Adobe Photoshop CC For Dummies
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The custom shapes already available in Photoshop cover a wide range, but they might not fill all your needs. You can purchase commercial collections of custom shapes from a couple of sources. You can create custom paths and define shapes from them, too.

But you’ve already got bunches of custom shapes on your computer, just waiting for you to use them. Select Photoshop’s Type tool and take a look in your Font menu. Check out the fonts already there with names like Wingdings, Webdings, Symbol, and Dingbats. (Your font list may vary.)

These are all examples of symbol fonts, which are fonts that have shapes and symbols rather than letters and numbers. Many more typical fonts also have special characters available when you use the Shift key, the Option/Alt key, and the Shift key in combination with the Option/Alt key.

Here’s how you can define a custom shape from a symbol:

  1. Choose File→New to open a new document.

    The document can be virtually any size and can be either grayscale or color.

  2. Select the Type tool and pick a font.

    With the Type tool active, choose a symbol font from either the Options bar or the Character panel. The font size doesn’t matter much because you’re creating a vector-based shape that you can easily scale. The foreground color doesn’t matter either because shape tools rely on the foreground color active at the time you create the shape.

  3. Type a single symbol and then end the editing session.

    Click the check mark button to the right on the Options bar, switch tools in the Toolbox, or press Cmd+Return (Mac) or Ctrl+Enter (Windows) to end the editing session. (The symbol visible in the figure below can be produced by pressing the Q key when using the Wingdings font.)

  4. Convert the type character to a shape layer.

    With the type layer active in the Layers panel, use the menu command Type→Convert to Shape.

  5. Select the Custom Shape tool. If you do not select the Custom Shape tool, the Define Custom Shape command is not available.
  6. Define a custom shape.

    Choose Edit→Define Custom Shape, give your new shape a name in the Shape Name dialog box, and save it. Your new shape is added to the Custom Shape picker, ready to use.


Remember that your custom shapes aren’t truly saved until you use the Custom Shape picker menu command to Export Shapes. Until you take this step, the shapes exist only in Photoshop’s Preferences file. If the Preferences become corrupt, you could lose all your custom shapes unless you export your custom shapes.

When exporting custom shapes export them to a folder outside the Photoshop folder. That prevents accidental loss should you ever need to (gasp!) reinstall Photoshop. The figure shows one possible folder structure for saving and organizing your custom bits and pieces. Also, you can use the Shape Picker Import Shapes command to add shapes you've exported.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Peter Bauer is an award-winning photographer and contributing writer for Photoshop User and Layers magazines. He is best known as the Help Desk Director for the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), but he has also authored or coauthored a dozen books on Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, computer graphics, and photography.

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