Creating Custom Shapes in Photoshop

In this practical guide, we've shared how to create custom shapes in Photoshop, so you can save them for future use, like a digital cookie cutter. 

  1. Load Your Image: In this hypothetical example, we're going to trace an image of a cartoon dog and then convert it into a custom shape. First, start a new Photoshop project and then go to "File" > "Open" to load the cartoon dog image. Remember, when it comes to drawing custom shapes, simpler is always easier, so we recommend starting out with a design that only has a few distinct elements.  
  2. Prepare Your Tools: When building custom shapes, you'll want to use the Pen tool, because it offers the most accuracy and smoothness. You can find the Pen in the main toolbar, or press the P key. Next, look at your top options bar and select the "Shape Layers" button (it looks like a square with four points), and then the "Create New Shape Layer" button (it looks like a grey square). Finally, make sure that your Pen color is set to a dark shade (black is always good), so that you can see what you're drawing.    
  3. Draw the Outline: Now we're ready to create our shape! First, you'll need to draw an outline around the entire subject. In our case, we'll use the Pen tool to set anchor points and curved lines that surround our cartoon dog. When you've completed the outline, press Enter to finish the shape as a new layer. As you continue drawing the shape, you may want to adjust its Opacity value in the Layers panel (30% generally works well) so that you can still see the original image.    
  4. Fill in the Details: Next, select the Pen tool again and start drawing the dog's eyes, ears, nose, and other details. Every time you draw a new element, you'll need to click the "Add Shape to Area" button in the options bar, and then press Enter when you've finished drawing the shape.  
  5. Convert Your Image: Before converting the image to a custom shape, you should change the Opacity value in the Layers panel back to 100%. To save the new shape, select the "Shape 1" layer, choose "Edit > Custom Shape" from the top menu, and then give your shape a name.
  6. Have Fun with the Shape: If you click on the "Shape" library in the options bar, you'll find your custom shape at the bottom of the list. Once you select the shape, just click and draw anywhere to add it to your image canvas. Depending on how you drag the mouse, you can make the shape stretch out as large as you like, change the shape color, and much more!
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