Creating New Stencils in Visio 2013

I love Visio. It’s a great way to make great-looking diagrams and illustrations very quickly. If you have a number of common shapes that you use from various stencils or some custom shapes that you’ve created yourself, you may want to save them in custom stencil. Visio did a good job of making this not-so-obvious to do in 2013, and so here we are.

Create your new stencil

The real “secret” here is that the stencil creation and editing tools are tucked away on the Developer tab in the ribbon, which is not visible by default. So step one is to make it visible. Go to File > Options > Customize Ribbon, and check the box next to Developer. Once the Developer tab is visible, creating the new stencil is as easy as clicking the New Stencil button.


Add shapes to your stencil

The stencil is obviously not going to do you much good without any shapes. The best way I’ve found to add shapes is to simply drag and drop them from the designer. Want a shape from another stencil? Drag it to the designer and then drag it back to your stencil. How about a frequently used image? Add it to the designer via Insert > Pictures, and then drag it into your stencil.


When you’re done adding shapes, just click the save button by the stencil header. That’s it!

Accessing your new stencil

When you need to access your stencil, you should find it under More Shapes > My Shapes. (Note that My Shapes looks to the default stencil location, C:\Users\you\Documents\My Shapes.) You can also browse to it using More Shapes > Open Stencil.

That’s it! Now you’re a stencil pro. Create different stencils for the different tasks you need different sets of shapes for. You’ll make diagrams faster and with greater consistency. Everyone will want to be you. Okay, that last part was a lie. People might still like you a little more and appreciate your amazing diagrams, though.


Author: Adam Prescott

I'm enthusiastic and passionate about creating intuitive, great-looking software. I strive to find the simplest solutions to complex problems, and I embrace agile principles and test-driven development.

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