photoshop creative

How to create shape-based illustrations in Photoshop, part 2

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by The Photoshop Creative Team
May 25, 2014

Continued… Use Photoshop’s preset shapes mixed with home made ones for a creative, illustrative composition

Follow part 2 of this tutorial


Now we have our key elements in place it’s time to turn them into custom shapes to reuse again and again. Click onto the first shape you wish to save, go to the Layers Palette and ensure the shape part of the layer is selected, with a white border to it.


Go to Edit>Define Custom Shape, name and save your Shape. If you return to the Custom Shape tools menu you will see your newly saved shape at the bottom. Repeat this process, naming and saving all shapes.


Any layered groups must be flattened (Cmd/Ctrl+E) before it can be converted, however because it is no longer a vector shape it must be saved as a Brush preset not a Custom shape. Cmd/Ctrl-click onto the flattened layer, creating an active selection.


Go to Edit>Define Brush Preset, name and save your brush then go to the Brushes palette. To use this brush just select it from the palette, 100% Opacity and on paint onto a new layer. In the Brushes palette you can alter the angle of the brush too.


In Elements you can’t save custom shapes but you can save your shapes and designs as brushes that work in the same way as in Photoshop, go to Edit>Define Brush from Selection then find it in the Brushes palette.


To use your saved shapes, select one from the menu, hold down shift and draw onto your canvas. A new layer will be created which will be visible in the Layers palette. If you want to alter the colours of your shapes just double-click onto the coloured thumbnail part of the Shape layer.


The Color Picker window will appear, select your new colour and press OK. So you now know how to use Transform to alter sizes (Photoshop Cmd/Ctrl+T, Elements hover over a corner) how to alter shapes colours and how to create them so now its time to build our composition.


You have your key larger elements in place already so now its time to place all of the other vectors around these pieces. Make sure every shape is on its own layer so you can quickly and easily move them all around and also keep the sizes varied.


The colour palette should be kept minimal, start of with your key colour then use tints of this plus one other colour. Any more than this and the image will become too confusing and you will loose the main shape your forming, in this case the heart.


With all gaps filled with suitably shaped images zoom out and check you don’t have too much colour in one area. Press the eye icon next to the heart background layer to hide and fill any gaps you may have uncovered.