Edit, Change Color, or Remove Photoshop Shape Layers

Use shape layers in Photoshop Creative Suite 5 when the goal of your design is to seamlessly integrate vector shapes and pixel data. Once you have created a shape layer, you can edit the shape, change the color, or remove the layer completely.

Edit a shape

Like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop provides both a Path Selection tool and a Direct Selection tool. The Direct Selection tool is hidden under the Path Selection tool. To move an entire shape on a layer, choose the Path Selection tool and drag the shape.

To edit the shape, deselect the shape. (While using the Path Selection or Direct Selection tool, click outside the shape.) Then select the Direct Selection tool. With the Direct Selection tool, click individual anchor points and handles to edit and fine-tune the shape.

Edit individual anchor points with the Direct Selection tool.
Edit individual anchor points with the Direct Selection tool.

Change the color of a shape

When you create a shape with a shape tool, the shape takes the color of the present foreground color. To change the color of an existing shape, open the Layers panel by choosing Window→Layers.

Notice that the Vector Shape tool creates a new layer for every shape you make. Creating a new layer is a benefit when it comes to creating special effects because the shape layer is independent of the rest of your image.

To change a shape’s color, double-click the color thumbnail on the left in the shape layer or click the Set Color box on the Options bar across the top of the Document window. The Color Picker appears. To select a new color, drag the Hue slider up or down or click in the large color pane to select a color with the saturation and lightness you want to use. Click OK when you’re done.

Double-click the Layer thumbnail to open the Color Picker.
Double-click the Layer thumbnail to open the Color Picker.

With the Color Picker open, you can also move outside the picker dialog box and sample colors from other open images and objects.

Remove a shape layer

Because the Pen tool now has multiple options, you may unexpectedly create a shape layer. Delete a shape layer by dragging the layer thumbnail to the Trash Can in the lower right corner of the Layers panel.

If you want to keep your path but throw away the shape layer, choose Window→Paths. Then drag the shape vector mask to the New Path icon which creates a saved path. Now you can throw away the shape layer.

Drag the shape path to the Create New Path icon.
Drag the shape path to the Create New Path icon.
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