I often find that I need to fill certain shapes with a regular pattern to indicate their composition. This is especially true of engineering drawings where shapes representing materials of various substances need to be rendered differently, but can also be the case in other diagram types that require shapes to adopt a different appearance according to their content. Luckily, the Professional version of Visio 2007 has a wealth of options available to accommodate these requirements from the Visio Extras stencil. This can be accessed from the Shape button on the Standard toolbar, or from Shapes on the File menu.

To use this facility you first need the shapes that you wish to fill with a pattern to be present on the drawing page, and you also need the specific stencil that contains the fill pattern you wish to use open as well. There are basically six choices here; two Custom Line Pattern stencils, two Custom Pattern Stencils without any scale applied and two scaled Custom Pattern stencils, each one available either in metric or in Imperial units. Applying the scale pattern fills has advantages and disadvantages; if the scale is compatible with your drawing scale, then the result is excellent but if it is not, you may find an oddly mutant pattern filling your shape such as one third of a herringbone pattern. Weird!

To apply a fill pattern to the shape you simply select the shape you want to fill then go to the Format menu and click Fill from the drop down menu. The Fill dialog box opens and from here you can scroll down the list until you can see the additional patterns available. Click on the one you want to apply the fill to the shape, and don’t forget that the Background color, Pattern color and Transparency can also be altered to get the effect you want. And of course, there are the same options available for any Shadow Effects you might want to apply (but remember – less is more!)

Tip: You may find it difficult to see the pattern you have chosen in some circumstances; turning off the Grid from the View menu usually makes this easier, but you might also want to increase the page magnification as well by holding down Shift and Ctrl and clicking with the Left mouse button. Changing the Pattern color often helps too.

Patterns can be overlaid on top of each other, and you can always use the Operations command from the Shape menu to Intersect, Subtract or Fragment the shapes before filling with Custom Patterns.