combine shape in photoshop

How to combine shapes in Photoshop

Combining shapes has always been a difficult task for people who are not related to the editing field. Photoshop, as one of the best editing apps, provides us with some tools to merge shapes together. Through this detailed discussion of how to combine shapes in Photoshop, you will be able to merge shapes according to your needs.
The tools and options that are used in combining shapes are present in Photoshop. For example, Add, Subtract, Intersect, and Exclude. These options are used step by step to merge shapes. Now let’s begin with the discussion of how we can combine shapes in Photoshop.
Step 1
Open Photoshop and create a new document where you can easily combine shapes. Click on the “File” menu and then go to the “New” option.
Note one thing that if you are selecting an image with no lipstick or want to totally change the color of your lips, you will have to do some additional editing. For this purpose, you have to set hue/saturation adjustments.
Step 2
Now draw any kind of shape. For drawing shapes, go to the “Ellipse Tools” and click on any shape like circle, square, or rectangle. Drag out the shape with the help of “Alt” to make a perfect shape. Hold the “Alt” key until the exact shape appears.
It is important to maintain layers between the shape and its background. Go to the Layers panel and make sure that your document has two layers one for background and the other for the shape.
Step 3
As we are trying to combine shapes, we will be doing the same process to add another shape. Keep selecting the “Ellipse tool”. Insert the shape as it will partially overlap the previous one.
For example, if you selected a circle at first, you would be adding another circle and get an overlapped new shape. There is a point to ponder: that is the Layers of both the shapes are separate from each other.
To check this out, go to the Layers panel again and see you will get a Layer 2 for the second shape right above the first one. Overlapping shapes does not mean the layers will get merged. They will always be separate. Each of the shapes will have its own Shape layer.
Here you are done with simply combining two similar shapes. As i told you that shape layers should be there and if you do not find layers in the Layers panel, go back to the document and click on the Create New Shape Layers that is present on the very left side of the Paths and Fill Pixels options. Normally, this option is already selected by default.
Now, we can also get some other combined shapes by adding, subtracting, intersecting, and excluding different areas of a shape or two shapes. For example, the shapes you combined above have an overlapped area. You can subtract that overlapped area and get a new combined shape. For this process we will be using some options present on the middle upper side of the window.
Adding to the area of a shape will change the default settings of the document. For example, if you click on the “Add to Shape Area” option, the shape layers will be removed, meaning any new shape will be added to the same area without having its own shape layers.
Select a shape from the “Ellipse Tool” menu. Click on the add to shape area option from the options bar. You can also delete shape 2 that was added before by dragging it to the Trash Bin. it will appear with the original shape with a background layer below the shape 1.
After doing so, just check and confirm that your shape 1 has “vector mask thumbnail”. A white highlighted margin will be shown around your shape 1 that confirms the selection of vector mask thumbnail.
If you are not seeing any kind of highlighted border on your shape, it means you did not put the vector mask thumbnail to the shape. To apply this, go to the thumbnail option and click on it. The vector mask thumbnail will tell you the look of your shape and swatch color will recognize the color of the shape.
Another important function of “vector mask thumbnail” is to provide you with the options of add, subtract, intersect, and exclude to a shape area. Otherwise, these options will be disabled from the bar. So, to combine shapes, these options are very important. That’s why the vector mask thumbnail selection is required.
After having the vector mask thumbnail, click on the “Add to Shape Area” and a + sign will appear. It is usually present on the lower side of the cursor which tells us that any new shape will be combined to the existing one without having a separate shape layer.
Now, add another shape from the Ellipse tool that will overlap the existing one. The result will be similar to the above one but in the Layers panel, both the shapes will appear in one layer. The path lines will also be visible here.
To remove the path lines, all you need to do is to deactivate the vector mask thumbnail. Click on the thumbnail option and remove the vector mask. After doing so, you will see no path lines. It will bring a difference between this and the earlier one.
Now you have a new combined shape without multiple layers and paths.

Subtract from Shape Area

As we have deactivated the vector mask thumbnail, the subtraction option is unavailable. Reactivate the thumbnail following the previous steps. You will get the options in the bar again.

Choose a shape from the “Ellipse Tool”. Go to the options bar and select the “Subtract from Shape Area” option. You will get a minus (-) sign below your cursor. It means that any other shape that will be added to the existing shape will remove a part of the existing shape.

Add another shape that will be overlapping the existing one in the same way. But, this time we will get a different result. The new shape and the overlapped area will be invisible. Only path lines will only be shown.
Go to the layers panel and see both the shapes are existing in the same Shape Layer. Again, you need to remove the path lines. Disable the vector mask thumbnail to remove path lines.
You will get a new shape by removing some area from the shape.

Intersect Shape Areas

To intersect some area of a shape, an option is given in the option bar. Select a shape at first. The option bar will be unavailable because we have deactivated the vector mask thumbnail again. Activate it and select the “Intersect shape areas” option.
You will get x below the cursor on the right side. It means you can intersect a part of an existing shape by adding a new shape. Select another shape that will again overlap the existing one.
Only the intersected part will be visible. Now remove the path lines to get a new shape with an intersected part. Remove the vector mask thumbnail and get a new shape.

Exclude Shape Areas

We will continue with the overlapped shapes. Follow the same steps and select the “Exclude Shape Areas” option from the bar. An x will appear within a small circle below your cursor. Now add another shape. The overlapped area will disappear but the path lines will be visible.
Remove these path lines by deactivating the vector mask. You will get a new combine shape again.
Sometimes , we get something else in our minds and we want to change or delete the shapes from the document. Now, as we have added the same Shape Layer to both of the shapes, it will be difficult to change or remove it. The whole document will get messed up. The reason behind this is that both the shapes are existing in the same layer. But, in Photoshop, we get the option to change or delete a shape.
We can also switch between the modes of selection. Like, if we want to change Subtraction mode into Addition mode, we can also do this. Go to the Path selection tool and click on the arrow. Now select the second shape and click on the mode you want to add from the option bar.
If you want to entirely delete a shape that is added to the existing one, it can also be possible with the Path Selection Tool. select the shape as we did before and press Backspace from your keyboard. The selected shape will be deleted easily without deleting the whole shape.
Hence, this is the whole process we need to follow to combine shapes in Photoshop. Circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, and many more shapes are combined together to form a new shape. Then, some of their parts are added, subtracted, intersected, or excluded to have more interesting shapes. Today, it is not a big deal to play with shapes and combine them.


We can also combine shapes in Photoshop through Macbook. The same steps are followed. The “Option”, “Delete”, and “Command” keys are used instead of “Alt”, “Backspace”, and “Ctrl” keys respectively.