Putting New Photoshop Shape Layer Tools into Use

I mentioned yesterday that working with shape layers in Photoshop does not come second-nature to me. It’s no secret that if there is one sure-fire path to understanding how our design tools work, it’s using them to actually design with.

And so here is a tutorial that Deke created for introducing some newer features of Photoshop’s Shape Layer functionality. We’ll use the new dashed line feature to create that coupon clipping boundary, and—lest your readers not get the point with the dotted line—we’ll queue up this row of scissors to show savvy shoppers right where to slice.

Here’s the simple step-by-step:

1) Draw out a rounded rectangle with the aptly named rounded rectangle tool.

Make sure the popup menu on the far left of the options bar is set to Shape, and either drag out the shape or click once and enter your desired dimensions. Note that Photoshop will actually name your new shape layer appropriately.

2) Change the Fill to None and the Stroke to white in the options bar.

New to CS6 is this Illustrator-esque ability to set real Stroke and Fill from the options bar. While you’re at it, check out the Align Edges checkbox and make sure it’s on, especially if you’re working on web graphics. Then set your stroke width to 12 pixels (even if you’re working in points, you can set the stroke to pixels by simply typing 12 px into the box).

3) Align the shape to the image.

To center the coupon on the image, start by clicking the Path Alignment icon (shown below) and choosing Align to Canvas. With that in place, select your shape, click the Path Alignment icon again, and choose Horizontal Centers. In Deke’s case, he also nudged the shape up to bisect the text at the top by just pressing the up arrow key a few times.

4) Assign and customize a dashed stroke.

One of the spiffy things about the new CS6 way of managing shape layers is that you can assign a true stroke (rather than a stroke effect from the Layers panel). This opens the door to assigning a dashed stroke, which unbeknownst to me was previously a long sought-after feature from designers.

With the shape selected, you can choose from the Stroke Options in the options bar or create your own. To do the latter, click the More Options button at the bottom of the Stroke Options popup menu. For this project, Deke set an initial Dash of 0 then a Gap of 25. With rounded caps and a centered alignment, the resulting stroke is a cheerful dotted line. You can save your line (and have it appear in the popup menu in the future) by simply clicking Save. No need to name it, the preview will tell the story eloquently enough.

5) Mask out any parts of the shape you don’t want.

In this case, Deke masked out the area where the dots covered the text. Since the shape layer is one cohesive item, you can apply a layer mask to it (while the “vector mask” lives stealthily inside the shape layer).

6) Line up the scissors icons at the bottom.

To turn those scattered scissor shapes at the bottom into an organized band of precision instruments, Deke first selects them all and changes the Path Alignment to Align to Selection (i.e. line them up with respect to one another). Then click that icon a second time and choose Vertical Centers. Note that you can align the individual shapes that all live on the same shape layer.

7) Fix the spacing between the marching scissors.

With all the shapes still selected, go back to the Path Alignment icon and choose Distribute Widths. This will space out scissors #2-#5 based on the position of #1 and #6.

8) Line the scissors layer up with the bottom of the rectangle.

And voila.

If you’d like to hear more about shape layers, check out my post from yesterday which ends with some good resources for videos/articles. Have a memorable weekend, dekeWarriors.

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 227: Creating an Animated Movie in Photoshop

Previous entry:Shaping Up: Five Useful Observations for Understanding Photoshop Shape Layers


  • Just have to say…

    That I am *shocked* it has taken until CS6 to get this kind of functionality when Corel PSP has had it since the days of Jasc. There are tools in each that I use because the other doesn’t have it, and this is one of the things I had reconciled PS would never get.

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