In Photoshop, anything is possible to create as far as you make use of the right tools. You can turn scribbles into designs and also paths into shapes. For graphic beginners who are starting up in the world of graphics, here is a little something on what paths are, tools for creating paths, and a guideline on converting Path to Shape in Photoshop.

Key takeaways

  • Creating a path with the “pen tool” is more for freehand drawing and the “shape tool” is more fixed when it comes to dimensions and directions.

What is a path?

According to various definitions, paths are lines and shapes constructed from line segments and anchor points that stretch easily and contract to alter the shape derived. It is a line with anchor points that change in direction and from a straight line to a curved line.

Tools used in path creation

There are two main tools for path creation:

  • The pen tool – a freehand yet very efficient when drawing paths and also when editing paths.
  • The Shape tools include the Ellipse tool, the rectangle tool, the circular tool, the custom shape tool, etc.

Whichever tool you decide to use in creating a path, the good news is that the process is very much the same and straight forward. Just keep in mind that the pen tool requires a certain degree of familiarity and perfection to get it right, unlike the shape tool.

The difference between a path and a shape

As defined earlier, paths are lines constructed from line segments and anchor points, whereas shapes are objects that have defined boundaries with fills and strokes, made from lines and curves. Put merely, paths are primary tools for creating shapes.

Note that as one can convert a path into a shape in Photoshop, you can also convert it into a path, but that’s a job for another day.

A white canvas in photoshop

Step 1: Create a new canvas

To begin, the first step is to create a new canvas to commence work. Go straight ahead to Files on the left-hand side of your screen, and click on Files. On the drop-down menu, you click on New and use the dialogue box that will pop up to create a new canvas. For a shorter process, click Ctrl + N to get your new canvas set.

Using the pen tool to create lines

Step 2: Creating a path using the pen tool

To create a path, use your pen tool – a freehand drawing tool located in the tool menu at the left-hand side of your screen. In the above image, the path’s creation is gradual by slowly following the dot marks on the canvas, gently redirecting the lines, and tracing the path out carefully.

In the following sequence of images, the designer keeps tracing different paths suitable to make a final shape out of them eventually.

Using the pen tool to create paths

Step 3: Creating a path (continued)

Like in the previous image, the path tracing can take many forms to achieve the perfect traced path. The direction of a path changes according to the designer’s desires, which is mostly possible when using the pen tool as a freehand drawing tool. Creating paths with shape tools is more fixed since the tool is more accurate in terms of dimensions and directions. For adjusting or editing a path created by a shape tool, a pen tool comes in handy and does the trick neatly.

A shape on the white canvas

Step 4: the final path created

The designer created a suitable path that resembles a circular-like or oval-like path, making the conversion into shape easier. Now proceed to convert the path into a shape.

An oval-like shape filled with red colour

Step 5: Converting path to shape

Once you finally figure out the path you can trace with your pen tool; the next step is to convert it to a shape. For that, proceed to the top ribbon of your screen, and you’ll find Shape right there. Click on shape, and the path you have traced out will convert to the nearest similar shape possible.

In the image above, the shape created has a red filling to it. To achieve that, once you complete the path tracing and implement the shaping, proceed to the Layer menu and click Adjustments and choose from Solid, Gradient, and Pattern to fill in the shape.

An oval-like shape on a white canvas

Step 6: Move your shape

After converting the path to shape, you can use the move tool to position your shape in the right place on your canvas and then remove the final product’s move tools.


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Graphic designing is a job of many alternatives and approaches; it provides endless means of achieving the perfect design and creating the ideal image in varying ways. Just as you can create a shape using shape tools, Photoshop gives you the option to easily convert a path to a shape, as seen in the guidelines above. To get the best way to achieve that perfect shape, keep practising with the steps.