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Shape Subtract Command in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac

Learn how you can subtract shapes in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac. The Shape Subtract command retains the first selected shape and subtracts overlapping areas of other shapes.


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Product/Version: PowerPoint 2016 for Mac

OS: Mac OS X






PowerPoint lets you change the appearance of merged shapes. However, don't assume that just because this is so easy-to-use, the end results won’t be seriously impressive. Together, there are five options that let you merge shapes, and we have already explored four of them.

In this tutorial, we'll show you how you can use the Subtract option to subtract one shape (or even multiple shapes), from the first selected shape. You can see examples of the Subtract option in play within Figure 1, below. The three examples on the top area of the slide are separate shapes placed over each other. The shapes that you see at the bottom of the slide are the same shapes with the Subtract option applied, resulting in a single, cutout shape.

Sample showing use of the Subtract command
Figure 1: Sample showing use of the Subtract command

Once you finish reading this tutorial, do view the sample presentations embedded at the bottom of this page to see more samples of shapes that use the Subtract command. The Subtract command is one of Merge Shape commands in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac. Follow these steps to learn more:

  1. Open a presentation in PowerPoint. Insert two or more shapes on your slide and select them as shown in Figure 2. With these shapes selected, click the Shape Format tab on the Ribbon (highlighted in blue within Figure 2).
  2. Shape Format tab
    Figure 2: Shape Format tab
  3. Note: The Shape Format tab is a Contextual tab. Contextual tabs are special tabs in the Ribbon that are not visible all the time. They only make an appearance when you are working with a particular slide object which can be edited using special options.
  4. Within the Shape Format tab, click the Merge Shapes button (highlighted in red within Figure 2). This brings up the Merge Shapes drop-down gallery as shown in Figure 3.
  5. Merge Shapes drop-down gallery
    Figure 3: Merge Shapes drop-down gallery
  6. Within the Merge Shapes drop-down gallery, click the Subtract option so that the selected shapes are subtracted. The look of resultant shape depends upon the first shape selected before subtracting. In Figure 4 below, the shape towards right is the result of selecting the blue shape first and then subtracting, and the shape towards right is the result of selecting the orange colored shape first.
  7. Previously selected shapes are subtracted
    Figure 4: Previously selected shapes are subtracted
  8. Save your presentation often.

Do remember these guidelines for any tasks that involve the usage of this command. The Subtract command:

  • Retains the first selected shape
  • Subtracts overlapping areas of other shapes from first selected shape
  • If there is no overlap, the first selected shape is retained. Everything else is removed
  • Retains formatting of first selected shape

You will see these guidelines in use within the embedded presentations below (scroll down this page).

Activity: Do experiment with various shapes that are formatted with fills of different colors. Select one of the shapes, and then individually select other shapes and click the Subtract command. You will notice that the subtracted shape takes the formatting of the shape selected first, and also that the resultant shapes will be different depending upon the first shape you selected.

The sample presentations below show how we used different shapes placed next to and above each other, and then subtracted.

Click below to view this presentation on SlideShare

Click below to view this presentation on YouTube


See Also:

Merge Shapes: Shape Subtract Command in PowerPoint (Index Page)

Shape Subtract Command in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows
Shape Subtract Command in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows
Shape Subtract Command in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac
Shape Subtract Command in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows

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