You can do a lot of things with the shape tools in Adobe Photoshop, but sometimes it’s not as easy as selecting one of the tools and simply drawing out a shape. There are some considerations that you need to take into account and because of that, things may not always turn out as you intend. Once something goes wrong, many folks give up on whatever it is they’re trying to accomplish. I’ve seen it a thousand times. Working with two shapes takes a wrong turn because the stacking order is off and the designer gives up. It’s a shame because the solution is so simple.
I’d like to use this post to explain a few rules of working with shapes. I’ll try to be brief here because I’ve already written a full fledged post on the topic of shapes before. I encourage you to read through that if you’d like to learn more.
Okay, let’s get going.
First, create a new document. To create a new shape, head over to the left toolbar and click on one of the shape tools. For this discussion, it doesn’t matter which one you choose. Then, draw a shape in the workspace by clicking and dragging. Head up to the options bar to set the color of the shape and the stroke color and thickness. I suggest you set a stroke thickness of around 5px and the stoke color as something darker than the shape color itself.
Now, the way things are set by default in Photoshop, if you went ahead and drew a new shape, it would likely create a new layer for the shape to sit in. You’d have the ability to move the shapes around without them bumping into one another. There are other options too that can offer many different outcomes.
If you look up at the options bar again, you’ll see a square box icon. This is called Path Operations and if you click on that, you’ll see all the different options for arranging shapes. If you click on the Combine Shapes option and then draw another shape, you’ll find that it’s placed on the same layer as the first one. At this point, you should have two shapes drawn out and they should be on the same layer. You can confirm this by looking at the Layers panel.
To move each shape, you’ll need to use the Path Selection Tool that’s in the left toolbar. With that tool, click once on the shape to highlight it and then click again and drag to move it. If you drag one shape into the other, you’ll see them merge and the strokes combine. To experience the other options, go back up into the Path Operations box and explore by clicking each one to see what it does. Again, you can read my full post for full explanations of these tools.
As you play with the different options, you’ll see the shapes arrange themselves in one particular way. The method in which they set themselves up is a result of their stacking order. If you return to the options bar and click on the Path Arrangement menu and click on one of the options contained therein, you’ll see the shapes you’ve drawn alter their combined appearance somewhat. Again, you’ll need to experiment with all the available options to see what outputs you can get.
If you combine multiple shapes and you like the way they look and you’d like to save your combination for later use, you can save your creation as a Custom Shape. To do this, head back up to the options bar, click on the Path Operations menu and then click on the Merge Shape Components option at the bottom. Then, go to the Edit > Define Custom Shape menu item and click. Name your shape and then activate the Custom Shape Tool in the left toolbar. Click the Shape drop-down in the options bar and you should see your new saved shape down at the bottom.
As you can see, there are tons of options when it comes to shapes. It’s not only the “shape” of the shape, but the way each one integrates with the other as well as the stacking order of each.
Do you have any tips or tricks for working with shapes? Any questions? Contribute below if you do. Thanks!