Showcase and discover digital art at yex

Follow Design Stacks

Subscribe to our free newsletter to get all our latest tutorials and articles delivered directly to your inbox!

Photoshop Elements Shapes Tools

Photoshop Elements Shapes Tools

rectangle iconrounded rectangle iconellipse iconpolygon icon


Used for creating shape objects
Found at #4 in the Toolbar diagram at left


Please note that the custom shape tool, the line tool, and the shape select tool all have their own pages.
The shape tools are all grouped under the rectangular shape tool icon in the tool bar. To access the others, click on the one which is showing (the last one used will be visible in the toolbar). Choose the one you want from the pop-up menu.
shapes group in toolbox

The shape tools create a preset range of geometric paths. Paths are made from mathematical formulas, called Beziér Curves, which do not print, and which contain no pixels. They only define the boundaries of the object they surround.

The color of a shape object comes from a color overlay upon which the vector outline acts as a clipping path.

Objects created with the shapes tool are called “vector objects” and are edited differently from painted objects, or shapes in an image which are created from pixels. For example, all, or part of a vector object can be selected simply by clicking on it with the shape selection tool.

Vector objects are also resolution independent. This means they can be scaled as much as you like with no loss of quality. Since the object exists as a mathematical formula, scaling does not involve the adding or subtracting pixels which would result in image degradation.

To use a shape tool, select it in the toolbar, set its options in the options bar (see below), and then click and drag in the image.

The shape tools provide an easy way to take advantage of vector object qualities without having to struggle with the underlying concepts.

The keyboard shortcut for the shape tools is the letter U. You can cycle through all of the shape tools by holding down the Shift key while pressing the shortcut letter.


The illustration below shows the rectangle shape tool’s options bar. Note that any of the other shapes can be selected from here.

The collection of figures near the center of the options bar determines how any new shapes drawn on the same layer will interact with shapes which are already there. In order to add new shapes to the same layer, you must pick one of the buttons other than the left most one, which is the Create New Shape Layer button, before you drag your new shape. Otherwise, all new shapes are created on their own layer. After two shapes are on the same layer, you can change the interaction style by selecting with the shape selection tool and clicking any of the boxy icons.

They are (as shown above) 1) New Shape (no interaction), 2) Add to Shape, 3) Subtract from Shape, 4) Intersect Shape (only overlapping areas will remain), and 5) Exclude Overlapping (overlaps will be deleted leaving the nonintersecting areas intact).

Click the Layer Style thumbnail to find a pop-up palette of layer styles. Pick a new style palette by clicking the arrow in the upper right corner of the pop-up palette and choosing one from the menu. If there is a style showing in the thumbnail window, you can either go to the pop-up palette menu and choose Remove Style or you can open the Layer Styles palette and click on the Cancel button.
cancel button

The color your shape will be drawn in is shown in the Color box. Click on this square to access the Color Picker if you want to pick a different color.

If you click the Simplify button while your shape’s layer is selected your shape will be rasterized, and no longer be a vector object. Once you have done this, none of the shape editing tools can be used on it. However, you can now use filters, and the rest of your image editing tools to alter it.

Shown below the rectangle shape’s options bar are the first half of the rounded rectangle and the polygon shapes options bars. You can see that they offer options unique to those particular tools (radius refers to rounded corner radius).


rounded rectangle options


Find the options boxes shown below by clicking on the little down arrow that you see just to the right of the custom shape talk balloon icon in the illustrations shown above when the particular shape tool is selected.

Most of the options should be self-explanatory. Choosing Circle in the Ellipse Options will constrain your shape to a perfect circle. Same for Square in the Rectangle Options. As you can see, choosing Fixed Size in the Rectangle example will make the width and height boxes become available for data entry.

Choosing the From Center check box will cause your shape to be drawn from its center, and radiate outward from the point at which you first click to begin dragging the shape.

The default setting for all shapes is Unconstrained which allows you to draw shapes of any size, and with any proportions.
[Note that all illustrations shown below are from Elements 1. Except for cosmetic differences (if any), they are the same in Elements 2.]


ellipse shape optionsrectangle options
rounded rectangle optionspolygon options