2007 this is actually not a problem.

You can use the drawing tools available from the Drawing toolbar (ViewToolbars to turn it on) or you can use pre-defined shapes from the Basic Shapes Stencil and edit them as required.  Visio is capable of generating some quite sophisticated shapes by using a combination of these tools, but I would always suggest conducting a search before you begin – the chances are, someone else will have already created just what you are looking for!


If you find that you do have to go it alone, you will probably find that the Operations command from the Shape menu comes in very handy.  I use this tool a lot when combining shapes into a new CustomShape because it allows you to Intersect shapes as well as combining them with the Union command, and of course you cam Fragment or Subtract one shape from another to get the required effect if you need to.

Rather less well-used are the JoinTrim and Offset commands available from the same menu.  These allow greater flexibility when modifying standard shapes.  For example, when “cutting” part of a shape away you can superimpose another shape on top of it and use the Trim command to treat each part of the overlap as a new component which is then editable independently.  The Join command allows separate components to then be joined to form a new Custom Shape.

The Offset command is a fantastically useful feature for creating copies of a shape at a predetermined distance – for example a circle could have perfect copies of it inside and outside to form concentric circles which could then be moved to for a cam, or have corresponding rectangles added to become the basis of a gear wheel.

However you decide to proceed, you’ll find very helpful advice and guidance in lots of forums on line, and of course on our own Visio-tutorial website.

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