Drawing Custom Shapes with the Shapes Panel in Photoshop CC 2020
Learn how to draw custom shapes in Photoshop with the new Shapes panel, and where to find hundreds of new shapes now included with Photoshop CC 2020!
If you're a fan of vector shapes, you'll love Photoshop CC 2020. Not only does CC 2020 introduce the new Shapes panel, but it also includes hundreds of brand new custom shapes!
In this tutorial, I show you where to find the Shapes panel, how to access over 380 new shapes, and how to draw shapes by dragging and dropping them into your document. We'll also compare the Shapes panel to Photoshop's Custom Shape Tool and learn why drawing shapes with the Shapes panel is so much easier. And you'll learn simple tricks that let you combine shapes in different ways, including how to draw multiple shapes on the same layer, how to subtract one shape from another, and how to intersect shapes, all using the Shapes panel.
To follow along, you'll need Photoshop CC 2020. If you're already using Photoshop CC, make sure that your copy is up to date.
Let's get started!
The document setup
To follow along, all you will need is a new, empty Photoshop document like the one I'm using here:
Drawing shapes with the Custom Shape Tool
Before we look at the new Shapes panel and the new ways to draw shapes in Photoshop CC 2020, I should point out that the traditional way of drawing shapes using the Custom Shape Tool still works.
The only problem with using the Custom Shape Tool is that at first, you'll be limited to the default shapes. You won't have access to all of the new shapes included with CC 2020 until you load them in from the Shapes panel. Let's take a quick look at using the Custom Shape Tool.
Step 1: Select the Custom Shape Tool
To select the Custom Shape Tool, click and hold on the Rectangle Tool's icon in the toolbar until a fly-out menu appears, and then choose the Custom Shape Tool from the menu:
Step 2: Choose a custom shape
Then in the Options Bar, open the Custom Shape Picker by clicking on the current shape's thumbnail:
And here we find the new default shapes included with Photoshop CC 2020. The new shapes are grouped into sets, and each set is represented by a folder.
To open or close one of the default sets, click the arrow to the left of its folder. I'll open the Wild Animals set:
And then choose a shape by clicking its thumbnail. I'll choose the Lion shape:
Step 3: Set the Tool Mode to Shape
Before you begin drawing your shape, make sure the Tool Mode in the Options Bar is set to Shape and not Path or Pixels:
Step 4: Draw your shape
And then simply click and drag inside the document to draw the shape. To maintain the shape's original aspect ratio, press and hold the Shift key on your keyboard as you drag.
You can draw the shape from its center by holding the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key after you start dragging. And to move the shape as you draw it, hold down your spacebar, drag the shape into place, and then release your spacebar and continue dragging:
Release your mouse button to complete the shape, at which point Photoshop fills it with color:
And in the Layers panel, the new shape appears on its own shape layer. We know it's a shape layer by the square path outline in the lower right of the layer's preview thumbnail:
Step 5: Resize the shape with Free Transform
Once you have drawn your shape with the Custom Shape Tool, you can resize it by going up to the Edit menu in the Menu Bar and choosing Free Transform Path.
Free Transform Path is the same as the standard Free Transform command. It just has a different name when working with shape layers:
Then click and drag any of the handles to resize the shape as needed:
Click the checkmark in the Options Bar to exit the Free Transform Path command when you're done:
Step 6: Choose a different color for the shape
To change the color of your shape, click on the Fill color swatch in the Options Bar:
And then in the Fill Type dialog box, click on a new color. Or use the icons along the top of the dialog box to switch between Color, Gradient or Pattern fills. The icon in the upper right opens Photoshop's Color Picker where you can select a custom color for your shape:
Photoshop instantly updates the shape with the new color:
How to delete a shape
To delete a shape, select the shape layer in the Layers panel and then press the Backspace (Win) / Delete (Mac) key on your keyboard.
Or click and drag the shape layer down onto the trash bin. And that's the basics of drawing shapes with the Custom Shape Tool in Photoshop:
The new Shapes panel in Photoshop CC 2020
New in Photoshop CC 2020 is the Shapes panel. Along with being the new home for all of your custom shapes, the Shapes panel is also where we can load hundreds of additional shapes included with Photoshop CC 2020.
Where do I find the Shapes panel?
To open the Shapes panel, go up to the Window menu in the Menu Bar and choose Shapes:
The default shape sets
In the Shapes panel, you'll find the same default shape sets that we saw earlier with the Custom Shape Tool. Click on the arrow to the left of a folder to twirl a set open or closed, and then click on a thumbnail to select a shape:
How to change the shape thumbnail size
To change the size of the shape thumbnails, click on the Shapes panel menu icon:
And then choose Small Thumbnail or Large Thumbnail from the menu. You can also choose Small List or Large List to view the names of the shapes along with their thumbnails:
Your recent shapes
Along the top of the Shapes panel is a row showing your recently-used shapes. Click on any thumbnail in the row to reselect the shape:
Or if you would rather hide the recent shapes, click on the Shapes panel menu icon and then click on Show Recents to deselect it:
How to load more shapes in Photoshop CC 2020
Along with the new default shapes, Photoshop CC 2020 also includes hundreds of additional shapes, all of which are brand new in CC 2020. And it includes all of the shapes from previous versions of Photoshop.
To load more shapes, click on the Shapes panel menu icon:
And then choose Legacy Shapes and More:
A new Legacy Shapes and More folder appears below the default folders:
Twirl the folder open and you'll find two new folders inside it. The first contains all of the new shapes in CC 2020, and the second holds all of the legacy shapes from earlier Photoshop versions:
In the 2019 Shapes folder, you'll find sets for leaves and trees, lakes and hills, people, animals, buildings, vehicles, games, dinosaurs, and more. Use the scroll bar along the right to scroll through the list:
Using the new shapes with the Custom Shape Tool
Once you have loaded the additional shapes in the Shapes panel, these shapes will be available from the Options Bar the next time you use the Custom Shape Tool:
How to draw shapes with the Shapes panel
Drawing a shape from the Shapes panel is easy. In fact, it's faster and easier than drawing with the Custom Shape Tool.
Step 1: Drag and drop a shape from the Shapes panel
Simply click on a shape's thumbnail in the Shapes panel and then drag and drop it into your document:
Release your mouse button and Photoshop instantly draws the shape. A nice feature with the Shapes panel is that shapes are automatically drawn with the correct aspect ratio, so there's no need to hold Shift like we do when drawing with the Custom Shape Tool:
Step 2: Resize the shape with Free Transform
Another benefit of using the Shapes panel is that Photoshop automatically places the Free Transform box around the shape. Just drag the handles to resize the shape as needed:
Then click the checkmark in the Options Bar to commit the changes and exit Free Transform:
And in the Layers panel, the shape appears on its own shape layer:
Step 3: Choose a color for the shape
To change the color of the shape, double-click on the shape's preview thumbnail in the Layers panel:
And then choose a new color from the Color Picker:
Click OK to close the Color Picker and apply the new color:
Choosing shape colors from the Swatches panel
Or in Photoshop CC 2020, another way to change a shape's color is from the Swatches panel. The Swatches panel is grouped in with the Color panel, as well as the Gradients and Patterns panels which are also new in CC 2020.
In the Swatches panel, twirl one of the swatch sets open to choose a color:
And then simply drag the color from the Swatches panel onto the shape. Make sure you drag directly onto the shape, otherwise you'll add the color to the wrong layer:
Release your mouse button and the shape is instantly updated with the new color:
Filling the shape with a gradient or pattern
You can also drag and drop a gradient from the Gradients panel or a pattern from the Patterns panel onto the shape.
For example, I'll switch over to the Gradients panel and I'll twirl open one of the new gradient sets:
Then I'll drag and drop one of the gradient thumbnails onto the shape:
And Photoshop instantly fills the shape with the colors from the gradient:
How to draw multiple shapes on the same layer
By default, Photoshop places each shape on its own separate layer. But the Shapes panel also lets us combine shapes in different ways. One way is that we can draw multiple shapes on the same layer. This is handy when all shapes need to share the same fill.
To add a new shape to an existing shape layer, first press and hold the Shift key on your keyboard. And then with the key held down, drag and drop another shape from the Shapes panel directly onto an existing shape.
By dragging directly onto the shape itself, you're telling Photoshop which shape layer you want the new shape to be added to:
Use the Free Transform box and handles to resize and reposition the new shape as needed, and then click the checkmark in the Options Bar to accept it. Or press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard:
While it looks like we have two shapes in the document, the Layers panel is not showing two separate shape layers. Instead, because I held my Shift key as I added the second shape, both shapes are now part of the same layer:
How to select individual shapes on the same shape layer
To select one of the shapes, first make sure your shape layer is active in the Layers panel. Then choose the Path Selection Tool (the black arrow) from Photoshop's toolbar:
And then click with the Path Selection Tool inside the shape you need. Control handles (little squares) will appear around the shape's outline, letting you know that the shape is selected.
Here I've selected the larger shape. I can now move the shape around or resize it with Free Transform (press Ctrl+T (Win) / Command+T (Mac)) without affecting the other shape:
Changing the fill color of the shapes
All shapes on the same shape layer share the same fill.
So for example, if I drag a different gradient from the Gradients panel onto either of the shapes:
The gradient is applied not just to that one shape but to both shapes on the layer:
How to delete an individual shape
To delete one of the shapes, select the shape with the Path Selection Tool and then press Backspace (Win) / Delete (Mac) on your keyboard.
How to subtract one shape from another
Along with adding new shapes, you can also use the Shapes panel to subtract one shape from another. Use this feature when you want to cut a hole through a shape.
First press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard. And then with the key held down, drag a shape from the Shapes panel onto an existing shape.
I'll drag another Heart shape onto my original one:
And this time, Photoshop uses the new shape to cut a hole through the original one:
Use the Free Transform box and handles to resize and reposition the second shape as needed:
And then click the checkmark in the Options Bar to accept it.
Again, both shapes appear on the same shape layer in the Layers panel. Use the Path Selection Tool from the toolbar to select, edit or delete the shapes individually:
How to intersect two shapes
Finally, one more way we can combine shapes with the Shapes panel is by intersecting them. In other words, the fill from the shapes will only be visible in the area where both shapes overlap.
Start by adding an initial shape. I'll use my Heart shape:
Then in the Shapes panel, choose a different shape.
I'll try one of the new Dinosaur shapes (because who doesn't love dinosaurs?):
To intersect one shape with another, press and hold Shift+Alt (Win) / Shift+Option (Mac) on your keyboard. And then with the keys held down, drag the new shape from the Shapes panel onto the existing shape in the document:
Release your mouse button, and the fill color of the shapes is only visible where both shapes overlap:
Where to go next
And there we have it! So now that you know how to use the Shapes panel, try the next tutorial where I show you how to place an image inside a shape!