Fill a Shape with a Photo in Photoshop 2022
Learn how easy it is to draw a shape and place an image inside it with Photoshop! A step-by-step tutorial for Photoshop 2022 or later.
In this tutorial, I show you how to fill a shape with an image using Photoshop. As we'll see, it's easy to place a photo into any kind of shape, from a basic rectangle or circle to a fancy custom shape. For this tutorial, we'll use a custom shape, and I'll show you how to load all of the missing shapes that are included with Photoshop so you'll have lots to choose from.
Adobe has made changes to how we draw shapes in recent Photoshop versions. So to follow along, you’ll want to be using Photoshop 2022 or later.
Here's an example of what the final effect will look like. Along with placing the image into the shape, I'll also show you how to change the background color or remove the background so you can place the shape onto any background you like.
image in shapeeffect.
Let's get started!
Step 1: Create a new document
Start by creating a new Photoshop document. If you are on the Home Screen, click the New file button.
Or you can go up to the File menu in the Menu Bar and choose New.
Either way opens the New Document dialog box where you can enter the settings you need in the column along the right. I’ll create a square-shaped document by setting both the Width and Height to 2000 pixels.
Since we’ll be placing an image into the shape, and images are usually saved at a higher resolution, I’ll change the Resolution value to 300 pixels per inch. And I’ll leave the Background Contents set to White.
Then click the Create button.
And Photoshop creates the new document.
Step 2: Open the Shapes panel
The fastest way to draw custom shapes in Photoshop is to add them from the Shapes panel. To open it, go up to the Window menu and choose Shapes.
The Shapes panel opens in the secondary panel column to the left of the main panels. You can show or hide the panel by clicking its icon.
At first, all we see are the default shapes which are divided into groups.
You can twirl any group open to view the shapes inside it by clicking the arrow next to its folder icon.
And you can drag the bottom of the Shapes panel downward to expand it and view more shapes at once.
Step 3: Load the missing shapes
To load all of the missing shapes that are included with Photoshop, click the Shapes panel menu icon.
Then choose Legacy Shapes and More.
A new Legacy Shapes and More group appears below the defaults.
And inside the group are two more groups. 2019 Shapes holds hundreds of new shapes that were added back in Photoshop 2020. And All Legacy Default Shapes holds the classic shapes from older Photoshop versions.
Step 4: Select a shape
For this tutorial, I’ll use one of the classic shapes. I’ll twirl open the All Legacy Default Shapes group.
Then I’ll scroll down to the Nature set and twirl it open.
And inside the Nature set, I’m going to use the Butterfly shape.
Step 5: Drag and drop the shape onto the canvas
To add the shape, just click and drag the shape’s thumbnail from the Shapes panel and drop it onto the canvas.
Photoshop draws the shape when you release your mouse button.
Step 6: Resize and center the shape
Before you resize the shape, go up to the Options Bar and make sure the link icon is selected between the Width and Height fields so that the shape’s aspect ratio is locked.
Then resize the shape by clicking and dragging any of the transform handles. If you hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard as you drag, you'll resize the shape from its center.
Click and drag the shape into the center of the canvas. When you get close to the center, it should snap into place.
Then click the checkmark in the Options Bar to accept it.
In the Layers panel, the shape appears on its own shape layer. We know it’s a shape layer by the icon in the lower right of the thumbnail.
Step 7: Check the fill and stroke options in the Properties panel
With the shape layer selected, the Properties panel gives us access to all of the shape’s options, including the fill and stroke.
By default, Photoshop uses black for the fill color, which is fine since we won’t see the color anyway once we fill the shape with the image.
But Photoshop also adds a 1 pixel black stroke around the shape.
We can add a stroke later if we want one. But for now, turn the stroke off by clicking the Stroke color swatch:
And clicking the No Color icon in the upper left of the panel. Then click outside the panel to close it, or press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard.
Step 8: Place your image into the document
Next, we’ll place our image into the document. And because we want the image to appear in the same document as our shape, we’ll use Photoshop’s Place Embedded command.
Go up to the File menu and choose Place Embedded.
Navigate to where the image is saved on your computer. In my case, it’s in a folder on my desktop. Click on the image to select it, and then click Place.
Photoshop adds the image in front of the shape. If your image is larger than the document size, Photoshop resizes it to fit. The image I'm using is from Adobe Stock.
We’ll resize the image after we place it into the shape. So for now, click the checkmark in the Options Bar to accept it.
Back in the Layers panel, the image appears on a new layer above the shape layer. And notice that Photoshop converted the image into a smart object, which we can tell by the smart object icon in the lower right of the thumbnail. This means that no matter how many times we resize the image, it won’t lose any quality.
Step 9: Create a clipping mask
At the moment, the image is sitting in front of the shape. To place it into the shape, click the Layers panel menu icon.
Then choose Create Clipping Mask.
The clipping mask clips the image to the shape below it, which means that the only part of the image that remains visible is the area directly above, or in front of, the shape. Any part of the image that sits outside the shape is hidden from view, creating the illusion that the image is actually inside it.
Back in the Layers panel, notice that the image layer is now indented to the right, with a small arrow pointing down at the shape layer below it. This is how Photoshop lets us know that we've created a clipping mask.
Step 10: Resize and reposition the image with Free Transform
To resize and reposition the image within the shape, go up to the Edit menu and choose Free Transform.
In the Options Bar, make sure the link icon is selected between the Width and Height fields.
Then resize the image by dragging any of the transform handles. You can hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard as you drag a handle to resize the image from its center.
Then drag the image to position your subject within the shape. You may need to go back and forth between resizing and repositioning the image until you get it right.
When you’re done, click the checkmark in the Options Bar.
How to change the background color
At this point, we’ve placed the image into the shape and the main effect is done. So there are a few things we can do next. We can add a stroke around the shape, change the background color behind the shape, or remove the background completely.
I’ll start by showing you how to change the background color. And the easiest way to do that is by using a Solid Color fill layer.
Step 1: Add a Solid Color fill layer
We want the Solid Color fill layer to appear directly above the Background layer. So in the Layers panel, click on the Background layer to select it.
Then click the New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:
And choose Solid Color from the top of the list.
Step 2: Choose a new background color
Photoshop opens the Color Picker so we can choose a new color for the background. The default color is black, which definitely brings out the details of the shape. But in my case, as the background color for a butterfly, it’s too dark.
You can choose a different color from the Color Picker. But you can also sample a color directly from the image inside the shape. Just move your mouse cursor over the image and the cursor will change to an eyedropper. Then click on the color you want to sample.
I’ll sample a light skin tone from the girl’s forehead, and it instantly becomes the new background color.
Once you find a color you like, click OK to close the Color Picker. And back in the Layers panel, we see that the Solid Color fill layer was added between the Background layer and the shape layer above it.
How to add a stroke around the shape
Another way that we can enhance the effect is by adding a stroke around the shape.
Step 1: Select the shape layer
First, in the Layers panel, click on the shape layer to select it.
Step 2: Add a stroke layer effect
While you can add a stroke from the Properties panel, I still prefer the old way of adding them using layer effects. So with the shape layer selected, click the fx icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:
And choose Stroke.
Photoshop opens the Layer Style dialog box with the Stroke options in the middle column. To change the stroke's color, click the color swatch.
Then choose a new color from the Color Picker. I'll choose white by setting the R, G and B values to 255. Click OK when you're done to close the Color Picker.
Back in the Layer Style dialog box, set the Position to Outside so that the stroke appears around the outside of the shape. Then increase the Size value to adjust the thickness of the stroke. For my image, a size of around 18 px works well.
Click OK to close the Layer Style dialog box. And here’s my result with the stroke around the shape.
If you decide you don’t like the stroke, you can turn it off in the Layers panel by clicking the visibility icon next to the word Stroke.
How to remove the background behind the shape
Finally, let’s look at how to remove the background behind the shape so you can place the shape and the image inside it onto a different background. I’ll also show you how to save the result and which file type you need to keep the background transparent.
Step 1: Turn off the Background layer and Solid Color fill layer
First, to remove the background behind the shape, all we need to do is turn off the Background layer by clicking its visibility icon in the Layers panel.
And if you added a Solid Color fill layer in the previous section, click its visibility icon to turn it off as well.
This leaves us with transparency behind the shape, which Photoshop represents with a checkerboard pattern.
Step 2: Trim away the transparent pixels
We don’t need all of the extra space surrounding the shape. So to crop it away, go up to the Image menu and choose Trim.
In the Trim dialog box, make sure Transparent Pixels is selected at the top, and that Top, Bottom, Left and Right are all selected at the bottom. Then click OK.
Photoshop trims away the areas around the shape.
Step 3: Save the result as a PNG file
Finally, to save the result, go up to the File menu and instead of choosing Save or Save As, choose Save a Copy.
Photoshop will ask if you want to save it to your computer or to the Cloud. I’ll choose Save on your computer.
To keep the transparency behind the shape, we can’t save it as a JPEG file because JPEG does not support transparency. Instead, we need to save it as a PNG file. So click the Save as type box on a Windows PC, or the Format box on a Mac, and choose PNG.
Then give the file a name. I’ll name it
Navigate to where you want to save the file on your computer. I’ll save it to the same folder on my desktop where my image is saved. Then click the Save button.
Finally, in the PNG Format Options dialog box, choose the Smallest file size option at the bottom and click OK.
And there we have it! That's how easy it is to place an image in a shape with Photoshop! Check out my Photo Effects section for more Photoshop effects tutorials! And don't forget, all of my Photoshop tutorials are now available to download as PDFs!