Improvements to Shape Tool Options in Photoshop CS6

Adobe Photoshop

Several improvements were made to the shape layers (and vector tools) in Photoshop CS6. If you missed yesterday’s video, here is a quick list of changes that you’ll find in the Options bar when working with Shapes:

• Before drawing with the Pen or Shape tools, quickly select between Shape, Path or Pixels from the drop-down list (these options were previously represented by icons which was a bit confusing).

• Click the Fill and Stroke color swatches to choose the type of content: none (for a transparent shape), solid color, gradient and/or pattern.

• The Shape color picker (displayed when clicking on the Fill or Stroke swatch), keeps track of your Recently Used Colors. That would be nice throughout the application!

• Add a stroke, dash and/or dotted line to a path and customize its alignment, caps, corners, gap and dash amounts by clicking the Stroke Options icon in the Options bar.

• Easily change the height and width for shapes (without going to Free Transform) using the new numeric entry options.

• By default, the shape tools draw a new Shape Layer every time you click and drag with the tool. However, you can use the new Path Operations drop-down list in the Options bar (path operations were previously represented by icons) in order to add additional shapes to a single Shape Layer (including Combine, Subtract, Intersect, Extrude or Merge  Shape Components).

• With multiple shapes selected, use the Path Alignment and Path Arrangement drop-down lists to choose to align selected shapes (to the Selection or Canvas), distribute shapes, and/or change the stacking order of shapes.

• Specify a shape’s size by clicking (instead of dragging) in the image area. The Create Polygon (or Create Rectangle etc.) dialog appears, with all of the options specific to the selected Shape tool.

Adobe Photoshop

Posted on 05-15-2012


  • By Tom - 9:35 AM on June 7, 2012  

    Really stupid solution from Adobe grouping the Path Operation tools without option to expand them. All that empty space, i cant understand why did they grouped them. Really anoying

    • By Julieanne Kost - 9:54 AM on June 11, 2012  

      Hi Tom, thank you for your feedback – I have forwarded it to the product team but it would also be helpful if you would post your request here:

      • By StefanHQ - 2:08 AM on September 5, 2012  

        I did such posting now. Also added an image explaining the problem and solution.

        This also applied to all other dropdown grouped stuff. Fill up the bar to the minimum resolution requirement.


  • By Les Toil - 1:14 PM on August 3, 2012  

    How do I get the shape tools to simply make a shape like I had been doing with the previous versions of PS for the last dozen years? I just want to run the tool over my work space and fill it in with the color I have below in the picker. I don’t want to create a brand new “Shape” layer. I just want the shape tool to make a solid shape.

    Thanks much.

    • By Julieanne Kost - 10:06 AM on August 6, 2012  

      There are three options when using the shape tools in Photoshop. You can draw a “Shape”, “Path” or “Pixels”. To choose the option you want to use, select the shape tool and on the Options bar, select your option from the list.

  • By Larry - 11:28 AM on September 27, 2012  

    I just want to draw a red dashed line. How the heck do I do this in CS6? Some of these “improvements” are insane.

    • By Julieanne Kost - 9:50 AM on October 1, 2012  

      1) Select the pen tool.
      2) Draw your path (it’s easiest if you choose “shape” form the options bar to add your path as a shape layer)
      3) Add your stroke options including color, alignment, caps etc.

      The line tool has always drawn a rectangle to create the lines of different thicknesses, so you’re better off using the pen tool to create your path.

  • By John Crowgey - 7:41 PM on October 7, 2012  

    when selecting the pen tool only the shape and path options are available to me, the fill box is accessable, the stoke box has a slash across it and is not selectable?

    • By Pete Green - 5:27 PM on October 8, 2012  

      The slash across the stroke means there currently is no stroke applied. If you click on that box you can choose the stroke style and color.

      The Pen tool will create paths and shapes, but if you want pixels, you’ll want to select one of the shape creation tools like the rectangle or ellipse tools.

  • By Dean Wilde - 2:45 AM on October 15, 2012  

    I have an issue with regards drawing simple shapes with the path tool; so ones with minimal number of points.

    In CS5, I used to drag a path segment (between two points) and it would scale while locking the position of the other anchor points, so I could easily create graceful paths. Now I have to click and move sets of anchor point, go back and adjust the other ones that have since moved out of place and fine tune several times every step of the way.

    This is for simple shapes that don’t necessarily align vertically or horizontally so holding shift doesn’t help.

    Please tell me this function is still available somewhere……..

  • By Dean Wilde - 2:58 AM on October 15, 2012  

    Just to affirm, this is not the ‘rubber band’ setting. It’s a fundamental change to the way Photoshop CS6 now handle path segment (between two points) transformations, it is no longer viable to create simple shapes by using the drag option on a section of path, only continuously adjusting the the points and their ‘tails’ which is markedly less graceful, accurate and painfully slower.

    • By Julieanne Kost - 7:49 AM on October 24, 2012  

      I’m not convinced that I understand what you’re asking, but if you have the Direct Selection tool selected and check “Constrain Path Dragging” (in the Options bar) do you get the behavior that you are looking for? If not, I would post the issue to either of these forums to see if other customers are experiencing the same problem and if so, if they have found a solution.

  • By Kellie - 3:09 AM on November 27, 2012  

    I’m not sure if this answers anyone’s question, but it was my issue. Being a non-professional, self-taught Photoshop user, I was frustrated that I couldn’t find any pre-made shapes in the new CS6. I accidentally found that many of the tools on the left-hand side of the screen have access to others when you right-click on them. By right-clicking on the rectangle tool, you will find the shapes. Once you click on the custom shapes tool, make sure you select shapes in the white box at the top left of the screen, where your choices are path, pixels or shape. This was very frustrating and I couldn’t find an answer anywhere. I hope this helps others, if they are as clueless as I am. :o)

  • By fen - 10:52 AM on December 11, 2012  

    i’m really” don’t understand, when i make some shape and change the color, it just can change with gray or black. When i choose red or etc, it not change to red or whatever color that i choose, just gray or black. It’s really make me frustrated. On CS5, it’s really easy. Can you tell me what’s wrong with this?


  • By Scott - 8:08 PM on January 5, 2013  

    I just signed up for the monthly Adobe Creative Cloud. I am trying to draw triangles, but the only shape option for me is a square. The drop down is set to shape, but the only shape option it gives is the square. Is this something to do with the Creative Cloud version of CS6? Any help on adding various shape tools or a polygon tool would be great.


  • By Scott - 8:11 PM on January 5, 2013  

    I feel silly, but i just figured it out. For some reason, the drop down on the bottom right side of the rectangle tool was not activating. I restarted CS6 and it worked fine.


  • By Marta - 1:13 PM on January 18, 2013  

    Wow, finding a simple tool was harder than I thought. The program is very complex for beginners like me. If you cannot find the simple shape you want (example: heart shape, rectangle, oval, little pointers, etc.), here’s how: the shape tool will be in the following section of tools (third section)

    Pen Tool
    Horizontal Type Tool (aka, TEXT tool)
    Path Selection Tool [black pointer tool]
    and finally, the Custom shape tool. <—–

    THAT IS THE ONE YOU WANT. Custom shape tool. RIGHT CLICK the icon for quick templates. Once this tool is selected, you will have a bar at the top of your screen. Far right is a shape drop down. Enjoy.

  • By Reeka - 9:10 AM on February 20, 2013  

    Ok, so how do I change the shape of a photo into a circle or heart or triangle? With the previous photoshop I just had the drag the actual shape in the layers section to the photo. I don’t know how to do it in cs6

  • By Emily - 1:55 PM on April 12, 2013  

    Help! When I try to add a shape my entire image vanishes! Changing the blend mode doesn’t help, I can only Ctrl-Z until it all returns. I double click on the shape layer and can see it under the colour picker, but once I close that it vanishes again. Is this a bug or am I doing something wrong?

  • By Micah - 3:12 PM on May 13, 2013  

    In the previous versions of Photoshop, I could create a shape layer (by pen or other method) and then drag it’s path onto another non-shape layer to create a mask. Now if I want to achieve the same effect, I have to go to the Paths palette, find the path, make the selection, go back to the layers palette and choose the Make Mask icon.

    Is the previous method no longer possible?

    • By Julieanne Kost - 7:52 PM on May 14, 2013  

      If I understand what you’re saying, in previous versions you would see (on the Layers panel) a vector mask on the shape layer which you could then drag. In PSCS6, if you create the shape, and then select it with the Path Selection tool, you can simply copy it (or cut it) and then select another layer and paste it.

      • By Micah - 7:44 AM on May 15, 2013  

        Thank you…Not nearly as easy as it was before but I guess users don’t really have a say.

  • By Goran - 12:56 AM on May 15, 2013  

    How can I get the “effect” of 100-0 transparency fade on combined shape?
    I want to get that effect like shape is born in one part of mechanical part and goes to 100% solid color. But in the same way to keep it in shaped layer, not to rasterize. Any clue?

  • By Catie - 11:32 AM on June 25, 2013  

    I still can’t find the triangle. Does anyone have a link to a video?

  • By Brian - 9:52 AM on June 28, 2013  

    First issue:

    How do I get the properties tab to stop opening every time I create a shape – It is very annoying .

    Second issue:

    Prior to CS6, when using the Path Selection Tool or the Direct Selection Tool and I want to select a shape or a point on a specific shape layer, I drag out a selection box around the shape or point to accurately select it. However, now in the latest version of Photoshop, when I drag out a selection box using the Path Selection Tool or the Direct Selection Tool, I end up selecting all shapes and or points within that box even if they are on different shape layers. I need to find a work around to revert theses tools to previous versions as it has completely messed up my work flow. Also, please do not tell me that toggling the little on/off switch at the top of the layers panel is the only way to isolate a shape layer – that would be a poor design.

    • By Julieanne Kost - 7:03 PM on July 7, 2013  

      The easiest way would be to move the properties panel and dock it with another panel that is expanded.

      • By Brian - 11:54 AM on July 8, 2013  

        So essentially there isnt a way to turn off the properties tab when I create a shape. WTG Adobe.

        Second issues still needs to be addressed – any ideas?

  • By Birck - 12:15 PM on August 8, 2013  

    I give up. How do I make a dotted line without dumping Photoshop in favor of Illustrator? I finally figured out that “line” actually means “shape”. OK. Got that. So I’m supposed to be able to do a dotted line, too? OK. How? Do draw the “shape” first, then select dotted line,
    or vice-versa? And is a dotted line a shape, a path or pixels? I’ve gon through the options and tried it many ways, and nothing works. There is no dotted line. I’ve trashed the prefs and zapped the PRAM. Nada.