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Custom Shape Creation

The vector shape capabilities of Photoshop are one of its most powerful, yet most underused assets. Unlike raster (i.e. pixel-based) objects, vector shapes can be scaled up to any size with absolutely no loss in quality. The ultimate goal of this tutorial is to show you how to make these custom shapes for Photoshop. This should work for just about any version except maybe for the very old versions.

Step 1: First of all, open a new document and add a new layer. All the editing will take place on the new layer. The background will be untouched.

Be sure your colors are default, black foreground and white background. Use your favorite tool to create a relatively simple graphic. Keep it simple for now as the details are usually lost if they get too intense or you may have a lot of fussing to do to have the details show up in the new shape. You may wish to use the Pencil Tool rather than the brush to keep the edges harder and simpler. Your results will be better that way.

Step 2: In my example, I used a pencil 13px in size. You can even use a bit of text if you wish or scan something simple enough to use and it needs to be transparent or be on its own layer. Remember, the simplest graphics work best...at least for now. If you discover other ways to use things that are more complex, more power to you. (I cropped my image and reduced its size for the sake of this layout. Bigger is better.)

Step 3: Now that you have something on that layer, click on the layer in the palette while holding the "alt" key. This will select your graphic only.


Step 4: Then click the Paths tab. Then click on the icon at the bottom to create a new path from the selection.


Step 5: Go back to the Layers tab and hide Layer 1. At this point, you'll see nothing but white with an outline of the path you just created. If your selection is still active, deselect so that gets out of your way.
Step 6: This is what you should see....well something like it anyway. At this point, you can use the direct select tool (to the left of the Text tool) to adjust the path so it will be exactly the shape you want. You'll see little points along the path with handles in most cases that you can use to make your adjustments to the path.

Step 7: The last thing you need to do is to go to Edit > Define Custom Shape. You can give your shape a name if you wish.

The next thing you want to do is to create another new document and test your shape. It will be whatever foreground color you have chosen. You can create your custom shape in any size you wish...bigger or smaller than the original graphic if you so desire.

Step 8: A very handy thing to do is to carefully sign your name and create a shape from that and use it wherever you want a signature. Best results are obtained when you rasterize your shape after creating it. Otherwise, you have the path in the way. I just like the path to go away. If you go to the paths palette and remove the path, the shape goes away. The only way around that is to rasterize.

EXTRAS: You can use any shape you desire. Shapes can be created from text or other vector graphics which can be created with the Pen Tool. Once you complete a path with the Pen Tool, you can go directly to Define Custom Shape as described previously.

To save your custom shapes as a set so you can share them and keep them available just in case, use the Edit > Preset Manager > Custom Shapes. Highlight the shapes you've created and save the set.

- Tutorial written by MaryMac

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Last 5 User Comments

User:  dundas (#32888)
Date: Tue Oct 17, 2006. 22:35:46

Post #2 of 2

Oh wow.. now I can make my own custom shapes. The shapes you find on the internet are nice... but not "just what you need!" Thank you.

Reply to this post

User:  marshallbaker (#23380)
Date: Sun Jan 29, 2006. 00:35:56

Post #1 of 2

Thanks for the tip. Cool stuff.

Thanks BioRust - you make amateurs like me able to make really cool stuff!

Reply to this post

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