Shape layers and the Shape tools,
introduced in Photoshop 6, are Photoshop's way of simulating
vector artwork. They can be a great way to simulate the crisp,
clean edges of true vector art, such as that produced in Adobe
Shape layers are new layers added to the Layers
palette and filled with the foreground color (or a pattern if
you change it). The
layer is completely filled with color, edge to edge, top to bottom.
The "shape" is formed by using a layer mask, created
as a path, to show a portions of the
--Open a new document. Choose 800x600 from the preset list in
the New dialog box.
--Pick a bright foreground color.
--Select the Pen tool.
--In the Options Bar, click on the left-most of
the three buttons near the left edge. This sets the Pen to create
a shape layer
rather than a work path.
(The cursor rests on the button
in the following image.)
--Click-drag, move the cursor, click-drag, move
the cursor, click-drag, move the cursor onto your original point,
click. That should
create a rounded shape with several anchor points.
--Open the Layers palette and take a look. Just
as you see in the image above, you should have a background layer
it, a layer named Shape 1. To the left in the Layers palette
for that layer is a thumbnail indicating that the layer is
filled with color and showing the color. To the right of that
separated by a link icon, is a
thumbnail of the layer mask. It shows the shape of the path
that defines what's visible on the layer.
--Hold down the Shift key and click on the layer
mask thumbnail. That temporarily disables the layer mask, enabling
you to show
the entire content of the shape layer. (As in the next image,
you see a layer filled with color.)
--Shift-click again to restore the mask.
--Close, don't save.
That's how shape layers work. Remember, too, that
you can create shape layers using the Shape and Custom Shape
tools. The Custom
Shape tool has a variety of prepared shapes, and you can
load (and download from the Web or purchase) additional sets
For some background on vector artwork and how
it works, check this link.