Make interesting vector shapes in Photoshop CS6

The ability to create shapes in Photoshop is nothing new but with the introduction of vector shape layers in Photoshop CS6, Adobe has really upped the ante.

Vector shape layers allow you to create lines, shapes and objects in a non-destructive manner much in the same way that you can in Illustrator but without the need to switch programs.

This means that whatever you create will remain scalable without any loss of quality. Read on to discover my top tips for working with vector shape layers in Photoshop CS6.

Words: Luke O’Neill

Photoshop CS6 tutorial vector shapes

The various vector shapes here can be created easily if you follow our tips!

01. Shape and fill

There are a few standard shape options to play around with but they only come into their own once a Fill style has been applied. Don’t just rely on the default solid colours, try experimenting with the gradient and pattern fills, then duplicate and resize the shapes to create interesting graphic backgrounds.

02. Start the outlines

Strokes act as a border or frame that surround your vector shapes and can be coloured and styled with gradients in the same way as the Fill options. You can specify a size for the stroke and this will remain constant even if you resize the vector shape.

03. Set a stroke style

In Stroke options, you can apply a dashed or dotted line stroke as well as choosing whether to align the stroke to the inside, outside or centre of your shape bounds. Interesting halftone effects can be achieved by resizing and duplicating shapes with a dotted line stroke.

04. Use custom shapes

Use the Custom Shape tool to place and edit preset graphics from Adobe’s libraries. Some are quite hit and miss but there are some simple, stylised graphics that, when used in the right way, can yield striking results. Use the Custom Shape Picker to load different libraries.

05. Build shapes

Path Operations can be a powerful ally in creating shapes and gives you the ability to add, subtract, intersect or exclude new shapes from the shape layers below. Simply make sure that you have the required option selected before you begin drawing the new shape.

06. Create your own

If Adobe’s libraries are a little limited for you then create your own graphics using the Pen tool. It works in exactly the same way as before but make sure that ‘Shape’ and not ‘Path’ is selected from the ‘Tool mode’ drop-down. You can then edit and integrate them in the same way as the standard shapes.

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These tips first appeared in Practical Photoshop magazine, the number one magazine for lovers of photography and image-editing. Whether you're looking for full-on tutorials, digital darkroom tips, or want to get creative, you should definitely check it out!

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