In this lesson we will look at everything related to creating arbitrary shapes in Photoshop and the subsequent work with them. Since there is a lot of material, we will divide it into two parts. In the first part, we will learn how to create a figure, define it as an arbitrary figure, and then display it on the screen and use it as necessary. In the second part, we will look at how to combine various shapes into separate sets of shapes and save them in the program.
The idea to create this lesson came to me when I looked through a scrapbooking magazine with numerous pages containing ready-made templates of simple shapes. These figures were combined on various topics and cost to the point of absurdity. I then thought: “Hey, you can create all these shapes in Photoshop yourself and in addition for free!” Besides, you don’t have to get involved in scrapbooking – to benefit from creating your own arbitrary shapes.
First, when creating shapes, you can just have fun! And if you create many different figures and combine them into a separate set, it will be even more interesting. Secondly, you can use arbitrary shapes as an element of decor when designing drawings or even in design business. Thirdly, you can combine an arbitrary shape with a vector mask and get a funny photo frame. But before we start applying arbitrary shapes, let’s learn how to create them!
Before starting the development of the material, I allow myself another retreat. Creating arbitrary shapes requires the use of the Pen Tool. You can create shapes using the basic tools of the Shapes group, such as Rectangle or Ellipse, but if you do not want to limit yourself to creating shapes of a certain shape that resemble boxes or bicycle tires, you will need to use the Pen tool. We studied the “Pen” tool in more detail in our lesson “How to make selections using the“ Pen ”tool, so in this lesson of this topic we will touch only slightly. If you are not familiar with the basic features of the Pen tool, first read our lesson on using this tool.
In this tutorial, we will create arbitrary shapes by first circling an object in the image. If you can draw, great – then you can easily draw a shape by hand without stroke of the object, because when creating an arbitrary shape it doesn’t matter how you draw it – using a stroke or with a hand. As for me, I prefer to circle the object (because I do not have artistic abilities), so in this lesson we will do just that.
I’m going to make an arbitrary shape out of this sweet Gingerbread Man:
Step 1: Choose the Pen tool
As I already mentioned, you can create arbitrary shapes using the basic tools of the Shapes group, such as Rectangle or Ellipse, but if you try to circle our Gingerbread Man with these tools, then most likely he will remain in best case without a head (sorry for a little irony). What we really need is the Pen Tool, so select it from the toolbar:
You can also select the pen tool by pressing P.
Step 2: Select the “Layer-shape” parameter in the settings panel
With the Pen tool selected, let’s take a look at the settings bar at the top of the screen. On the left side of the panel you will see a group of three icons:
These icons show us what we can do with the Pen tool. The icon on the right is currently shaded. It is available to us only when we work with the main tools of the Shapes group (the Pen tool and the Shapes group tools have almost the same settings on the settings panel). As we went through the lesson “How to make a selection with the Pen tool, the middle icon is used when we want to draw contours, but at the moment we don’t need it. We want to use the Pen tool to draw a shape, and for this we need to select the icon on the left, which is responsible for the Shape Layers parameter:
The shape layer option is selected by default whenever you access the Pen tool, so you may not need to install it yourself. But it would still be nice if you check and make sure that this option is selected before you start drawing the shape.
I should note that there is no difference between drawing contours and drawing shapes using the Pen tool. In both cases, you click in the document window to set the reference points, then move the guide lines as necessary to create straight or curved sections (and again, if you are not familiar with these concepts, study our lesson “How to make selections using the tool“ Pen”). In fact, regardless of what you “officially” draw – figures or outlines, in any case, you draw outlines. The difference is that when drawing shapes, Photoshop fills the outline with color already during the drawing process, which allows us to see the shape.
Oddly enough, but this property makes our work a little more difficult. Why – we will look further.
Step 3: Starting to draw a shape
After we have selected the Pen tool and the Layer-shape parameter in the settings panel, we can start to trace the image. I want to start a stroke from the head of the Gingerbread Man. To do this, I click the mouse button to set the anchor points and begin to move the guide lines to create a curved outline of the stroke around the head man. In the figure below you can see the reference points and guide lines, but this causes a problem. The Photoshop program fills the outline of the shape with background color (in my case it is black) during the stroke process, not allowing us to see the Man’s head:
Next we will solve this problem.
In order for the program not to hide the image itself during the stroke process, we just need to go to the layers panel and lower the opacity of the shape layer. At the moment, the layers panel shows that we have two layers – the bottom layer of the background (Background), on which the image of the Gingerbread Man is placed, and the top layer of the figure called “Figure 1” (Shape 1). I can safely say that the shape layer is currently selected because it is highlighted in blue, so to reduce its opacity, we just need to select the Opacity parameter in the upper right corner of the layers panel and reduce its value. In my case, I will reduce the opacity to 50%:
After reducing the opacity of the shape layer, the Man’s head is visible through the background color of the fill, as a result, it becomes much easier for us to further stroke:
Step 5: Continue to circle the image.
Now that the Gingerbread Man is visible through the fill color of the drawing figure, I can continue to stroke the image with the Pen tool until I return to the beginning of the stroke:
If we look at the shape layer in the layers panel, we see that a distinct Gingerbread Man figure has appeared on it:
Until now, everything was fine with us. We did a stroke of the Gingerbread Man figure, and in some cases that would be enough. In my case, however, the circled shape needs some work. At least, it seems to me, we need to include a circled silhouette of the eyes and mouth, and also, perhaps, a bow tie and two large buttons under it. How do we add these details to the circled shape? Very simple! We will not add them – we will remove these parts from the figure (or subtract)!
Next we look at how to do it!
Step 6: Choose the Ellipse Tool
Let’s start with the eyes. If desired, we could select the eyes with the Pen tool, but since they are round in Man, we can select them in an easier way using the Ellipse Tool. Select the tool “Ellipse” on the toolbar. By default, this tool is hidden behind the Rectangle Tool, so click on the Rectangle tool and hold the mouse button down for a few seconds, as a result of which a pop-up menu will appear on the screen where you can select the Ellipse tool:
Step 7: Select the option “Subtract from the area of the figure”
Choosing the Ellipse tool, look at the settings panel, where you will see several icons grouped together and look like small squares, which are connected to each other in different ways. These icons allow us to perform various actions with shapes, such as: adding a shape to a region, subtracting a separate area from it, and intersecting areas of several shapes. Click on the third to the left icon, which is responsible for the Subtract from shape area parameter:
Step 8: Draw separate shapes to extract from the circled silhouette.
Now, after selecting the “Subtract from shape area” option, we can start adding details to our shape by removing individual areas. I will begin to transform the figure, drawing an oval around the left eye:
When I let go of the mouse button, the oval area around the eye will immediately disappear or “cut out” from the stroke of the main shape, leaving behind a hole through which the left eye of the Man will be visible in the original image placed on the bottom Background layer:
I will do the same with the right eye. For starters, I’ll draw an oval around my eye:
As soon as I release the mouse button, a second round hole will appear, through which the Human’s eye will also be visible on the original image:
Since the two buttons under the bow tie are also round, I will once again use the Ellipse tool to remove them from the circled shape. For a start, I’ll draw an oval around the top button:
When I release the mouse button, the oval area around the button will immediately disappear from the circled shape, leaving behind a hole through which the button will be visible on the image below:
And now I will do the same for the bottom button, starting with drawing an oval around it:
When I release the mouse button, a fourth hole appears on the circled silhouette:
If at the moment I look at the thumbnail of the shape layer located on the layers panel, I will see two eye holes and two button holes that I cut from the circled shape:
Next, we again select the Pen tool and add the missing details to the silhouette of our figure.
Step 9: Extract the remaining parts from the circled silhouette using the Pen tool.
I’m going to switch back to the Pen tool, because I need to add a few details to the circled shape that I cannot select with the Ellipse tool.
I want to add to the circled silhouette of the mouth, as well as a bow tie. Since after selecting the Pen tool in the settings panel, the “Subtract from shape area” option is already checked, I will simply start to circle my mouth and bow tie in order to “cut out” them from the circled silhouette of Gingerbread Man.
The figure below shows the stroke lines along with the original image of the Gingerbread Man, which looks through the holes I created:
Let’s finish the Gingerbread Man figure by cutting out the wavy tracks of powdered sugar on his legs and hands. And again, I’ll use the Feather tool to create tracks. First, I will circle the path of powdered sugar on the man’s left hand, as a result of which it will be cut from the initial stroke of the figure:
After the first path has been delineated, I will go to the remaining three and begin to circle them until all four tracks of powdered sugar are cut from the figure of the Man:
If we again look at the miniature of the figure layer on the layers panel, we can clearly see the tracks of powdered sugar, eyes, mouth, bow tie and buttons cut out of the figure:
So the Gingerbread Man figure is ready! We used the Feather tool to make an initial stroke of the shape, and then we used the Feather and Ellipse tools along with the Subtract shape data option to add small details to the shape.
Step 10: Increase the opacity of the shape layer to 100%
After we have stroke the individual areas of our shape, we no longer need to see the original image under the circled silhouette, so we will again select the Opacity parameter in the upper right corner of the layers panel and increase the value to 100%:
I am also going to temporarily hide the Background layer from the view by clicking on the layer’s visibility icon (an eyeball icon) so that we can only see a circled shape on a transparent background. If you do not want, you can not hide the background layer. I do this only for the convenience of viewing the figure:
And this is how the figure of the Gingerbread Man that I created looks like after hiding the background layer from view and increasing the opacity of the figure layer to 100%:
After numerous actions, we finally created our figure! But this is not the end. Now we need to make an arbitrary figure out of it, and this is what we will do next.
Step 11: Define the shape as an arbitrary shape.
To make a shape an arbitrary shape, first make sure that the shape layer is selected on the layers panel. You also need to make sure that the preview layer is highlighted in the shape layer. If it is selected, it will be framed by a white illuminated frame and you can see the outlined contour around the shape in the document. If the layer thumbnail does not have a highlighted frame and you do not see the outline around the shape, simply click on the layer thumbnail to select it:
Note: if you ever need to hide the outline of your shape, simply click on the layer thumbnail again to deselect it.
After selecting the shape layer and selecting the layer thumbnail, go to the Edit menu at the top of the screen and select Define Custom Shape:
As a result of this action, the Shape Name dialog box opens, where you will need to enter a name for your shape. I’ll call my figure the Gingerbread Man:
Click OK to exit the dialog box when the name is entered, and that’s it – you can use your arbitrary shape! At this stage, you can close the document in Photoshop, since we created and saved our shape. Now consider where it can be found and how it can be applied!
Step 12: Create a new document in Photoshop
Create a new empty document in Photoshop by going to the File menu at the top of the screen and selecting the New option. This action will open the New Document dialog box, where you can specify any image size for your document. In the line “Settings” (Preset), I will choose the size of 640? 480 pixels:
Step 13: Select the Freehand tool
Having created a new empty document, select the tool “Arbitrary shape” on the toolbar. By default, the Rectangle Tool is displayed on the screen, so click on it and hold the mouse button down for a few seconds until a pop-up menu appears with a list of other tools where you can select the Custom Pattern tool. Shape Tool):
Step 14: Choose our arbitrary shape
Having chosen the tool “Arbitrary figure”, click the right mouse button in the document window, as a result of which a figure selection window will appear, where you can choose any of the arbitrary figures available at the moment. The shape you just created will be the last in the list of shapes. To select it, simply click on the relevant figure thumbnail:
Step 15: Draw Our Figure
After selecting an arbitrary shape, just click the mouse in the document window and, while holding the mouse button down, draw a shape. To preserve the proportions of the shape as you move the cursor and not accidentally distort them, press and hold the Shift key. You can also press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key to draw a shape from the center. If you want to change the location of the shape in the process of drawing, press and hold the space bar, then move the shape to a new location, then release the space key and continue drawing the shape.
In the process of drawing you will see only the thin outline of the future figure:
When the location and size of the shape satisfy you, simply release the mouse button and the program will immediately fill the shape with the color that is currently the background color (in my case, it is black):
Next, we will look at how to change the color and size of our figure, as well as how to turn it in the right direction!
Step 16: Double-click the thumbnail of the shape layer to change the color of the shape.
Do not worry about the color of your shape in the process of drawing and adding to the document. The program will automatically fill the shape with the color that is currently selected as the background color. If you want to change the color of the shape after that, simply double-click on the thumbnail of the shape layer. It is on the layer thumbnail, not on the preview thumbnail of the shape located on the right side (which is formally called the vector mask thumbnail). You need a thumbnail on the left side that looks like a color swatch icon with a small slider below. Double-click on it to change the color of the shape:
This action will open a color palette where you can select a new color for your shape. For my Gingerbread Man, I want to choose a brown color:
Click OK to exit the color palette when you select a color, and your figure will immediately be filled with new color:
You can change the color of your shape as many times as you like, at any time you need!
Step 17: If necessary, resize the shape using the Free Transform command.
When working with shapes, you can change not only the color. The big advantage is that when drawing shapes, vectors are used instead of pixels, so you can safely change the size of the shapes whenever you want without loss of image quality! If you decide that you need to enlarge or reduce your shape, simply select the shape layer in the layers panel, and then press Ctrl + T (Win) / Command + T (Mac) to open the transform frame. Resize the shape by pulling on any of the corner markers. Press and hold the Shift key while dragging to maintain the proportions of the shape. You can also press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key while moving the marker to change the size of the shape from its center:
To rotate the shape, simply click with the mouse outside the free transformation frame and move the cursor in the desired direction:
Press the Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) key when you are finished resizing the shape to confirm the final transformation.
You can add as many copies of your arbitrary shape as you wish to your document, changing the color, size and location of the shape at will each time. Each copy of an arbitrary shape will be placed on a separate layer of the shape on the layers panel. In my case, I added to the document several figures of the Gingerbread Man, each of which has its own color, size and angle of rotation. Please note that regardless of their size, all shapes retain sharp, sharp corners:
And here we are done! First, we created a shape by circling the original drawing with the Pen tool. We “cut out” the small details on our figure using the Pen and Ellipse tools with the “Subtract from the area of the figure” parameter set. Next, we saved our shape as an arbitrary shape using the “Define an arbitrary shape” parameter in the “Edit” menu section. After that, we created a new document, selected the Free Arbitrary tool and drew an arbitrary figure in our document. And finally, we looked at how you can at any time change the color, size and angle of an arbitrary shape!
So, we studied the basics of creating and using arbitrary shapes in Photoshop, i.e. learned the first part of our lesson. In the second part, we will look at how to combine the arbitrary shapes we created into separate sets and save them in the program.