How to insert and customize shapes in Captivate

Posted by Greten on 03 May 2019 under Tools

Shapes are one of the simplest, and also one of the most useful features you can find in Captivate. You can insert different shapes on your elearning slide in a manner not unlike in word processors and slide presentation applications.

Shapes are useful in creating diagrams, concepts maps, flow charts, and maybe some other presentation elements that you can think and limited only by your creativity. Unlike documents and like slide presentations, you can animate these shapes. Unlike slide presentations, you can turn them into interactive elements.

The basis for how these functions work, and the source of the screen captures used in this entry is the Adobe Captivate 2019 or Captivate 11. However, the way these functions work is very similar to that of Captivate 2017 (also called Captivate 10).

Inserting shapes

The Shapes menu with its submenu open. The Shapes button is usually on the top, a button with drawings of a blue circle, green triangle, pink rectangle, and blue hexagon. When clicked, a menu opens showing different shapes under the headers Recently used shapes, Basic, Arrows, Buttons, Banners, and Maths. Recently used shapes vary from time to time: it is simply the shapes that you used most recently. Under the Basic are the shapes that many of us are familiar and likely to use: line, polygon, rectangle, triangle, star, comic balloon, thought cloud, among others. Under the Arrows header are several arrows and shapes with one or more arrows attached to them. Chevrons and home plates are also included in this group. The next header is Buttons, under it are not really buttons in terms of function but shapes that look like common buttons, such as rewind, play, and fast forward. Under banners are wavy rectangles, scrolls, and ribbons. Lastly, the group at the bottom are called Maths. The shapes here are plus sign, minus sign, cross multiplication sign, obelus or division sign, and equal sign.To insert a shape:

  • Click the Shapes button near the top of Captivate window.
  • A submenu where you can select from several shapes will open. Select the shape that you want.
  • The mouse pointer will turn into a cross. Click on the slide and drag the mouse.
  • You will see the shape you selected forming. Let go of the mouse pointer after the shape reaches the size you want.

The Polygon shape (line with a small cross at the end) operates differently. After step 3 above, you do not hold the mouse button. Instead, you click on several points on the slide that will form the corners of your polygon. Then, to complete the polygon, you either double-click or click on your starting point.

The Line is also among the selection of Shapes, but it is not a real shape; it has no fill, and it has only two handles—one on each end—that you can use to resize it and change its orientation.

Resizing, repositioning, rotating, and flipping shapes

You can resize, reposition, rotate, and flip shapes like any other slide object: that is by dragging, using handles, or using the Options tab under the PROPERTIES interface.

There are some limitations when it comes to line and polygons:

  1. You cannot flip a polygon. The Flip Horizontal and Flip Vertical buttons do not appear when the active object is a polygon. If you try using the side resize handles, the polygon will still not flip.
  2. You cannot flip or rotate a line. The buttons for flipping discussed in the previous bullet and the Angle field is not available. You can, however, drag one of its two white handles to orient and resize the line to the angle and length that you want.

By default, the PROPERTIES interface is not visible. If you cannot see it, click the Properties burger menu near the upper-right corner.

If you cannot see the burger menu, it means that the custom workspace is enabled. You can open the PROPERTIES tab by checking Windows » Properties or by pressing Shift, Control, and D together (Ctrl+Shift+D). To make the PROPERTIES interface visible permanently, save a new workspace in Windows » Workspace » New Workspace.

Customizing shapes

After selecting your shape and putting it on the slide, you might want to modify it so that it can suit your learning design. Most of the customization options are available under the Style tab.

Customization options under Style

The Style provides the options that govern the appearance of the shape. This interface is under the PROPERTIES interface; if you cannot see the PROPERTIES interface, click the Properties burger menu near the upper-right corner.

Shown in this screen capture at the different ways to customize shapes under the Properties - Style menu. The screen capture on the right shows the Basic with its drop-down menu open, showing an oval, a rectangle, a rounded rectangle, a triangle, a hexagon, and a pentagon, and small angle brackets representing forward and back to signify that there are more shapes than what is shown. The screen capture in the middle is similar to the one on the left, but this time, it's the Solid/Gradient/Image Fill drop-down that is open. The label on top of the drop-down is Solid, indicating that it is the active selection. Also shown on its right is the Fill option, and farther right is the drop-down Opacity. The current color of the Fill is dark gray, and the Opacity is set to 100%. The screen capture on the right shows the Style interface scrolled down slightly, making the Basic no longer visible. Here, the Style drop-down under Stroke is open, showing solid line, dashed line, dotted line, alternating dashed/dotted line, and alternating dashed/dotted line with two dots. On its right is the option Stroke, and farther right the drop down Width. The current color of the Stroke is white, and the Width is set to two pixels. The Shadow and Reflection options are also partly visible in the right screen capture under Stroke.

If the Properties burger menu is not visible, it means your Captivate has custom workspace enabled. Alternative ways of opening the PROPERTIES interface are:

  • Check Windows » Properties
  • Press Shift, Control, and D together (Ctrl+Shift+D).

You may make the PROPERTIES interface permanently visible by saving a new workspace in Windows » Workspace » New Workspace.

The following customization options are available for shapes under the Style tab:

  • Basic: open this drop-down menu to change the shape after you already put it on the slide. The shape retains its size and position as defined by the bounding box (dashed rectangle enclosing it). This menu is not available to lines and polygons.
  • Fill: the area inside a shape. You can configure it in three ways.
    • Solid, Gradient, and Image: select any of these options to determine the kind of fill inside the shape. Solid means a single color. Gradient means there is a transition from one color to another in different parts of the area; you need to select at least two colors for this to work and you can have three or more colors. Image allows you to select an image file to fill the shape.
    • Fill: open this option to configure the Solid, Gradient, or Image. If Solid, you can select the color. If Gradient, you can select the two colors, or add more colors, and whether the gradient is linear or radial. If Image, then it allows you to select the image file and whether the image will stretch with the shape or form a repeating pattern.
    • Opacity: select the percentage by which the interior of the shape becomes transparent. If 0%, the interior of the shape becomes invisible. If 100%, then the shape is opaque. Any of the values in between will still allow you to see what's behind the shape.
  • Stroke: these options govern the appearance of a line and the border enclosing the shape.
    • Style: the options are solid line, dashed line, dotted line, or alternating dashed and dots.
    • Stroke: open this option to select the color of the line.
    • Width: enter a number or select from the drop-down to set the thickness of the line in pixels.

For the Stroke and Solid Fill colors, the colors can be entered by selecting it from a palette, encoding the RGB values or hex code, or using the droplet tool to select a color anywhere on your screen.

The color selection tool is available to both Stroke and Fill; in this screen capture, it appears when Stroke color option was clicked. There are two palette colors, Themes and Swatches. Themes limits the colors to the theme of your Captivate file while Swatches allows you to select more color. The Color Picker, the pizza-like circle divided into three colors: red, green, and cyan, opens the interface shown below: a gradient area where you can select color, or enter RGB values in three fields, or enter Hex code in one field. The Eyedropper, also called Droplet, allows you to pick a color from anywhere in your screen, including parts of Captivate's user interface and even those outside the Captivate window.

The same ways of color selection are used in the Gradient Fill, but you need to select first the gradient slider, which determines the color of a region inside the shape. A Gradient Fill has at least two gradient sliders for which you can select the color, while Captivate automatically fills the transition between them.

There are also Shadow and Reflection options under the Style interface, but I will cover this in another post because they also apply to several other visual elements, not just the shapes.

Modify shapes using yellow handles

In some shapes, yellow handles are available, which allows you to change the shape in some ways. A shape can have one, two, or three yellow handles. Some of them are as follows:

  • The rounded rectangle has one yellow handle that allows you to control the roundness of the corner relative to the size of the rectangle. Drag it to the middle and the rounded rectangle will turn into a circle or oblong. Drag it to the corner, and it will become a regular pointy rectangle.
  • The wave banner has two yellow handles, one to adjust how wavy it is, and the other to adjust the tilt of the ends of the banner.
  • The quadrilateral arrow callout, a rectangle with four arrows emerging from it, has three yellow handles: one to resize the rectangle at the center, one to adjust the width of the arrow's stem, and one to resize the base of the arrow's pointers.

Shown in this screen capture is a demonstration of how the yellow handle works in changing the shape a little. These two rounded rectangles are of the same size as indicated by the dashed line rectangle enclosing them. In the one on the left, the yellow handle was dragged closer to the corner of the rectangle, making the rounded part smaller. On the right, the yellow rectangle was dragged closer to the center, making the rounded part so large it is now an oblong.

Add text to shapes

You can use shapes as container of text. To add text you can either:

  • Double-click on a shape
  • Select a shape and press F2 on your keyboard.

The text does not resize with the shape. Once a shape has a text on it, new sets of options Character and Margins appear between Stroke and  Shadow and Reflection. Use these options to configure the characteristics of the text such as font size, font face, color, and alignment. These options will be discussed in details in a future post about text.


Lines and shapes are among the useful visual elements in an elearning material. Use them and customize them according to your instructional design: diagrams, concepts maps, flow charts, among others, and they can help in the learning process of your audience or students.

Last updated on 23 Oct 2020.

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