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Vector Drawing Techniques in Adobe Photoshop CS6

Article Description

Learn how to differentiate between bitmap and vector graphics, draw straight and curved paths using the Pen tool, convert a path to a selection, and convert a selection to a path, save paths, draw and edit shape layers, draw custom shapes, and import and edit a Smart Object from Adobe Illustrator.

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Creating vector objects for the background

Creating vector objects for the background

Many posters are designed to be scalable, either up or down, while retaining a crisp appearance: a good use for vector shapes. Next, you’ll create vector shapes with paths, and use masks to control what appears in the poster. Because they’re vectors, the shapes can be scaled in future design revisions without a loss of quality or detail.

Drawing a scalable shape

You’ll begin by creating a white kidney-shaped object for the backdrop of the poster.

  1. Choose View > Rulers to display the horizontal and vertical rulers.
  2. Drag the tab for the Paths panel out of the Layers panel group so that it floats independently. Since you’ll be using the Layers and Paths panels frequently in this exercise, it’s convenient to have them separated.
  3. Toggle the eye icons in the Layers panel to show the Retro Shape Guide and Background layers, and to hide the other two layers. Select the Background layer to make it active.
  4. The guide layer will serve as a template as you draw the kidney shape.

  5. In the Tools panel, select the Pen tool (Image).
  6. In the options bar, choose Shape from the pop-up menu, and then click the Fill color. Select white for the fill color.
  7. Create the shape by clicking and dragging as follows:
    • Click point A, drag a direction line up to point B, and then release.
    • Click point C, drag a direction line to point D, and then release.
    • Continue to draw curved segments in this way around the shape until you return to point A, and then click point A to close the path. Don’t worry if the shape flips in on itself; it will right itself as you continue.

    Notice that as you drew, Photoshop automatically created a new layer, Shape 1, just above the active layer (the Background layer) in the Layers panel.

  8. Double-click the Shape 1 layer name, rename the layer Retro Shape, and press Enter or Return.
  9. Hide the Retro Shape Guide layer in the Layers panel.

Deselecting paths

You may need to deselect paths to see the appropriate options in the options bar when you select a vector tool. Deselecting paths can also help you view certain effects that might be obscured if a path is highlighted.

Notice that the border between the white kidney shape and the background has a grainy quality. What you see is actually the path itself, which is a nonprinting item. This is a visual clue that the Retro Shape layer is still selected. Before proceeding to the next exercise, you’ll make sure that all paths are deselected.

  1. In the Paths panel, click in the empty area beneath the path to deselect all paths.
  2. Choose File > Save to save your work.

Changing the fill color of a shape layer

You created the shape with a white fill so that it was easy to see. But for the poster, you’ll change the color of the shape to blue.

  1. Select the Pen tool in the Tools panel, if it’s not already selected.
  2. In the options bar, click the Fill color. Select the Light Cyan Blue color.

The fill color of the shape changes to the blue you selected.

Subtracting shapes from a shape layer

After you create a shape layer (vector graphic), you can set options to subtract new shapes from the vector graphic. You can also use the Path Selection tool and the Direct Selection tool to move, resize, and edit shapes. You’ll add some interest to the retro shape by subtracting a star shape from it, allowing the outer-space background to show through. To help you position the star, you’ll refer to the Star Guide layer, which has been created for you. Currently, that layer is hidden.

  1. In the Layers panel, show the Star Guide layer, but leave the Retro Shape layer selected. The Star Guide layer is now visible in the image window.
  2. In the Paths panel, select the Retro Shape shape path.
  3. In the Tools panel, select the Polygon tool (Image), hidden under the Rectangle tool (Image).
  4. On the options bar, do the following:
    • • For Sides, type 11.
    • From the Path Operations pop-up menu, choose Subtract Front Shape. The pointer now appears as cross-hairs with a small minus sign (Image).
    • Click the Settings icon to the left of the Sides option to display the Polygon Options window. Select Star, and type 50% in the Indent Sides By box. Then click an empty area of the options bar to close the window.
  5. Click on the orange dot in the center of the orange circle in the image window, and drag outward until the tips of the star rays touch the circle’s perimeter.
  6. When you release the mouse button, the star shape becomes a cutout, allowing the sky to show through.

    Notice that the star has a grainy outline, reminding you that the shape is selected. Another indication that the shape is selected is that the Retro Shape shape path is selected in the Paths panel.

  7. In the Layers panel, hide the Star Guide layer.
  8. Notice that the thumbnails in both the Layers panel and Paths panel show the retro shape with the star-shaped cutout.

  9. Click in the area beneath the path in the Paths panel to deselect the path.
  10. The path is now deselected, and the grainy path lines have disappeared, leaving a sharp edge between the blue areas and the sky. Also, the Retro Shape shape path is no longer highlighted in the Paths panel. That shape is pretty bright, though, and may overpower the spaceship. You’ll make the shape semitransparent.

  11. In the Layers panel, reduce the opacity of the Retro Shape layer to 40%.
  12. Choose File > Save to save your work.
6. Working with defined custom shapes | Next Section Previous Section