How to Create Photoshop Custom Shapes from Images

Working with custom shapes can save you a lot of time. What if you need an object and don`t know from where to get it or how to build it? It`s simple. Get it from an image. In this tutorial, I want to show you how to create Photoshop custom shapes, straight from images. Don`t worry, it`s not rocket science. There are only a few steps to cover and the only things you need to know is how to cut out objects using either the Pen Tool or Magic Wand Tool.

The first step is to find a proper image from which you should cut out the shape you need. For example, I want to cut out an eagle. I`m suggesting you Flickr as the start of your image search because it can filter through copyrighted and free-to-use images. For this tutorial, download this flying eagle picture.

Now open Photoshop and drop the image. I`m going to show you 2 ways of cutting out objects. First one and the easy one, using the Magic Wand Tool(W) and the second one, using the Pen Tool(P).

Magic Wand Tool versus Pen Tool

Although both tools are mainly used for the same thing which is to cut out objects, there are some differences between them. Magic Wand Tool does the job fast (almost instantly), the quality of the selection might be poor. This tool works best on simple images and well defined objects because is making the selection according to colors. On the other hand, Pen Tool does an extraordinary job on cutting out objects, but it has to be done manually by user(which is you), therefore the time to do it depends on the difficulty of the object. So, for accurate results, I`m suggesting you use the Pen Tool. If you don`t know how, you might want to check out this tutorial I wrote a while ago about how to use the Pen Tool.

1. Create Custom Shapes using the Magic Wand Tool(W)

In both cases, what we need to do is to trace the outline of the object. Select the Magic Wand Tool(W), set the Tolerance to 20 and click on the blue background. The background will get selected. If you`ll click now on Delete, the background will be deleted, but that`s optional.

We need the selection of the eagle only. To obtain it, go to Select->Inverse and you`ll obtain it.

Now that we have the eagle selected, right click on the image(make sure you still have the Magic Wand selected) and click “Make Work Path”. A popup will appear. Set the the tolerance to minimum(0.5) and hit ok.

Now go to Edit->Define Custom Shape and name your shape.

That`s it, you`ve made a custom shape. If you open the Custom Shape Picker, you should see the custom shape you`ve just created.

Create Custom Shapes using the Pen Tool(P)

Although the process of cutting out the eagle`s shape takes longer, I prefer the Pen Tool instead of Magic Wand, because is more accurate. Select the Pen Tool(P), choose whatever state you want(Shape Layers or Paths) and start drawing, by following the eagle`s shape. If you don`t know how to use the Pen Tool yet, here`s a good tutorial. Once you`ve finished the path, right-click and select “Define Custom Shape”.

Name your custom shape and hit OK. You`ve created a custom shape and it should be available in the custom shape picker.

How to Save Custom Shapes to Sets

Now that you know how to make custom shapes, the only thing you should learn is how to save them into custom shape sets.

Open the Custom Shape Picker and click on the small play button from the top-right side of the panel. Then click on Preset Manager.

From the panel, select your custom shapes and click on “Save Set”. Name your sets and save them wherever you want. That`s it. Simple.

That was all, my friends. I hope you`ve learned something from the tutorial and if you have any comment or feedback, don`t hesitate to leave it below. Thanks!

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Madalin Tudose

I`m a web developer. I build HTML Templates and WordPress Themes which are eventually released on ThemeForest under the DeliciousThemes brand.