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A shape is a precise geometric or custom-shaped clipping path that reveals a solid color, gradient, or pattern fill within its contour and occupies its own layer (see Figure 9). A shape can be repositioned, transformed, or reshaped at any time; its fill content can be modified or changed to a different type at any time; and the usual layer styles, effects, blending modes and opacity settings can be applied to or chosen for it.

Figure 9

A star shape with a solid color fill.

Effects on a clipping path Apply layer effects (Inner Glow, Bevel, etc.) to a shape layer or to a layer that has a clipping path to enhance edges, add a shadow, etc. If you apply the Stroke effect or any of the Overlay effects to stroke or fill the layer clipping path, you'll be able to modify the stroke or fill at any time.

Unlike the main Photoshop image, which is a bitmap, shape layers are composed of vector data (think Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand). This means that shapes always look sharp and precise, whether they are printed on a PostScript printer, saved in PDF format or imported into a vector drawing program; in other words, they're resolution-independent.

Creating a shape layer involves drawing a vector path, just as you would in an illustration program.

To create a shape layer:

  1. Choose a layer on the Layers palette. The new shape layer will be created above the layer you choose. Note: if the layer you choose has a layer clipping path, the shape will become part of the clipping path. To prevent this from happening, make sure the layer clipping path thumbnail is deselected.

  2. Using the Color or Swatches palette, choose a Foreground color for the shape's color fill. (You'll learn how to fill a shape with a gradient or pattern later.)

  3. Choose a shape tool on the Toolbox (U or Shift-U) as shown in Figure 10. Once a shape tool is selected, you can switch to a different shape tool by clicking one of the shape tool buttons on the options bar (see Figure 11).

    Figure 10

    The shape tools

    Figure 11

    The Custom shape tool options bar.

  4. On the shape tool options bar:

    If you're using the Rounded Rectangle tool, choose a Radius value; for the Polygon tool, choose a number of Sides; for the Line tool, choose a Weight; and for the Custom Shape tool, choose a shape from the picker. and Click the Create new shape layer button. (If this button isn't available, it means an existing layer clipping path is selected; deselect that thumbnail first.) and Choose Layer Style, Mode and Opacity settings.

  5. Drag in the image window to draw the shape. Alt-drag/Option-drag to draw from the shape's center. Shift-drag to constrain a rectangle to a square, an ellipse to a circle, or a line to a multiple of 45°. Note: In Windows, the draw-from-center function (Alt-dragging) may not work for the Custom Shape tool.

  6. When the mouse is released, the shape will display (see Figure 12). A new Shape 1 layer will be listed on the Layers palette. It will have an adjustment layer icon thumbnail that controls its fill content and a layer clipping path thumbnail that controls its contour and location (see Figure 13).

Photoshop versus ImageReady The pen tools, Polygon tool, and Custom Shape tool are only available in Photoshop—not in ImageReady. In Photoshop, multiple shapes can be drawn on the same shape layer and you can have them add to, subtract from, or intersect with each other by clicking the appropriate button on the options bar. In ImageReady, only one shape can be drawn per layer. Shapes can be edited in Photoshop at any time. In ImageReady, shapes can only be transformed and moved, not edited.

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