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Creating Path-Based Objects in Photoshop

For this example, we’re going to create a simple window frame–just six rectangles–and we’re going to start by using the rectangular Marquee tool. While you can also easily do this using the rectangular Path tool, I’d like to show you how to convert a selection into a path so that you might get a little more out of this.

1. Begin by using your rectangular Marquee tool to select an area that will become the basic shape of one individual window pane.

2. Open up your Path palette, and choose the flyaway menu located on the top right of the palette. From the menu, select “Make Work Path.” This will convert your selection into a rectangular path.

3. In your Tool palette, switch over to the Path Selection tool, which is the tool that looks just like a regular cursor. When you’ve chosen it, use the tool to click on the rectangular path in your canvas window.

4. From the Edit menu, choose Copy, or type Command-C. Then Choose Paste from the Edit menu, or type Command-V. You want to paste five times, giving you a total of six individual rectangular paths. However, when you paste them, they will appear on top of one another, looking as if you still had only one path. Not to worry. Simply use your Path Selection tool to move the paths one by one into position, as seen below. You can hold down the shift key while you’re moving the paths in order to constrain the paths along the horizontal or vertical axes.

5. Now use your Path Selection tool to select all of the little rectangles at once. You can do this by hold down the Shift key and clicking on them individually, or you can draw a Marquee around all of the paths to select them all at once.

6. Now, when you have all of the paths selected at once, you’ll see an option up in your top tool bar called “Combine.” Click this button to combine your six individual paths into a single path containing six rectangles.

7. Finally, from the Edit menu, choose “Define Custom Shape….” Give it a name that describes the shape for easy identification later. You might want to create a number of variations on this for future use.

Now, what is the benefit of doing this? Well, not only will you never have to draw this particular shape manually again, but you will also be able to apply this exact shape in a variety of sizes (interactively) and using automatic fills and strokes. You will also be able to transform the shape (scale, perspective, etc.), without losing resolution.

Your custom object is now accessible via the Custom Shape tool. When you select the Custom Shape tool, you will then be able to select any shape you’ve created from the shape pull-down menu located in your top Tool Bar.

Here’s how it looks in action with a black foreground color and “Shape Layers” option selected in the top Tool Bar.