How to Make Image-Filled Shapes in Photoshop

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Photoshop may not be primarily a graphics program but it still comes with very useful tools for that kind of work. For example, making image-filled shapes.

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing some professional job like web design for your business or something personal like a birthday card, you’ll often need to constrain your photo to fit within a specific shape. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to do that with just a few clicks.

image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Intro1

Create a Shape

First, you need your shape. You can easily create one with the Shape tool from the toolbox. You can click and hold to display the menu with your choices. In this first menu, you’ll have some basic shapes like rectangle, ellipse, line, polygon and a customize shape tool.

image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Shape Tool

If you choose the custom shape you’ll have a second menu with all your possibilities for that. You can access it in the options bar at the top. If you don’t see many choices, just click on the bracket on the right and click All from the menu that will open; this will load all the preset shapes. If you download any new shapes from the Internet you’ll also found them in this menu.

Image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Custom Shape

To draw the shape you chose on a blank canvas, just click and drag until it reaches the size you want, then let go. Whenever you draw a shape on your canvas you can choose to use Fill and Stroke from the options bar. In this case, the filling will be your photo, so set the Fill as black so that your image will be constrained to the shape that you chose.

Here’s how you can do it:

image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Draw Shape

Add Your Image

Now that you have your shape you need to bring in the image to fill it. Go to Menu > File > Place. This will open a browser window so you can choose the file from your computer. Choose the one you want and click OK. This photo will be imported into your project as a new layer.

image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Place Image

Clipping Mask

Now you just have to go to Menu > Layer > Create Clipping Mask. This can also be achieved by clicking Alt + Ctrl (PC) or Cmd (Mac) + G at the same time.

image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Clipping Mask

Note: If you were following my steps exactly then the image was placed as a layer at the top. However, if you are working with a complex project with many layers or if you followed the instructions in a different order this might not be the case.

If that happens, then you do need to take an extra step. Just drag and position the image layer on top of the shape layer in the Layers panel for the Clipping Mask to work as you want.

As a result, you’ll only see the photo through the shape and the best part is that the process is non-destructive. In other words, you did not cut out your photo, the rest of it is just hidden underneath which gives you two advantages.

First, you can reposition your photo to best fit the shape. If you click on the Move tool from the Toolbox you can just click and drag the image so that it gets placed in the best possible way. You can also use any of the transformation tools to resize or rotate it until you are happy with the result.

Second, you can work on the shape as well without worrying about damaging your photo or showing any empty canvas because the photo is complete and untouched underneath.

image-filled shapes Photoshop tutorial Free Transform

Extra tip

You can do as many image-filled shapes as you want in the same canvas, as they will just be stacked as additional layers. For example, you can add text to your project.

To do that, instead of using the Shape Tool go to the Type tool and select a font type broad enough to make the effect noticeable. Then repeat the process of placing an image (it can be a different photo than the one you used for the shape) and creating a clipping mask.

image-filled text Photoshop tutorial

And again, since the image is intact underneath, you can come back and edit the text anytime you want. Have fun!

image-filled text Photoshop tutorial edit type

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Ana Mireles is a photographer and artistic researcher. She has been awarded and exhibited in Mexico, Italy, and the Netherlands. Through theory and practice, she explores the cultural aspect of photography, how it helps us relate to each other, the world, and ourselves. She has also a passion for teaching, communication, and social media. You can find more about her and her work at her website or acquire some of her works here.

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