Network Diagrams: Drawing the Background Shape

In my previous post “On the Art of Network Diagrams and Presentation” I created shapes and shading. Some people asked how this was done…..

Draw a rectangular shape

So lets draw a rectangle on the screen:

Network Diagram BackgroundShape1.jpg

Then put your pointer over the object and wait for a few seconds and the object will look like this:

Network Diagram BackgroundShape2.jpg

Then grab the green diamond shape in the corner, press the shift key ((pressing the shift key forces Visio to keep the pointer on 90 degree or straight lines)) and then move it to the right:

Network Diagram BackgroundShape.jpg

Do the same with the other corner, just not so far over:

Network Diagram BackgroundShape3.jpg

Now this bit is hard to explain, you need to select both of the top corners by clicking the first, then press and hold shift and then pull the top line of the shape to the right:

Network Diagram BackgroundShape4.jpg

So you now have the basic shape that you need – lets prettify that by filling the shape with colour. Right click on the shape and select Format, Fill:

Network Diagram BackgroundShape6.jpg

Select a dark shade of colour for the fill, then select number 28 from the Pattern. This is uses a shade from top to bottom.

Network Diagram BackgroundShape7.jpg

Underneath the pattern you will now have the Pattern Colour box. Select a lighter shade of the same colour as shown.

Network Diagram BackgroundShape8.jpg

Now click apply and you should have something like this:

Network Diagram BackgroundShape9.jpg

Now this is bit too bright, it is visually overpowering so we need to “turn down” the colour. The easiest way to do this is to make the colour transparent:

Network Diagram BackgroundShape10.jpg

And now we have the shape like this:

Network Diagram BackgroundShape11.jpg

A little liner……

Now the line around the edge of this shape is a bit…. ugly.

Right click on your shape, select Line:

Network Diagram BackgroundShape12.jpg

and this looks much more appealing:

Network Diagram BackgroundShape13.jpg

And the magic trick

One of the difficulties in Visio with a large shape in the background, is that snapping and connectors tend to use the background shape that you have just made. There are two ways to stop this. But that will be in my next post I think.


As always, let me know if I got it right in the comments. Tips and pointers always appreciated.

Other Posts in A Series On The Same Topic

  1. Free Custom Handwriting Font for Network Designs (14th August 2014)
  2. Network Diagrams: Font Selection and Production Context. Choosing Slab or Thin fonts (9th June 2014)
  3. Book Release: Tips on Using Visio To Make Network Diagrams (27th March 2014)
  4. Network Diagrams: Drawing Overlay Network Layers (14th March 2014)
  5. Network Diagrams: Choosing Better and Free Fonts (10th January 2014)
  6. My New Diagram Colour Scheme "Old Disco Style" (24th September 2013)
  7. On Diagrams and Information (10th September 2013)
  8. Colour Blindness, Network Diagrams and Reliability (3rd March 2011)
  9. Designer or Engineer, Artist or Painter (19th January 2010)
  10. Network Diagrams: Rotating Text on a Line (1st October 2009)
  11. Network Diagrams: Tips for Printing from Visio (22nd September 2009)
  12. Network Diagrams:Zones on a diagram with Visio shape union (31st July 2009)
  13. Network Diagrams: Drawing complex VLAN Networks with IP Addressing (7th July 2009)
  14. Network Diagrams: Drawing Freehand Curves (and then fixing them) (23rd March 2009)
  15. Network Diagrams:Aligning Shapes (12th March 2009)
  16. Network Diagrams:Locking the Background Shape (10th March 2009)
  17. Network Diagrams: Labelling an VLAN/IP Segment (9th March 2009)
  18. Network Diagrams: VLANs and IP Subnets (8th March 2009)
  19. Network Diagrams: Drawing the Background Shape (6th March 2009)
  20. On the Art of Network Diagrams and Presentation (4th March 2009)
  • Chris Buechler

    Is this Visio 2003 or 2007? It doesn’t seem to work in 2007…

    I generally don’t make my diagrams quite that fancy. :) But I’m always open to new Visio tricks and design suggestions.

  • Marko Milivojevic

    Yes, this looks like Visio 2003. I was also curious to give this approach a go as my diagrams are usually 2D. However, the trick with rectangle didn’t work in 2007.

    Very interesting approach, though. A technique well worth mastering! Great blog :-)

    CCIE #18427 (SP)

  • Vinf_net

    The rectangle trick is done differently in Visio 2007, I’ve posted some details of how to do it here

  • Karsten

    I don’t get it to work with Omnigraffle. Can you explain that too?

  • Ian

    Nice article, a good diagram goes a long way.

    I like to round off the edges slightly on the shape (lines) so it takes the sharpness off.

    Thanks for taking the time to share!

  • Alexey Rivkin

    Great job.
    I thought I was good in networks visualization, but you took it to the level of masterpiece!
    I keep doing all those exercises, like studying official course.


    • Greg Ferro

      Thanks for your kind words. I have some more to come I think, hopefully I’ll get time to complete them. Busy in the lab!!!

  • Loco

    k I have visio 2003 sp3 and step 2 does not work for me “Then put your pointer over the object and wait for a few seconds and the object will look like this” my rectangle does not change no matter how long I wait–what am I doing wrong?

    • Loco

      I will answer my own question: I tried it the way 2k7 works and that works on 2k3 sp3. Anyway thanks for all the info–great site.

  • Edwin

    I’m looking for your previous article mentioned above, ìOn the Art of Network Diagrams and Presentationî, and I’m getting a dead link.

  • David Sudjiman

    Nice write up! Visio 2007 can also use this feature. Just click the Freeform Tool on the Drawing toolbar and you’ll see the diamond-shaped in the corner.

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