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Being able to create shapes in Photoshop is essential for many different tasks. You use shapes to create your own illustrations, posters, and even logos. You’ve always been able to create shapes in Photoshop, but in Photoshop CS6, Adobe has added strokes to their shapes and overhauled the menu for applying fills and strokes. Let’s take a look at the tools and options available for creating shapes in Photoshop CS6.

Select one of the shape tools, such as the Ellipse Tool or the Rectangle Tool. You can even select one of the custom Shape Tools if you would like. When you have a shape selected, you will notice that the options at the top of Photoshop are a little different. You will see Fill, and you will also see a separate menu for Stroke.

The new menu makes it easy to control how your shape looks. The fill and stroke menus allow you to choose to not have anything applied to them.

You can also give them a solid color(selected from swatches), a gradient, a pattern or a custom color of your choice.

The Stroke section is completely new in CS6. Here you can apply solid, gradient, or pattern strokes. The big difference is being able to add dashed and dotted strokes to your shapes. In the menu, you can choose from different presets. You can align the stroke to the inside, center, and the outside just as you always could in the Layer Styles options.

You can also control the caps and corners as well. If you click on More Options, you will see that you can create custom dashed lines. Check the dashed line options and set the values for the dash and Gap properties. Dash is the actual stroke and gap is the space in between. Different values will create different dash patterns. A great feature is the ability to save the dashed pattern you created as a preset for later.

Creating your own custom shapes in Photoshop isn’t difficult anymore. The interface in CS6 is more intuitive than in previous versions. Select the Ellipse Tool and fill it with red. This will make it easier to see how the shapes are behaving with each other. With the Ellipse Tool still selected, go to the top menu where there is a symbol with two squares overlapping each other. Click it to bring up a set of options.

Click the Combine Shapes option. Draw a circle slightly outside of the main circle. It will have the same fill and combines with the main circle. The shapes are still separately editable, so you can move them, reshape them, etc.

Click the Subtract Front Shape option. Click and drag out another circle, partially outside of the large circle. The result is that it takes a circular chunk out of your main shape.

Intersect does just what the name suggests. When you select this option and draw a shape that overlaps another, everything disappears, except for what is overlapping.

Exclude does just the opposite of Intersect. Anything that overlaps disappears and everything else shows.

The great thing about shapes in Photoshop CS6 is that you can create copies of the same shape easily, too. Simply hold the Alt/Option key and click and drag the shape to make a copy of it. You can do this as many times as you want.

Another set of tools is also found in the options section, with tools to help you align multiple shapes and distribute them evenly. Select the Direct Selection Tool and select the shapes you would like to align, and then click the option that you would like to use. The options are to align to the left, right or center(horizontally), and to align to the top, middle, or bottom(vertically), or distribute evenly vertically or horizontally.

At the bottom of these options is the ability to align them to the selection, which is set this way by default, or you can align your objects to the canvas, so if you choose to align to the left, all of your objects will move to the left side of the canvas. These tools are all meant to save you time so that you don’t have to set up guides and align everything manually pixel by pixel.

You can set the preferences on how you draw shapes with the gear icon. You can constrain proportions, or create shapes at a fixed size. You can also set it so that when you draw a shape, that the point that you click on is the center, so you draw from the center out.

In the example above, if you have shapes that are subtracted from a larger shape, you can select a sub-shape and alter the stacking order, altering the look of the shape. This can help if your artwork positions just how you want it, but need to alter the way it behaves with other shapes. I sent this shape to the back, so now the overlapping part is no longer cut out.


With the addition of the new shapes interface, it is easier than ever to create custom shapes and vector objects directly inside of Photoshop. You can combine shapes in different ways to make more complex ones. You can also add a stroke to your shapes much easier than before, and without layer styles.