Lesson 9: Creating Shapes

In today's lesson we'll first learn how to use shapes. In Lesson 10, we'll use some actions on those shapes and also on some text. Let me just say here and now that the use of actions is what defines my style. I use actions on nearly every page. Most scrappers I talk to either don't use them or don't really know what they are. But, you pretty much have to know how to do shapes before you can do an action--so let's get started!


Creating shapes is a very basic part of using Photoshop, and incredibly versatile. I use shapes to create my own elements and papers, and a million other things. They are quite easy to do. You will be using the shape tool today, which looks like this:

The shape tool is a box, and when you click on the lower right black arrow on that box, you get this menu.

1. Open Photoshop
2. Open a blank scrapbook page in the size you prefer
3. Click on the shape tool, and choose a shape you want--don't do line or custom just yet.
4. Now, before you draw your shape, choose your color with the color picker--that's the white and black boxes pictured above. The white box is your FOREGROUND, and the black is your background. To change your foreground, just click on that white box. This will give you that same color picker menu you got when you changed your text color. Choose a color and press ok.
5. Draw you shape on your page.

There you go! Now, let's mess with your shape for a moment.

Changing Color

Simply changing the color in your color picker will NOT change the color of your shape, once you've already drawn it. If you want to change the color, go to your layer and double click on the colored box. This will bring up the color picker menu again, and it will change your shape color.

Changing Shape

Just use your CTRL+T command to change the shape of your box, once you have drawn it. You can treat it just like a photo that way.

Custom Shapes

Now, you'll also notice when you pull down the shape menu, that you have the option that looks like this:

You just need to click on the custom shape, then pull down the shape menu and there are several shapes there to choose from. You can also click on the black arrow on the right and find a list of several other shape sets, like Animals, Ornaments, and Symbols. Just click on them and append it to your list, so you can see them all. At one point, I did a search online for "free Photoshop shapes" and got a whole bunch of new ones, complete with directions of how to install. You may want to try that if you find you are using shapes a lot. Once you choose a shape, just click on it and draw it on your page like any other shape. These will be used in lesson 10 when I teach actions.

Layer Styles

All the same layer styles we tried on our photos and text will also work on our layers. Double click on the empty area of your layer to get the menu. Try a shadow, bevel, stroke, etc. Then, let's try two other styles that we haven't covered before--they also work great on text, though I wouldn't use them on photos.

Gradient Overlay

Click on Gradient overlay. Your shape will automatically go to a black and white gradient. The color you originally picked will not show up. Click on the black and white gradient bar on the right to bring up your gradient editor. Now you can create any gradient you want! You can choose from the default options give, or you can create you own gradient by creating new stops on the larger bar. Here's a video of how it's done.
Adding_a_Gradient (click to view)

Pattern Overlay

I love pattern overlays! First, uncheck the gradient overlay box so your shape is back to how you originally had it. Click on the down arrow of the pattern shown, and you will have several more patterns to choose from. Mess with the opacity and scale to get a look you really like.

There are more patterns available as well. When you pull down the menu to get more patterns, you see a small baclk arrow to the left. Click on that, and toward the bottom you'll see "Artist Surfaces" click on that and append it to your list. Do the same with all the other patterns on the list.

Here's a video showing how to use this feature.
Adding_a_Pattern_Overly (click to view)


Changing the opacity of a shape is how you can create a vellum look on your shape. It's really quite simple. When you have your shape layer selected, go to your layers menu. Simply click on the opacity arrow and change the level of opacity. That's it. You now have created vellum. In my second book--my wedding book--I did all the captions on vellum. I just drew the shape and size I wanted, changed the opacity, and put my text on top of it. I then drew a little tiny circle, put a bevel on it, and used that as the "pin" that was sticking it in. Like this:

As a little side note--notice how there is vellum on TOP of my wedding picture. Then I just used the marquee tool and drew a little square. Making SURE that my VELLUM layer was selected and NOT my picture, I just pressed delete. That's how I made it look like my picture was behind the vellum.

Rasterizing Shapes

Most of the time, when I work with shapes, I rasterize them as soon as I can. The way you do this is to select the proper layer, then to to Layer, Rasterize, Shape. Shapes that are rasterized are much easier to work with, and they don't have that annoying edge around it. You cannot use an action on a shape unless you have rasterized it. But, after you rasterize a shape, you can't change the color of it the same way. Instead, you have to choose your Paint Bucket tool and fill it in with the color you want. So, don't rasterize until you are sure you have made the shape the way you want.


  1. Great discussion! Another tip, after you rasterize your shape, if you want to change color, you can also fill a layer on top of the shape with the desired color, and then use the shape as a clipping mask.

  2. Oh I've never done that! I'm going to try it!

  3. Here is my favorite freebie site:


  4. I love the clipping mask. I use it all the time. Most commonly I use it when I want several pictures that are all the same size. I make my shape, then hold down the ALT and click on it with the move tool. This duplicates the shape. I will arrange them how I want then put my pictures on top and create a clipping mask. It is a little time intensive but works great for getting a uniform look when I want it.

  5. Ok--I just tried the clipping mask today. Umm...where has this been all my life? I cannot BELIEVE how much time I've wasted trying to make pictures the right size! I'm gonna have to do a post on this one of these days!