Installing & Using Photoshop Custom Shapes

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Installing & Using Photoshop Shapes Tutorial
Photoshop 7, CS-CS6, CC

This tutorial will walk you through how to install and use Photoshop’s custom shapes. You can find our shapes here.

1. First off, download a custom shapes set. In this example, I will be using our Banners & Scrolls Shapes set. It will come in ZIP format, so you’ll need to unzip it using your favorite ZIP extraction software.

The extracted file should have a .CSH extension. When you’re extracting/unzipping, it will ask you where you want to place the .csh file. If you’re in Windows, choose Program Files > Adobe > Photoshop > Presets > Custom Shapes (this may vary depending on your version of Photoshop and where you installed, but the last few directories will be the same). If you’re on a Mac, find the folder where you installed Photoshop (usually your applications folder), and choose Photoshop > Presets > Custom Shapes.

2. Now open Photoshop. (If you had it open during the installation, you’ll need to close it and re-open it before the file will show up automatically in the custom shapes listing.)

Click on Photoshop’s custom shapes tool (or click “U”). If the custom shapes tool isn’t showing, click “U” to find the right spot on the tools palette, then right click on it to bring up your options, then choose “Custom Shape Tool.”

3. Now to load our shapes set. In your top bar, just below your menu, look for the shape thumbnail, and click on the small arrow just to the right of it (marked “1″ in our illustration).

That window that pops up shows your currently loaded shapes. In order to load our set, we’ll want to click on that small arrow on the upper right corner of that window (marked “2″ in our illustration). Find “SS-scrolls-banners” in that list, and click on it. Photoshop will ask you if you want to “Replace current shapes with the shapes from SS-scrolls-banners.csh?” Choose Ok.

4. You should now see the banners & shapes from our set in your preview window. Click on one of them. I’ll be using shape number “18.”

Up on the left part of the top bar, you’ll see three choices for how you want to use that shape. Assuming that you want to use it to create a shape and not a path, choose the one on the left – “Shape Layers.” This will create a custom shape in the design that you have chosen, and it will be very easily manipulated or resized if you should need to do so later – without any loss in quality!

5. Hit “D” on your keyboard to switch your foreground/background colors to black/white. Open a new file with File > New (or PC: CTRL-N / Mac: Command-N). Make it 1500 by 1500 pixels, resolution doesn’t matter, color mode of RGB, background contents white.

Click on the upper left portion of your canvas and drag down and to the right. You should see the shape. If you want to make sure that the ratio stays the same as what it was originally, then hold down SHIFT as you drag (you can even pick it up and let it go to see the difference AS you’re dragging). Once you let go, your shape is created.

6. You’ll notice an odd line around it, like this. That line is showing you the path of the shape.

You’ll also notice something a bit odd in your layers palette. It’s actually applying that shape or path as a vector mask (something you don’t need to understand to use shapes, but thought I’d point it out to those of you that use masks). Basically, in the case of shapes, that means that we can still resize or transform that shape any time we want, without any blurring or loss of quality. It’s resizing or reshaping the path, not a bunch of pixels, so it’s much more precise.

7. That’s the basics on installing & using Photoshop’s custom shapes. Tip: If you want to get a better view of that design without the path line showing around the edges, you can do one of two things:

  • Right click on that layer with the shape and choose “Rasterize Layer.” However, once you do this, the shape will be converted to pixels, and will not be able to be reshaped or resized without loss of quality.
  • In your layers palette, click on the “Paths” tab. You should see the “Shape 1 Vector Mask” path highlighted. Click anywhere just beneath that path to deselect it. Now you can switch back to your “Layers” tab to continue working, and you should be viewing the shape without that line around it.

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  • Joey

    Hey, wow. This tutorial rocks socks. Thanks for the walkthrough. I was going to suggest linking to this on your main page, but I see you’ve already done that. Another great Photoshop resource for me to refer back to! Thanks, Stephanie.

  • poobear

    This is great, thank you so much for sharing


  • lex

    gotta love people who do these things!

  • Amanda

    I lub yr website n u r legends! I read yr terms n conditions which are awesome by the way.. Thx

  • Chris Hebert

    Your brushes are incredible and a life savor for me. Love your tutorials too. Very easy to understand and follow.

    Big thanks for all your time devoted to your site and work!!!



  • mizzkr1

    can you use this step with gimp as well ?

  • Tiffany

    Your website and tutorial is absolutely wonderful.
    Thanks for all the helpful tools.

  • Rebecca

    I’m just coming back to graphics after a few yrs of
    burn out & lack of inspiration/time, plus, I’m starting
    to learn CS3 right now …it’s not as easy as I hoped lol.
    But thanks for your site and resources (stuff other than
    just brushes) so I can start to load some quality images
    and your tuts to help me learn to use them…. awesome work
    and it’s greatly appreciated!

  • Stephanie

    @dingding: It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Mac or a PC, it still installs the same. However, this tutorial is for Photoshop. I don’t think you can use Photoshop’s shapes in GIMP, yet. Maybe you can, I don’t know. I’m not a GIMP user at all. You could check out some GIMP forums and see. Best of luck!

  • shoaib hussain

    thnx a lot,subscribed,simply love the simplicity of your blog and most of all its about psd .

  • Contemporary Art

    nice blog please keep it up

  • anand

    wow! super tutorial. thank you sir.thank you.

  • Kathy

    Thank you for your extraordinary tutorials and downloads. This is so helpful.

  • jan

    hi, i noticed that the banner itself cannot be filled with color. it’s actually transparent. is there any way that i can fill it with color or gradient, etc???

    • Stephanie


      1. Make sure you have the layer with the banner shape on it selected.
      2. Click somewhere outside the banner using your magic wand selection tool.
      3. Now you want to invert your selection so it’s selecting the shape inside the banner (and the banner itself), so choose Select > Inverse.
      4. Make a new layer BENEATH the layer with the banner on it.
      5. To make sure your new color doesn’t show around the borders of the banner, you want to contract that selection just a bit. So choose Select > Modify > Contract, then put in 1 or 2 pixels (depending on how big your image is)
      6. Use the paint bucket tool (or the gradient tool) and the color of your choosing to click somewhere inside that banner.
      7. Voila, you now have a solid or gradient background behind it. If you want to add a pattern, you can do that, too – just add it as a layer style to that new layer you created.

  • Alex

    THANK YOU A TON !!!!!!!

  • new release

    Wow.. this is a great tutorial for use custom shapes… i have custom shape, style, gradient, brush but don’t know to use it.. after read this tutorial now i know how to use it.. thank you very much.

  • Jp

    Hey, thank you so much!!!

  • Hong in Vietnam

    Thank your to the information. This helps me to save much time.

  • Carolina Sautereau

    great and useful tips!!! tyvm!!

  • Stevie Krueger

    You Rock! Thanks so much!

  • Naser


    can we use this custom shapes for commercial purposes?

    • Stephanie

      You can read all about my terms of use here:

      But basically, you will need to credit me on or alongside the item everywhere it’s used OR purchase a commercial license for $3 per set.

      • Naser


        I was asking about the default Photoshop custom shapes……..

        • Stephanie

          The ones that come with Photoshop? Those…. aren’t mine. So, well, that’s up to Adobe. Not me. :)

  • Tiggy

    This helped so much on my plain projects. So very versatile with ideas.Thanks

  • Andreas

    How do I install this to Gimp?

    • Stephanie

      It’s all written in this very article… It’s the second part. And what I’ve written is all I know – I don’t use GIMP.

  • printable marlboro Coupons

    It’s fantastic that you are getting thoughts from this post as well as from our discussion made at this place.

  • sandeep

    How do i install new shapes

    • Stephanie

      That’s what this tutorial explains. :)