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Learn Drawing in Photoshop

About shapes and paths

When you draw in Photoshop, you create vector shapes--mathematically defined lines and curves. You use the drawing tools to create shape layers and work paths. Shapes are resolution-independent--they maintain crisp edges when resized, printed to a PostScript printer, saved in a PDF file, or imported into a vector-based graphics application. You can use shapes to make selections and create libraries of custom shapes with the Preset Manager.

In Photoshop, paths are used for making selections and defining areas of an image. The outline of a shape is a path. Paths are made up of one or more straight or curved segments. Each segment is marked by anchor points, which work like pins holding wire in place. You can easily change the shape of a path by editing its anchor points. The Paths palette helps you manage paths. You can't use paths in ImageReady.
 

   
 
Drawing options A. Shape layers B. Paths C. Fill pixels
 

Using the shape tools


In Photoshop, you can quickly select, resize, and move a shape, and you can edit a shape's attributes (such as stroke, fill color, and style).

ImageReady shapes are object-oriented, meaning that you can resize and move the shapes but not the outline of the shape. In ImageReady, you can easily align shapes as you draw them using smart guides.

Note: The Polygon tool , Custom Shape tool , Add Anchor Point tool , Delete Anchor Point tool , and Convert Point tool are available only in Photoshop.
 

Editing shapes (Photoshop)


A shape is a fill layer linked to a vector mask. You can easily change the fill to a different color, a gradient, or a pattern by editing the shape's fill layer. You can also edit the shape's vector mask to modify the shape outline, and apply a style to the layer.

For information on transforming shapes in ImageReady,

To change the color of a shape:

Double-click the shape layer's thumbnail in the Layers palette, and choose a different color using the color picker.

To fill a shape with a pattern or gradient:
 

  1. Select a shape layer in the Layers palette.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Layer > Change Layer Content > Gradient, and set gradient options.
    • Choose Layer > Change Layer Content > Pattern, and set pattern options.

    For more information,

To modify the outline of a shape:

    Click the shape layer's vector mask thumbnail in the Layers palette or Paths palette. Then change the shape using the shape and pen tools.

    For more information,

Editing shapes (Photoshop)

You can create or edit straight lines, curves, or freeform lines and shapes using the pen tools. The pen tools can be used in conjunction with the shape tools to create complex shapes.
 
Working with paths (Photoshop)


A path is composed of one or more path components--collections of one or more anchor points joined by segments. Because they take up less disk space than pixel-based data, paths can be used for long-term storage of simple masks.

Paths can also be used to clip sections of your image for export to an illustration or page-layout application.
 

Managing paths (Photoshop)


    When you use a pen or shape tool to create a work path, the new path appears as the Work Path in the Paths palette. The Work Path is temporary; you must save it to avoid losing its contents. If you deselect the Work Path without saving it and start drawing again, a new path will replace the existing one.

    When you use a pen or shape tool to create a new shape layer, the new path appears as a vector mask in the Paths palette. Vector masks are linked to their parent layer; you must select the parent layer in the Layers palette in order to list the clipping path in the Paths palette. You can remove a clipping path from a layer and convert a clipping path to a rasterized mask. For more information, see Creating and editing vector masks.

    Paths saved with an image appear when you open it again. In Windows, the Photoshop, JPEG, JPEG 2000, DCS, EPS, PDF, and TIFF formats support paths. In Mac OS, all available file formats support paths.

    Illustration of Paths palette with these callouts: A. Saved path B. Temporary Work Path C. Vector mask path (appears only when shape layer is selected)
    Paths palette A. Saved path B. Temporary Work Path C. Vector mask path (appears only when shape layer is selected)

    Note: Paths in formats other than those listed here generally don't survive a transition from Mac OS to Windows and back to Mac OS.

To create a new path in the Paths palette:

    Do one of the following:

    • To create a path without naming it, click the New Path button New button at the bottom of the Paths palette.
    • To create and name a path, make sure no work path is selected. Choose New Path from the Paths palette menu, or Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the New Path button at the bottom of the palette. Enter a name for the path in the New Path dialog box, and click OK.

To save a work path:

    Do one of the following:

    • To save without renaming, drag the Work Path name to the New Path button New button at the bottom of the Paths palette.
    • To save and rename, choose Save Path from the Paths palette menu, enter a new path name in the Save Path dialog box, and click OK.

To rename a saved path:

    Double-click the path's name in the Paths palette, type a new name, and press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS).

To delete a path:

  1. Click the path name in the Paths palette.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • Drag the path to the Trash button Trash button at the bottom of the Paths palette.
    • Choose Delete Path from the Paths palette menu.
    • Click the Trash button at the bottom of the Paths palette, and click Yes.

    Tip iconTo delete a path without being asked to confirm, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the Trash button at the bottom of the Paths palette.

Converting between paths and selection borders (Photoshop)


Because of their smooth outlines, you can convert paths into precise selection borders. You also can convert selection borders into paths, using the Direct Selection tool Direct Selection tool for fine-tuning.
 

Adding color to paths (Photoshop)


You can add color values to a path by filling or stroking it. Filling a path is the same as creating a rasterized shape using the shape tools.
 

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