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Working with Photoshop Shapes

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Take Helen Bradley's quick course in using Photoshop's built-in shapes and learn how to make your own custom shapes to add life and dimension to your digital art projects.
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Need a fun embellishment for a collage? Want to cut out a heart-shaped photo of your sweetie? Need a star to make a web icon? Well, Photoshop’s shapes are for you. Photoshop has plenty of fun built-in shapes you can use in your photo-editing and digital art—better yet, you can edit the built-in shapes and save them as new shapes, or even make your own from scratch. If you’ve never given shapes more than a passing thought, now is the time to check out shapes and put them to work in your Photoshop projects.

Using the Shapes Tools

Accessible from the Tools palette are the following basic shapes you can click to select:

  • Rectangle
  • Rounded Rectangle
  • Ellipse
  • Polygon
  • Line
  • Custom

There are three options from which to choose when creating a shape. These options are displayed in the Tool Options bar and are accessible whenever you have a shape tool selected.

  • Fill Pixels. If you use the Fill Pixels option, the shape is filled with the current foreground color when you create the shape on your image, as shown in Figure 1.
    Figure 1

    Figure 1 Using the Fill Pixels option, this custom shape is filled with a solid color—the current foreground color.

  • Paths. Use the Paths option to create a working path from your shape. The tool won’t make any changes to your image, but you’ll have a shaped path with which you can work.
  • Shape Layers. This option creates a new vector shape layer in the image. The layer is filled with the color visible in the box on the Tool Options bar. With the Shape Layers option selected, you can create a shape using a Style from the Style palette. For example, you might use this to create a shape with a glass style, as shown in Figure 2. Also, with Shape Layers selected, you can change the style in use by opening the Style palette on the Tool Options bar and choosing an alternate style to apply to the layer.
Figure 2

Figure 2 Use the Shape Layers option to create a new layer for your chosen shape, and fill it using a Style such as the glass button shown here.

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