The shape tools

Now that I've painted my rosy picture, let's dig in and look at the tools. Or, if you're not feeling brave enough, take a break and come back later. Either way. Up to you. As you've probably discovered by now, I like to give my readers lots of autonomy. That way, you're responsible for your own actions and you can't sue me if you go and pour this piping hot book all over your lap.

Now as I was saying, click the rectangle tool to display a flyout menu of six shape tools, pictured in Figure 14-2. Or press U to select the rectangle tool. Then press Shift+U to switch from one shape tool to the next. Either way — remember, it's totally up to you, I make no recommendations, my lawyer told me to tell you — the six shape tools work as follows:

4 Rectangle tool: It used to be a running gag that the hardest thing to do in Photoshop was to draw a simple rectangle. You had to draw a rectangular marquee and then fill it. Not hard, I guess, but what person outside the walls of a sanitarium would think to approach it that way? But the gag is dead — now drawing a rectangle is easy. Drag to draw a rectangle from one corner to the other, Shift-drag to draw a square, Alt-drag to draw the shape outward from the center.

Tip While drawing a rectangle or any other shape, press the spacebar to reposi tion the shape. Then release the spacebar and continue dragging to resize the shape as you normally do.

4 Rounded rectangle tool: When you select the rounded rectangle tool, a Radius value becomes available in the Options bar. If you think of each rounded corner as a quarter of a circle, the Radius value is the radius (half the diameter) of that circle. Bigger values result in more roundness.

Figure 14-2: Click the rectangle tool to display the shape tools flyout menu. Or press Shift+U to switch between tools.

4 Ellipse tool: The ellipse tool draws ovals. Shift-drag for circles, Alt-drag to draw the oval outward from the center.

4 Polygon tool: This tool draws regular polygons, which are straight-sided shapes with radial symmetry. Examples include isosceles triangles (3 sides), squares (4 sides), pentagons (5 sides), hexagons (6 sides), heptagons (7 sides), octagons (8 sides), decagons (10 sides), dodecagons (12 sides), and a bunch of other shapes with so many sides that they're virtually indistinguishable from circles. Enter a Sides value in the Options bar to set the number of sides in the next polygon you draw. Or better yet, press the bracket keys, [ and ], to decrease or increase the Sides value from keyboard. You can also draw stars and rounded shapes, as I explain in the next section.

4 Line tool: Some of you are probably thinking to yourselves, "Deke, you blithering nincompoop, how can you call these 'shape tools' when one of them draws lines?" Well, despite your name-calling, I'll tell you. The truth is, even the line tool draws shapes. Enter a Weight value into the Options bar to define the thickness of the so-called "line," and then drag in the image window.

The result is an extremely long and skinny rectangle. As you see shortly, this makes editing a line exceedingly difficult. Honestly, it really breaks my heart that The Squirt Gun that Shoots Jelly has to live on the Island of Misfit Toys while The Line Tool that Draws Shapes gets to roam around free as a bird (one that doesn't swim).

♦ Custom shape tool: It saddens me to say this, but so far, the shape tools are a bunch of drips. You can't edit the roundness of an existing rectangle or add sides to a polygon while drawing it. And the line tool offends even the otherwise open-minded Cowboy on an Ostrich. Fortunately, the custom shape tool makes up for them all. Select a preset shape from the Shape option in the Options bar, and then draw it in the image window. It's a symbol library of instant clip art.

As a special bonus, Photoshop provides a seventh shape tool in the form of the pen tool. After selecting the pen, click the New Shape Layer button in the Options bar (see Figure 14 3) to draw your own custom shape layer. And in case you're thinking, "Wait, there's an eighth shape tool!" yes, the freeform pen tool can be a shape tool as well.

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