Vectors, outlines and pixel shapes in Photoshop # 1

In past lessons on drawing shapes in Photoshop, I mentioned that there are several types of shapes that we can draw in the program using the various tools of the Shapes group. We can draw vector shapes, we can draw outlines, or we can draw pixel shapes.

In this tutorial, we will take a closer look at the difference between vector shapes, contours, and pixel shapes, and which type of shapes are best chosen for drawing.

Tools of the “Figures” group

In the lesson “Shapes and Layers of Shapes in Photoshop” we learned that the various tools of the Shapes group are located in the same place on the toolbar. By default, the Rectangle tool is visible on the panel. (Rectangle Tool), but if you click on the tool icon and hold down the mouse button for a few seconds, a pop-up menu appears with a list of the other available tools of the Shapes group. I will select the Ellipse Tool from the list, but everything that we will look at in the future will apply not only to the Ellipse tool, but to all the tools of the Shapes group:

Select the “Ellipse” tool from the pop-up menu.

Drawing modes

After selecting the tool of the Shapes group, we need to tell the program which type of shapes we will draw – a vector shape, a contour or a pixel shape. We will do this using the drawing modes in the settings panel at the top of the screen.

Closer to the left edge of the settings panel is a group of three icons. Each icon represents a specific type of shape that we can draw. The first icon (leftmost) represents the Shape Layers option. We select this option when we want to draw vector shapes. The second icon (middle) is responsible for the “Path” parameter, which we must choose if we want to draw the contours. The third icon (rightmost) is the Fill Pixels option, which is indispensable if we want to draw pixel shapes:

From left to right – the parameters “Layer-shape”, “Contour”, “Run pixel fill”.

Drawing layer shapes (vector shapes)

When working with drawing modes, we almost always select the “layer-shape” mode (drawing vector shapes). Most people, wanting to draw a shape, do not consider the option of contours or pixel shapes. They prefer to draw vector shapes – a type of shape that is used in the program of Adobe Illustrator and in many other graphic editors.

In fact, Photoshop can hardly be called a graphic editor. This is mainly an image processing program, and images (at least digital photos) are known to consist of pixels. When we draw pixel shapes, choosing the option “Fill pixels” on the settings panel, we create pixel shapes that have limitations in their use.

The biggest drawback of pixel forms or images is that they do not scale well, at least when we want to increase their size compared to the original. Increase the size of the pixel image, and it will lose its sharpness, becoming blurry and fuzzy. Increase the size even more, and then the pixels forming the image will be visible, and graininess will appear.

Pixel shapes or images are also very dependent on the resolution of your document, especially if you want it to be clear when printing. On the screen, these images may look good, but to print high-quality photos you need a higher resolution than the one that displays your monitor. Thus, if your document consists of a smaller number of pixels than is required for high-quality printing of a document of the desired size, it will again look fuzzy and vague.

Vector shapes, in turn, have nothing to do with pixel shapes. They consist of a set of mathematical points interconnected by segments of straight or curved lines. And all these points, straight lines and curved lines form the figure that we see! Do not worry that you have to remember the math, drawing shapes. Photoshop does all the math itself, so we can safely concentrate on the drawing process itself.

Since vector shapes are drawn using mathematical calculations, every time we change the size or shape of a shape, the program itself performs the necessary calculations and redraws the shape as required. This means that we can change the size of vector shapes as many times as we want without losing image quality. Regardless of how big the figures become, they will keep their borders clear. As well as in contrast to pixel forms, vector shapes do not depend on the resolution of the document, since they are always printed on the printer at the maximum allowed resolution.

Let’s see what we can do with vector shapes in Photoshop, and then compare their properties with the properties of the contours and pixel shapes. To draw vector shapes, select the “Layer-shape” option on the settings panel:

Click on the icon “Layer-shape” in the settings panel.

Before I start drawing anything, let’s take a look at the layers panel, where at the moment you can see that the document contains one layer — the background layer — filled with white:

Only one background layer is displayed on the layers panel.

I will choose a color for my vector shape by clicking on the color swatch icon in the settings panel:

Click on the color swatch icon to select the color of the vector shape.

This action will open the color palette, where I will select the red color and press OK to exit the palette:

Choose a color for the vector shape from the color palette.

Selecting the tool Ellipse on the toolbar , In the settings panel, the “Layer-shape” parameter, and in the color palette – red, I will click the cursor inside the document and move it to draw an ellipse. In doing so, I will hold down the Shift key so that the ellipse acquires the shape of a circle:

Circle drawn with the Ellipse tool.

Photoshop program places each new vector shape on a separate layer of shapes, and if we look at the layers panel, we will see that we have drawn a circle on a new layer “Figure 1” (Shape 1), which appeared above the layer “Background”. Layers of shapes (shape layers) include two elements — a color swatch (on the left side of the layer), which displays the current color of the shape, and a vector mask thumbnail (to the right of the color swatch), showing how the shape looks at the moment (white area on the miniature has the shape of a figure):

Each new vector shape is placed on a separate layer on the layers panel.

Having drawn the first shape, I will draw a similar second one and place it just to the right of the first shape:

The second vector shape at the moment partially overlaps the first shape.

The program will place the second vector shape on a separate layer of the shape called “Shape 2” (Shape 2), located above the first layer of the shape and having its own color swatch and thumbnail of the vector mask:

Two vector shapes, two layers of shapes.

At the moment, both of my shapes are red, but we can easily change the shape color by double-clicking on the sample color icon of the shape layer on the layers panel: I double-click on the color pattern of the second figure:

Double-click on the pattern color sample icon to change its color.

This action will re-open the color palette, where we can choose a different color. This time I will choose the blue color:

As the new color for the second shape, choose blue.

Then I click OK to close the color palette, and my second shape instantly changes color from red to blue:

The second vector shape is now blue.

The color pattern icon of the shape layer will also become a new color:

The shape layer color swatch icon now displays a new color.

I can easily select vector shapes in a document using the Path Selection Tool (also known as the black arrow). I will select the Outline Selection tool in the toolbar. It is located in the same section with the tools of the Shapes group:

Select the “Contour selection” tool.

When I select the Outline Selection tool, I will click on the red shape, and Photoshop will automatically select it (a thin outline will appear around the selected shape):

The Outline Selection tool selects the shape you click on. In my case, after pressing the button a red figure stood out

Photoshop will also make the shape layer active on the layers panel (the selected layers will become highlighted in blue):

When a vector shape is selected in the document window, its layer on the layers panel will be highlighted in blue.

And now I’ll click on the blue shape by selecting the Outline Select tool, and the program will immediately highlight this shape:

Select the blue shape with the tool.“Contour selection”.

We can also see that the program has highlighted the layer of this shape:

The blue shape layer is now highlighted.

After selecting a vector shape, you can move it in the document window using the Outline Select tool (the standard Move tool also works). I suggest you learn more interesting operations than simply moving shapes. For example, you can combine two or more shapes and create a new shape of a bizarre shape. How to do this – we will look further!

Until this point, Photoshop placed each new vector shape on a separate layer, but it is much more interesting to combine two or more shapes on one shape layer. We will look at this material in more detail in another lesson, and now I will quickly show you how to combine our figures. Selecting the second (blue) shape, I press the key combination Ctrl + C (Win) / Command + C (Mac) to copy the shape to the clipboard. Next, I will delete the shape layer by moving it to the trash can icon at the bottom of the layers panel:

Move the “Figure 2” layer to the trash can icon for further deletion.

This action will cause the document to have one original shape. I’ll press the key combination Ctrl + V (Win) / Command + V (Mac) to paste the copied shape onto the original one, and both figures will eventually merge into one:

Two previously separate figures are now merged into one.

If we look at the thumbnail of the vector mask on the layers panel, we will see that both figures are currently placed on the same layer:

Two shapes are now placed on the same layer.

Since now both figures are placed on one layer, I can perform various actions with them using four parameters on the settings panel. The icons of the following parameters are located from left to right: “Add to Shape Area”, “Subtract from Shape Area”, “Intersect Shape Areas”, “Subtract Shape Intersection Area” (Exclude Overlapping Shape Areas):

A number of parameters that allow us to perform with the figures placed on the same layer, different actions.

And again, the topic of combining and combining vector shapes will be discussed in more detail in another lesson, and now let’s take a look at the main points. Currently, both figures simply overlap each other and create the appearance of one large figure. This happens because the option “Add to the area of ​​the figure” is selected in the settings panel. I’ll click on another parameter – “Subtract from the shape area”:

Select the option “Subtract from Shape Area” (Subtract from Shape Area).

By selecting the “Subtract from shape area” option, I no longer see the second shape in the document window. Moreover, the program Photoshop also hid from view the area of ​​intersection of the figures:

View of shapes after selecting an option“Subtract from the figure area.”

If I choose the “Area of ​​intersection of figures” option, the result will be different:

Select the Intersect Shape Areas option.

This time, only the intersection of the figures will be visible:

View of shapes after selecting the “Area of ​​intersection of shapes.”

And if I select the “Subtract intersecting shapes” option, then again we will get a new result:

Select the option “Subtract the area of ​​intersection of the figures” (Exclude Overlapping Shape Areas).

Both figures will be visible, except for the part where they intersect with each other:

The shape of the shapes after selecting the “Subtract intersecting shapes” option.

If I decide that I no longer need the second shape (the shape on the right, which is still selected), I can delete it by pressing the Backspace (Win) / Delete (Mac) key. As a result of this action, the shape will be removed from the shape layer, and only the original circle will remain on it:

The second shape was removed, and only the original shape remained.

Another important feature of vector shapes that I want to quickly review before moving on to the study of contours and pixel shapes is the ease of changing their shapes! Earlier, I mentioned that vector shapes consist of points interconnected by segments of straight or curved lines. We looked at how you can select the entire shape at once with the Contour Selection tool, but we can also select individual points, lines, and curved lines.

To do this, we need the Direct Selection Tool (also known as the white arrow). By default, it is located on the toolbar behind the “Contour selection” tool, so I will click on the “Contour selection” tool and keep the mouse button pressed until a pop-up menu appears, where I can select the Arrow tool:

Select the arrow tool.

Changing the shape of vector shapes is a rather extensive topic to which I will devote a separate lesson, and now I will touch on it briefly. Having selected the Arrow tool, I will click on the contour around the shape, as a result of which anchor points (small squares) will appear. We can also see lines with small circles at the ends, coming out of some anchor points. These lines are called guide lines. We can choose either anchor points or guides and move them to change the shape of the figure.
For example, after selecting the Arrow tool, I will click on one of the anchor points and drag it to the left:

Click on one of the anchor points and move it in the right direction to change the shape of the figure.

When the result suits me, I will release the mouse button:

When I release the mouse button, the program will fill in the added area with a color.

We can also move guides to change the appearance of a straight or curved line between two anchor points. In my case, I will move one of the guidelines coming out of the anchor point at the top of the figure:

Moving a guideline changes the shape of a straight or curved line connecting two anchor points.

And again, when the result suits me, I will release the mouse button to complete the form change. Notice that, despite the fact that I changed the shape of the figure, its edges remained clear and sharp, since this is a vector shape based on mathematical calculations, and not a lot of pixels:

The shape now looks completely different than at the beginning of our transformations.

And now, after our detailed review of the properties and advantages of vector shapes, let’s move on to the contours and pixel shapes and see what we can do with them!

Contour drawing

Before we select the “Contour” option on the settings panel, let’s go back a step and draw another vector shape to see how the shape is drawn. I will again use the Ellipse tool, selecting the “Layer-shape” option on the settings panel. I will delete the drawn circle, and we will have only one background layer in the document, filled with white:

We begin the process of drawing in the presence of one layer of the background.

I will click the mouse button in the document window to define the starting point of the circle and then, while holding the mouse button down, I will stretch the mouse cursor diagonally to finish drawing the shape. Notice that as the cursor moves, we see only the subtle outlines of the future shape. These outlines are actually contours. Thus, the contour is nothing but the shape of the figure:

The shape of the shape in its drawing process, which Photoshop displays, is the outline.

Only when I release the mouse button, the program will finish drawing the shape, transforming the outline (outline) into a vector shape and filling it with the selected color:

A contour becomes a vector shape filled with color only when we release the mouse button.

If we look at the layers panel, we will see a figure layer already familiar to us with a color swatch icon and a vector mask thumbnail:

After the contour is transformed into a vector shape, a shape layer appears on the layers panel.

I will again remove the shape layer from the layers panel, leaving only the white background layer, and this time I will select the Paths option in the settings panel:

Select the option “Contour”.

Having selected the Outline option and the Ellipse tool, I will again click the mouse button in the document window to define the starting point of the circle and then hold the mouse button down and drag the mouse over the diagonal to finish drawing the shape. As in the case of the “Layer-shape” parameter, as the cursor moves, the program will display only the subtle outlines of the future shape:

Photoshop again displays only the initial shape of the shape as it is drawn.

However, when I release the mouse button to finish drawing the shape, the result will be different, and the difference between the drawing of vector shapes and contours will be immediately visible. Instead of converting the outline of a shape into a vector shape, the program will leave the outline on the screen without further filling with color:

When selecting the “Contour” parameter, the program draws only the outlines of the figure and nothing else.

In fact, despite the fact that the drawn outline is visible to us in the document window, no new layer was added for the outline on the layers panel. We still have one background layer:

Unlike vector shapes, the program does not add new layers to the contours.

The reason is that the contours do not depend on the layers. In fact, they depend on almost nothing. Outlines are based on the principles of vector graphics and are not related to pixels. This means that they consist of mathematical points connected by straight and curved lines, and although we see them on the screen when working in Photoshop, in reality, they are not in the document, at least until we have done it with them any action.

If I, for example, wanted to save my document right now with a jpeg extension, then the outline on the image would not be preserved. If I sent the image for printing, there would be no outline on paper. We could fill the outline with color, or apply a stroke, or even convert the outline into a selection line, but until we do, the outline remains just a outline.

Since the outlines are independent of the layers, they have their own panel – the Paths panel, which by default is located next to the Layers panel and the Channels panel. You can switch between panels by clicking on the tabs with the corresponding panel name. I will select the “Paths” panel, where our drawn path will be visible under the name “Work Path”:

Open the “Paths” panel by clicking on the tab with the appropriate title.

The name “Work path” means that this path is drawn temporarily, but if necessary we can save this path as part of the document, simply by renaming it. To rename a contour, double-click the contour name in the contour panel. As a result of this action, the Save Path dialog box opens, where we will be asked to give a new name to the contour. You can choose the name offered by the program by default or enter your own. I will call the contour “My elliptical path” (My elliptical path):

Rename the temporary work path

When you rename the contour, click OK to close the dialog box and your contour will be saved under the new name:

The outline is now saved as part of the document.

Outlines are as editable as the shape layers (since the shape layers are nothing more than outlines filled with color). We can select the entire contour at once with the Contour Select tool (black arrow) or change its shape with the Arrow tool (white arrow) by clicking on the contour and moving the necessary anchor points or guides, as we did before:

Move the anchor points and contour guides with the Arrow tool

Most often, the contours are used for further conversion to the selection line. To do this, hold down the Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key and click on the contour thumbnail on the contour panel:

Click on the contour thumbnail while holding down the key (Win) / Command (Mac)

Photoshop immediately converts the outline to the selection line:

The converted outline is now a selection line.

Converting paths to shape layers

Since the layers-shapes in Photoshop are just contours filled with color, it’s not difficult to convert the contour into a layer-shape. This can be a very useful technique when you wanted, for example, to draw a layer-shape, but forgot that you selected the “Contour” option on the settings panel and accidentally drew the wrong type of shape. In my case, I drew a round contour, but I wanted to draw, say, a layer-shape:

Circular contour drawn with the Ellipse tool in the Contour drawing mode

Of course, you can undo the action, select the “Layer-shape” parameter in the settings panel and re-draw the shape, but why take so many steps if I can easily convert the outline into a shape-layer. All I need is to click on the “New Fill or Adjustment Layer” icon at the bottom of the layers panel:

Click on the icon “Create a new adjustment layer or a fill layer”

Then from the list that appears, I will select the Color option (Solid Color):

From the list that appears above choose the option “Color”

As a result of this action, the program will open a color palette where I can choose a color that will become the color of my vector shape. This time I will choose green:

Choose a color for the shape of the color palette

Next, I click OK to close the color palette, and my outline will immediately fill with green, as if I had drawn a shape layer:

The outline is now filled with color.

In fact, if we look at the layers panel, we see that a new layer has appeared, looking the same as the shape layer, with its own color swatch icon and a vector mask thumbnail. Formally, this is the fill layer (which is why the program gave the name “Color Fill 1”, not “Figure 1”), but because when I created the layer, I had chosen the “Contour” option mask and created a layer, in all respects similar to the shape layer:

The contour was successfully converted to a layer shape.

Next, we will look at the last of the three drawing modes in Photoshop – “Fill pixels” and compare its capabilities with the capabilities of the “Layer-shape” drawing mode when resizing a shape!

Like this post? Please share to your friends: