Photoshop’s shape tools create vector images. They are composed of lines and curves based on a mathematical formula called a vector. The formula defines a shape as an individual object. In Photoshop, the vector shape’s outline is called a path. We can move, resize, and edit paths independently, all without loss of resolution. This is a key characteristic of vector images.
Once a designer finishes a vector drawing, he saves a copy as a raster image, sometimes called a bit map image. Raster images are static arrangements of pixels, and they lose pixels and resolution when resized. Additionally, you cannot move individual shapes within a raster image. Digital photos and most Web graphics are raster images.
Shape Tool Options
Let’s draw some shapes. Open a new 400- x 400-pixel document. Save the file as shapes.psd. PSD is Photoshop’s proprietary vector file format.
Click the foreground color on the toolbar and choose a new color to fill the shapes you create.
In the toolbar, click and hold the Rectangle Tool. A pop-out selection of shape-drawing tools appears. Release the mouse to select the rectangle. You’ll see the shape tool menu options appear across the top of the window.
Click the Create New Shape Layer option. Leave the Layer Style at the default: none.
Make Your Own Paths
Now draw: First draw a rectangle, then a rounded rectangle, then an ellipse. Change shape tools by clicking and holding the current shape tool icon until a pop-up menu appears. Each shape has its own set of options, located under the arrow button at the top of the window.
In the Photoshop toolbar, click the black arrow (the Path Component Selection Tool). Click to select a shape, then move it around. It’s vector graphics in action. To move two or more shapes in unison, hold down the SHIFT key as you select them.
You can edit shapes in two ways. First, right-click the shape. Select Free Transform Path. Right-click again, select Skew, and use the shape’s anchor points to alter it. (Anchor points are small clear boxes. Selected anchor points are black.) Right-click again to select another transforming option. Double-click when you are satisfied.
Alternately, click the Direct Selection Tool, the white arrow in the Photoshop toolbar. (Click and hold the black arrow to make this option appear.) Click the shape’s path to select it, then click an individual anchor point to edit. This method is better for editing curves, as you can pull on a curve’s direction point to reshape it. A direction point is a small black dot connected to an anchor point.
Combining standard shapes is useful for creating a new shape altogether. (Remember drawing circles and triangles to create your first kitty cat?) Use the black arrow to drag and intersect two or more of your shapes. Now click the Combine button in the shape tool menu. (It’s OK if it looks like a blob. We’re practicing here.)
For a finishing touch, select Layer/Layer Style/Bevel And Emboss. Click OK. Create new layers in Photoshop to add more shapes, new colors, or text.
Save The Path
You can return any time to this PSD file and edit it. But to incorporate the image into a commonplace electronic document such as a Microsoft Word file or a Web page, you must save it as a raster image; that is, convert the vector formulas into a static arrangement of pixels. We’ll save our file as a JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group), a commonly supported raster file format.
Go to Layer/Flatten Image. Then go to File/Save As and select JPEG from the Format drop-down menu. Click Save. Choose an image quality and click OK.
Now that you’ve got the lay of the land, use vector drawing tools to create illustrations, flowcharts, logos, Web banners, signs-you name it. The frontier is open.