Define Custom Shape in Photoshop

define custom shape in photoshop

In this Photoshop Lesson, we’ll learn about ‘Define Custom Shape command in Photoshop‘ and ‘How to create a custom shape in Photoshop’. Define Custom Shape command is available under Edit menu in Photoshop.

My name is Lalit Adhikari and we are at LTY. Let’s begin!



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Define Custom Shape in Photoshop

Here, we’ll learn how to create and save our own reusable custom shape in Photoshop. The reusable custom shape can be used through Custom Shape Tool in Photoshop.

Custom Shape Tool in Photoshop
Custom Shape Tool

After selecting Custom Shape Tool, we get multiple predefined custom shapes in the option bar. Our finished shape after saving, will end up here.

Custom Shape Library in Photoshop
Custom Shape Library

Custom Shape Tool allows us to place shapes in a cookie cutter fashion in our Photoshop Document. As shown in the image above, predefined Custom Shapes in Photoshop are divided in 4 groups:

  • Wild Animals
  • Leaf Trees
  • Boats
  • Flowers

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Basic Rule to Define Custom Shape

To Define a Custom Shape in Photoshop, you need to create a ‘Shape Layer’ or ‘Work Path’. It is my recommendation to have a bit of a knowledge about Vector and Raster. It will improve your understanding of this process.


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Steps to create Custom Shape in Photoshop

To create a custom shape in Photoshop, we can either directly create the shape using Pen Tool in Photoshop or we can use an image for reference. In this example, I’ll use the following emoticon image.


Step 1: Open the reference image in Photoshop

Open the image in Photoshop.

Emoticon image opened in Photoshop
Emoticon image

Step 2: Create Shape or Path

Now, we need to create either a shape layer of the image or path for our shape. This can be done in any one of the following two ways:

  • Using Pen tool and creating shape or path.
  • Creating selection and turning selection into path.

As per your expertise, you can choose any one of the above methods. Here, I’ll be showing both ways below.

Creating Path using Pen Tool

Select Pen tool and chose Path option in Option bar.

Pen Tool's Path option in Option bar in Photoshop
Path in Option bar

Then create the circular path around the emoticon.

Circular Path around the emoticon shape created using Pen tool in photoshop
Circular Path around the emoticon shape

Now, we need to create path for eyes and lips. These paths will be subtracted from our previous path of the emoticon. For this, we need to select ‘Subtract Front Shape’ in option bar as shown in image below.

Subtract Front Shape option in Pen Tool in Photoshop
Subtract Front Shape

Start creating paths for eyes and lips. It’ll automatically be subtracted from the current path. Final path will appear as shown below.

Path created for Emoticon using Pen tool in Photoshop
Path created for Emoticon

This is how we can create Path using Pen tool. Now, I’ll show you how to create a selection and then convert it into a path.

Creating selection for our image

I’ll use Magic Wand tool to select the yellow portion of the emoticon. The selection will look as shown below.

Selection of the yellow part of emoticon created using Magic Wand Tool in photoshop
Selection of the yellow part of emoticon

Then right click inside the selection and chose Make Work Path…

Make Work Path option from selection in Photoshop
Make Work Path option

The following dialog box will open up. Here, the Tolerance controls the number of anchor point that will be created with our Path. I’ll keep it to 1.

Make Work Path from selection dialog box in photoshop
Make Work Path dialog box

The path created will be little bit rough, but it will give a good starting point to us.

Rough Path from selection created
Rough Path

We can use Pen Tool or Direct Selection Tool to edit the Path.

After refining path using pen tool and direct selection tool in photoshop
After refining path

Now we have created path by both ways. Let’s get ahead.


Step 3: Define Custom Shape Command

After creating path using any of above method, we can go to Edit menu > Define Custom Shape…

Define Custom Shape command under Edit menu in photoshop
Define Custom Shape…

It’ll open the following dialog box where we can name our shape as per our choice. I’ll be leaving it for default naming.

Define Custom Shape dialog box in photoshop
Shape Name

Then click OK. It’ll be saved in the Custom Shape Library of Photoshop.

Custom Shape Library in photoshop
Custom Shape library

Step 4: Testing our new saved Custom Shape

Create a New Document in Photoshop. Choose Custom Shape Tool and select our recently saved shape. Here’s the testing result.

Testing custom shape saved in photoshop in a new document
Testing Custom Shape

As with any other shape, we can easily edit our shape from Properties Panel.

Properties Panel to edit shape in photoshop
Properties panel

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Why should we Define Custom Shape in Photoshop

If we need any shape to be created repetitively in our Photoshop Documents, then we should save our custom shape with Define Custom Shape command in Photoshop.


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