Photoshop Shape Tool Tutorial

Photoshop shape tools

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Learn Photoshop CC With Pictures

“Photoshop Shape Tool Tutorial” is part of my Photoshop book “Learn Photoshop CC With Pictures”, which is more revised and covers more concepts than the online tutorials, feel free to check out the book by visiting my Learn Photoshop CC With Pictures Book Page.

This tutorials is relatively easy compared to most of the previous ones. In this tutorial, we are going to discuss the Photoshop Shape tool, whose concepts are mostly obvious. Think of it as a breather after the last few ones. But nevertheless, its importance can’t be underestimated. Specially for those who plan to use Photoshop for graphics design.

Photoshop Shapes Tool

There are 5 Photoshop shape Tools, besides the Custom Shape Tool, which allows you to choose from tons of shapes to add to your designs. The 6 tool are:-

  • Rectangle Tool Rectangle-Tool
  • Rounded Rectangle Tool Rounded-Rectangle-Tool
  • Ellipse Tool Ellipse-Tool
  • Polygon Tool Polygon-Shape-Tool
  • Line Tool Line-Shape-Tool
  • Custom Shape Tool Custom-Shape-Tools

I will talk about the Custom Shape Tool in details in the next tutorial. While covering the other ones in this one

The Rectangle Tool Rectangle-Tool

As it is obvious, the Rectangle Tool allows you to draw a rectangle, to do that, just do the following:-

  • Select the Rectangle Tool Rectangle-Tool from the Tools Panel
  • For more options, click on the gear button for the available options for creating the rectangle.


  • All the gears options are explained in this infograph:-

Click on the picture to view it in full size

Draw-Rectangle-Options-InfographicThe From Corner checkbox will be explained shortly. If you are not familiar with Aspect Ratio, then I highly recommend that you read my previous tutorial Cropping Images in Photoshop using the Crop Tool And Rectangle Marquee Tool Tutorial, and An Introduction to aspect ratio

  • Then drag the mouse to draw the rectangle:-


  • If you want the rectangle to have a certain dimensions, you can adjust its Weight & Height from the Rectangle Tool options, this only work if you drew the rectangle using the Shape option, you also have to make sure that the Shape layer of the rectangle is selected in the layers panel:-
You can specify whatever height or width you want. Even after you drew the rectangle
To be able to change the width & height of the rectangle after you draw it. The shape must be created in the shape mode.

All the Shape, Path & Pixel modes are explained below

  • Here is the rectangle after I changed its height to 100:-



Another way to draw the rectangle

  • Select the Rectangle Tool Rectangle-Tool from the tools panel
  • Click anywhere in the canvas, just make sure you don’t drag your mouse at all. And Photoshop will display the Create Rectangle dialog:-


  • Just enter the width & height you want for the rectangle. If you kept the “From Center” option unchecked, then the top left corner of the new rectangle will be the point you clicked on to display the dialog. If you checked it. Then the rectangle will be created so that the point will be the centre of the new rectangle. If what I just said felt confusing to you, then I highly suggest you try to draw the rectangle twice, once when “From Center” is checked, and once when it is unchecked.
  • Click on the ok button, and Photoshop will draw the new rectangle (or square) for you


Rounded Rectangle Tool Rounded-Rectangle-Tool

The rounded rectangle shape Rounded-Rectangle-Tool looks much cooler than the boring rectangle. You create it the same way you do for the normal rectangle. Except that you get to specify the radius of the corners. Or in other words, how much the corners are rounded.

Just like the rectangle shape. You could draw the Rounded rectangle in two ways. Interactively or using the dialog

To draw a rounded rectangles interactively, follow these steps:-

  • Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool Rounded-Rectangle-Tool from the Tools Panel
  • In the Radius option. Enter the radius of the corners of the rectangle, the more radius the rectangle has, the more rounded the rectangle will be. See the picture below for some examples



  • Just like we did with the Rectangle Tool. Click on the gear to specify the aspect ratio of the rectangle, the options for the Rounded Rectangle Tool is the same as the ones we discussed when we talked about the Rectangle Tool.


  • Click and draw on the canvas to draw the rounded rectangle. Once you are satisfied with the rectangle, unbold the mouse button.


Drawing a rounded rectangle using the dialog

Drawing a rounded rectangle using the dialog is also the same as drawing it using the Rectangle Tool. In addition to that you can specify the Radius of the corners in the dialog.

  • Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool Rounded-Rectangle-Tool from the Tools Panel
  • Click on the canvas where you want the rectangle to be drawn
  • Photoshop Will display the Create Rounded Rectangle dialog box


  • Enter the width & height of the rectangle. And choose if you want the rectangle to be created from the centre
  • Then enter how much rounded each of the rectangle corners are. The nice things about creating the rounded rectangle from the dialog is that you could specify how much each of the 4 corners is rounded. As you could enter a different value for each of them. Using that I was able to create a bizarre looking rounded rectangle, whose corners are all rounded differently


The Ellipse Tool Ellipse-Tool

The Ellipse Tool Ellipse-Tool, which is obviously used to create Ellipses. Also works exactly like the Rectangle Tool. In that you create ellipses by specifying its width & height. Exactly like you did when you created rectangles in the last two sections.

If the idea of ellipses having width & height is confusing to you, here is how they are measured in ellipses:-


To create an ellipse interactively, follow these steps:-

  • Select the ellipse tool Ellipse-Tool from the Tools Panels
  • Just like we did with the Rectangle Tool and the Rounded Rectangle Tools. Click on the gear to show the aspect ratio options of the rectangle. The only different in the settings is that you get a “Circle” option instead of “Square”.


  • Click and drag the mouse cursor. And Photoshop will draw the ellipse for you.
  • When you are done, unbold the mouse button, and you will be done creating the ellipse


To create an ellipse using the dialog, follow these steps:-

  • Select the Ellipse Tool Ellipse-Tool from the Tools Panel
  • Click on the canvas where you want the ellipse to be drawn
  • Photoshop Will display the Create Ellipse dialog box


  • Enter the width & height you want for the ellipse. And choose if you want the ellipse to be created from the center or not, then press on the ok button.
  • Photoshop will then draw the ellipse for you, I drew a 600 X 200 ellipse right here:-


Polygon Tool Polygon-Shape-Tool

Unlike the shapes we have been creating just until now, the Polygon Tool offers a wider variety of options. Which is why we will take more time explaining its options.

To draw a polygon using the Polygon Tool interactively, follow these steps:-

  • Select the Polygon Tool Polygon-Shape-Tool from the tools panel
  • From the Polygon Tool options. Type the number of the sides the polygon will have.


  • For this part of the tutorial, I will stick with 5. But you can draw a triangle, square, pentagon, polygons with more sides than that.


  • Click on the gear button to specify how the polygon will looks like.


The options you can specify are:-



The radius of a polygon is the distance between the centre point and one of its head. Specifying the radius means that you won’t get to interactively decide on the size of the polygon. But will can still rotate it while you are drawing it.


Smooth Corners


This check box allows you to create a polygon with rounded corners. It is a very nice option if you want my opinion :D




The Star check box create a star instead of a polygon. With the same number of heads as the number of sides you specified


Intent Sides By


This option determines how much the sides of the polygon (which is a star now) are indented


Smooth Indents


Smooth Indents smooth the indentations corners. Just like the Smooth Corners option smooths the heads of the polygons


  • Note that stars can have both smooth heads and smooth indentations, or both:-


  • After you adjust the option to match what you want, here comes the easy step, click and drag the mouse on your canvas. You probably noticed how polygons are always drawn from the centre.

To Draw a polygon using the dialog

  • Select the Polygon Tool from the tools panel.
  • Click anywhere on the canvas. Photoshop will display the Create Polygon dialog


  • Unlike creating polygons interactively, using the dialog, you get to type the desired Width & Height. Which allows you to create all sorts of squashed polygons. Like these in the picture:-


  • The Width & Height is the main difference between creating a polygon interactively and creating it using the dialog. If you understood all the concepts of the previous section, feel free to skip to the next section. As it is explains again everything we talked about up until now.
  • The number of the sides of the polygon is the same as creating the polygon interactively. It allows you to specify the number of sides the polygon has.
  • The Star options allows you to create a star instead of a polygon
  • Indent sides is available only when you check the Star checkbox. It specify how much the star heads are indented
  • Smooth indents will create curved indents instead of the sharp ones that are typical of a star.

Candy-Tip-IconCandy Tip:- The polygon tool can be used as a nifty way to draw perspective. Which is explained in my post Drawing Perspective in Photoshop & Illustrator, A simple how to

Line Tool Line-Shape-Tool

The Line tools is very simple at heart. It allows you to draw lines while specifying its width (or weight as Photoshop calls it). As well whether each of the ends of the line has an arrow, and how the arrows look like.

Unlike the rest of the Shape tool. You can only draw lines interactively. There no other way to draw a line using the Line Tool in Photoshop.

To draw a line using the Line Tool, follow these steps:-

  • Select the Line Tool Line-Shape-Tool from the Tools Panel
  • From the Line Tool options, enter the weight of the line, which determines how thick the line is. The more Weight a line has. The thicker it is:-



  • Now, click on the gear button on the Line Tool options. Like the other Photoshop shape tools. This button will show you the available options for the tool. We will take a look at each of them one by one.


Start & End Checkboxes


  • The Start & End check boxes determines whether there is doing to be an arrow head on the start & the end of the line, respectively, you have have arrows on either sides, neither side, or one of the two sides:-


Arrows Width


  • The Width option determines how wide the arrow is in relation with the line weight. If you set this value to %500, it means that the arrow head will be about 5 times the width of your line. Here is how a line with a 20 px weight will look like with different values of the this options, notice how the width of the first arrows is the same as the line.


Arrows Length


  • The length option determines how long the arrow head is compared to the weight of the line. If the length is set to %100 and the line Weight is 20 pixels. Then the length of each of the arrow heads will be 20 pixels. If the length is set to %500 and the line weight is 20 pixels, then the length of each of the arrow heads will be 100 pixels, and so on.


Arrows Concavity


  • The last option, the concavity, determines how much concave the arrow heads are compared to the the weight of the line. If the line weight is 20 pixels. And the Concavity is %20, then each of the arrow heads will go back (or be concave) by 4 pixels. If the concavity is %50, then each of the arrow heads will go back by 10 pixels, and so on


More about Photoshop Shape Tool

As usual, this tutorial is officially done. But we will still take a look at the wider range of options of the shape tool. If you don’t feel like going through them right now. You can jump to the examples section

Exploring the 3 different modes of shapes tools:- Shape, Path And Pixels


On the option bar of any of the shape tool. You could specify one of 3 modes for shapes you are creating. The 3 available options are:-

The Shape Mode

Shapes created using the shape mode are contained in a special kind of layers ,called Shape Layer. The main advantage of creating shapes that way is the the shapes are vector graphics. Meaning that you can resize them however you want without losing the quality of the shape. Because the shapes are redrawn every time you resize them using mathematical equations

The Path Mode

Create a path of the shape you are drawing, be it a square, rectangle or whatever. The path can be treated just like any path you create in Photoshop. And the Shape tool options allows you to easily convert it into a pixel mode. Turn it into selection, or turn it into a mask for the current layer.

The Pixel Mode

The easiest to understand among the 3 types. The pixel shape you create in this mode is added to the current layer pixels. And it is treated the same way as any brush stroke you make. Technically speaking, there is no difference between say, a rectangle you create with the shape tool this way. Or from the one you create by making a rectangular or elliptical selection and then filling it with pixels using the brush tool.

Let’s talk a look on the options of each of these 3 modes

The Shape Mode Options

The Shape Mode works the same way any vector graphics program works. If you have any experience working on a vector graphics, like Adobe Flash or Adobe Illustrator, then these options will look familiar to you. You can set these options before you draw your shape. Or after you draw it by selecting the shape layer of the shape then changing the options you want.

Shape Layer in the Layers panel

Fill Color


Determines the fill of the shape, you can choose any colour you like from the colours palette. You can also make the shape so that it has no fill at all


Stroke Color


Allows you to choose a colour for the shape stroke (or border, as you may call it). The options here are exactly the same as the ones available for the Fill Color option. You can choose a certain colour for the stroke, make the shape has no stroke at all, make the shape stroke colour be a gradient. Or make it a pattern.


Stroke Width


This option determines how think the shape stroke is. Setting this to 0 means that the shape stroke will not be there at all


Shape Stroke Types


Shape strokes doesn’t necessarily need to be continuous stream of pixel. As this option allows you to choose from many types of stroke types, from dashes to strokes. It also allows you to create your own types as well:-


Shape Width


Determines the shape width.

Shape Height


Determines the shape height

Link Shape Width & Height


When this option is toggled on. Photoshop will link the Width & Height so that the its aspect ratio will remain the same. Meaning that when you change the width of the shape, Photoshop will change the height so that the shape will still has the aspect ratio it had before you changed the width. For more information about Aspect Ratio, refer to Cropping Images in Photoshop using the Crop Tool And Rectangle Marquee Tool Tutorial, and An Introduction to aspect ratio tutorial of this series.

Converting shape layer it into normal layer

Shape layers are nice and all, but sometimes you may want to convert them to pixel layers to convert them into pixels layers so you could paint directly on them. Or you may want to apply a filter that doesn’t support vector graphics. To do that, follow these steps:-

  • Select the shape layer you want to convert into a normal layer.


  • Select the brush tool Brush-Tool from the Tool Panel
  • Click anywhere on the canvas. Photoshop will ask you whether you want to convert the shape layer into a normal layer. (Normal layers are also known as raster layers. They can also be called pixel layers as well)


  • Click on the OK button, and Photoshop will turn the shape layer into a normal one.


The Path Mode Options


The Path Mode options are much simpler than the ones in the Shape Mode. There are 3 options you have to be aware of, which they are:-

Selection (Or Make Selections)


This option will turn the path into a selection, which you could manipulate just like any other selection in Photoshop. For more about Photoshop Selection Tools. Refer back to Photoshop selection tools In-Depth tutorial (With Detailed Examples)

Mask (Or Make Mask)


This option adds a layer mask to the current layer. Layers Masks is one of the concepts we will be covering in more details in a future tutorial. But in short, Layer Mask is a way to hide or conceal some of the pixels in a given layer. but without actually deleting them. This means that by modifying the mask, you can determine which pixels are visible in a given layer and which are not.

Shape (Or Make Shape)


This will turn the Path into a Shape. Which you could work on just like we did in the shape mode above. When you use that option, Photoshop will add a new layer that contains the newly created shape.


  • There are 6 Photoshop Shape Tools. The Rectangle Tool, the rounded rectangle tool, the Ellipse Tool, the polygon tool, the Line Tool, and the Custom Shape Tool.
  • The Rectangle Tool and the Rounded Rectangle Tools both do the same things, but the Rounded Rectangle draws a rectangle with rounded corner
  • You could specify the aspect ratio options for almost all the shapes you draw by clicking on the gear icon before you draw the shape
  • The ellipse is drawn the same way you draw rectangles, the width & height of the ellipse is measured by the length its axis
  • The Polygon Tool offers more options than any of the other Photoshop shape tools. As it allows you to draw a star instead of polygon, which you could also cusomize in more than a way.
  • Using the star option of the Polygon Tool can help you draw in perspective in Photoshop easily
  • The line tool draw all kind of thing and think lines. You could also specify if the line has arrows on it
  • The line tool arrows can be customized in more than a way in relation with the weight or width of the line

Photoshop Shape Tools Examples

Creating an iPhone-like Icon

The Rounded Rectangle Shape Tool is one of many way you could use to create an iPhone-like icon. While you don’t really create it that way when you develop applications for the iPhone. Icons that looks like that can make a website look more modern and cooler:-


Drawing in Perspective using the Polygon Tool

This example is kind of out of scope of this tutorial. But it is worth mentioning for those who plan to use Photoshop for drawing. The Polygon Tool, along with the Star Option, can be used to quickly draw a vanishing point and all of the lines that comes out of it. Which can be used as a drawing guidelines. This trick can be used to draw in One, two or three points perspective. The whole trick is explained in full details in the article Drawing Perspective in Photoshop & Illustrator, A simple how to~


Using the shapes tool to create simple drawings.

Since all the kinds of shapes exist everywhere around as. They can be used to draw tons of things. And without having much of drawing skills. And if you made these shapes in the Shape Mode. You will be able to resize them however you want. Without affecting their quality.

If you are really interested in drawing that way. Then I highly advice you to learn a Vector Graphics program like Adobe Illustrator, which is designed specifically for that. And it contains much more tools for that than Photoshop.

An Envelope using lines


A mobile using ellipses and rounded rectangles, with some texts here and there


A coffee cup made entirely from ellipses and half ellipses


Would you like to learn Photoshop?

Check my Photoshop book Learn Photoshop CC With Pictures which contains a full course on how to use Photoshop in the simplest way possible.

See Also

I am an anime artist, and huge fan of digital art. I love drawing with pencils too. But I rarely do that anymore nowadays. Since some aspects of digital art can be tricky, I try my best to explain the concepts as easily as possible.

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