In my PowerPoint eBook, I have a section called “The Missing Diagram,” where I describe how one would go about creating a very distinct, specialized PowerPoint diagram from scratch.  I call this a “Missing Diagram,” because it’s one of those PowerPoint Diagrams that you don’t think you can easily create with AutoShapes.  In the book, the example used is a tool box diagram.

From the feedback I received, it seems this section was well received and readers would like more similar powerpointing examples.  So, here it is.  In this post, we will create a diagram of a money safe.

To build a custom diagram, I follow a simple 5-step process…

Step 1 – Find an image as your template

Whether it’s a bridge, a dinosaur, or a book shelf, chances are a picture of it already exists online.  The only problem is that picture isn’t PowerPoint friendly—as in, it will look out of place or unprofessional if you just copy and paste it into your present.

Your first step here is to find an image of what you would like to create.  You will use that image as your template.  I find mine on Google Image Search.  Sometimes, I couple my search phrase with words like ‘icon’ or ‘gif,’ because I want to find a template image that is already cartoonish.  I didn’t in this example.

The reason you want to find an existing image as a template is because it is too difficult (and inefficient) to create a diagram based purely on what you picture in your mind.  Unless you’re a trained artist, what you imagine in your head usually looks very different when you draw it out on paper—not to mention on PowerPoint.

Step 2 – Paste and grow.

Paste the image you found into PowerPoint.  Resize the image, so that it takes up the majority of your screen.  Remember to hold down ‘Shift’ on your keyboard as you resize to maintain proper dimensions.  Don’t worry if the image turns blurry or becomes pixelated.

Step 3 – Recreate the shell.

Starting out, this step is the most difficult.  However, with some practice, you will be able to do this with ease.  With the Freeform Line AutoShape (to find this, go to AutoShapes > Lines > Freeform), create the outline of the shape.  Remove any line colors and choose a solid fill.

You can do this with multiple shapes if easier.  For instance, piece together rectangles and triangles for simple outlines.  Just group (Ctrl + G) like shapes together for easier manipulation.  Remember, if you grouped shapes will resize proportionally together.  If, instead, you just select multiple shapes and resize, they won’t resize as cohesive unit.

In this example, I created 2 shapes.  One for the door alone; one for the rest of the safe.  The reason for this is because I would like to show different things (e.g. charts, documents) coming out of the safe in my final diagram.  Therefore, I want the door to be a separate that I want to bring to the forefront of the slide.

Step 4 – Create layers for depth.

Repeat the step before to capture additional detail to you diagram.  It helps to send the existing layer to the back, so that you can work off the original picture for each new layer.  This step is iterative, so let’s step through each iteration.

You see in this first iteration, I just added some additional darker freeform AutoShapes.

And some more.  The knob of the safe was constructed with a couple circles and a rectangle.

I am now adding some smaller details, narrow rectangles and lines, to highlight separations on the safe.

In the next several iterations displayed below, I started using PowerPoint fill effects, such as 2-color Gradient fills and Patterns, to add dimensionality and contour.  In addition, I added Shadows to some shapes for further dimensionality.

Here is a comparison of the final PowerPoint diagram versus the original image found on Google.

Step 5 – Group and shrink.

Group together all your shapes.  Then, resize it down to a more appropriate size.  It is critical to group everything together first.  Otherwise, as you will find out the hard way, your final diagram will not resize correctly.

Now, with your new diagram, you can use it in your slide to portray your original purpose.  See the example below, where I am using the money case to illustrate a vault of PowerPoint slides.

Discounting the time it took to write this tutorial, the actual time to create the money safe diagram took about 6 minutes.

The money safe is now included in the eBook PowerPoint Toolkit, which is a set of 50+ PowerPoint diagrams and templates free with the Become a PowerPoint Guru eBook.

You can download a free PowerPoint plugin called Flevy Tools that creates commonly used PowerPoint diagrams here:  Flevy Tools allows you to dynamically generate Gantt Charts, Harvey Ball diagrams, approach diagrams, and other diagrams.  For the time being, it’s a completely free download.

Questions, thoughts, concerns?  Go to my site ( and shoot me an email.

For pre-made PowerPoint diagrams used in business presentations, browse our library here:  These diagrams were professionally designed by management consultants. Give your presentations the look and feel of a final product made by McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Booz Allen, Deloitte, or any of the top consulting firms.

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