Creating Stars and Other Shapes in Photoshop

Daniel Scott


Hi, everyone!

In this post we are going to learn how simple shapes can be the foundation for awesome designs. As in any craft, it’s important to start from the basics and make our way to greatness. If you’re new to Photoshop, join me and learn how stars, squares, circles, and other shapes can transform our work.

This tutorial is inspired by one of the chapters in my Adobe Photoshop Essentials course at Bring Your Own Laptop. When you become a BYOL member, you gain access to this course as well as my 30+ additional courses on Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, Webflow, and more. As a BYOL member you will also enjoy personalized support, earn certificates, and tackle exciting community challenges. Head here to sign-up! 

Let’s get our creative energies flowing, fire up our laptops,  open Photoshop and make some magic happen!

Shape Tool in Photoshop

Let’s start by activating the Shape Tool in Photoshop, by clicking and holding its icon from the Toolbar or using the shortcut key “U”.

Pro tip: we can also cycle through the available options inside the Shape Tool by holding Shift + “U” until we find the one we want. Fun!

As we can see below, there are six possible shapes to work with:

  • Rectangle

  • Ellipse

  • Triangle

  • Polygon (where stars and other cool things come from)

  • Line

  • Custom Shape

basic shapes created in adobe photoshop

These are basic samples of what we can do with each Shape tool.

These are pretty self-explanatory but what’s  important for us to pay attention to is the Shape Tool Options bar from which we can customize our shape’s settings and appearance.

shape tool options bar in adobe photoshop

We can customize our shapes by adjusting the Shape Tool Options bar settings.

We’re not going into Advanced mode in this post, so we’ll just have a quick look at some of the essential settings we can adjust:

  • Mode (Shape, Path, and Pixels) – sets the shape we create as vector, path, or pixel-based.

  • Fill – defines the shape’s fill color.

  • Stroke (Color, Thickness, and Type) – defines the shape’s stroke attributes.

  • Width and Height – defines our shape’s dimensions. By clicking the link icon between them will keep their values independent or connected (changing one will proportionately influence the other).

Keeping these in mind, we can move on and get down to create some incredible shapes with Photoshop.

Timeout #1

I know this is an early timeout, but it’s meant for some of you who may be wondering: “this doesn’t feel very exciting… squares and circles, what so special about that?!”  This article on Geometric Graphic Design provides a great overview as to how simple geometric shapes are the basis of so many designs.  

Drawing shapes in Photoshop

We’ll be using this example from my Photoshop Essentials course and adding different shapes to a postcard advertising my own (fictional) brand for shoes! 

Ellipse Tool

Let’s start with Ellipse and draw a circle.

First, we select Ellipse from the Shape Tool in our toolbar and then move up to the Shape Tool options bar at the top of our workspace.

pointing out the fill color button from the shape tool options bar in adobe photoshop

We can set the shape's fill color in the options bar in advance

Now we select a Fill color. You can go for any color you like for this example. You can either use the Color Swatches or the Color Picker to select your favorite choice.

swatches and color picker panels in adobe photoshop

We can use swatches or the Color Picker panel to select our shape’s color.

Next, we’ll simply click and drag to create our ellipse. If we´re looking for a freehand, oval-ish shape, all we need to do is just that: click and drag. If we want a perfect circle, we need to hold Shift while clicking and dragging to keep its dimensions proportionate. This rule applies for all the shapes we’ll create next.

a proportional circle created in adobe photoshop

By holding the Shift button while creating our shape, we’ll end up with a perfect circle.

We now have a vector-based ellipse and we can add some changes. Let’s adjust its size to best fit our layout. With our shape selected, we can go to Edit up on our Menu Bar, pick Transform Path and then Scale. We can also use the shortcut Command + “T” on a Mac or Control + “T” on a PC.

scale feature highlighted from the top menu bar in adobe photoshop

To scale our shape up or down, we can select the Transform Path tool from Edit in the Menu bar.

Next, we click and hold over one of the selection edges and drag to scale up or down. Once again, holding the Shift button while dragging will keep dimensions in proportion.

scaling up an ellipse in adobe photoshop

Click and drag on one of the corners to scale your object. Hold shift to keep its proportions.

For our postcard, we want to make it really big and move it to the left side, so we can set the stage for some more content. When scaling and placing is done, all we need to do is hit Enter and Photoshop will keep the changes we’ve made to our shape.

layout of a postcard mockup advertising shoes in adobe photoshop

Our shape is now scaled and placed inside our layout for further work.

Rectangle Tool

Now we’ll move to Rectangles and learn some cool extras we get for these shapes.

We need to select the Rectangle tool from inside the Shape Tool.

highlighted rectangle tool from toolbar in adobe photoshop

We can find the Rectangle Tool inside the Shape Tool on our Toolbar.

Making sure nothing else is selected, we can move to the Shape Tool Options bar and choose a Fill color for our rectangle. Now let’s do something different and add a stroke to our shape. We can give it a color and adjust its thickness, for now. Let’s set a value of 3 pixels.


stroke thickness set up by 3 pixels on the shape tool options bar in adobe photoshop

We can use the Shape Tool Options bar to define the shape’s stroke properties.

Click and drag to create the shape. If we want a perfect square, we’ll hold Shift while dragging, but that’s not what we’re looking for right now. With our vector shape created and active, we can have a look at Shape Properties on the Properties panel to the right of our workspace.

highlighted properties panel in adobe photoshop

We can also find our shape’s settings and styles inside the Properties panel on the right of our workspace..

From here we can adjust the shape’s Fill or Stroke colors or customize the stroke’s settings (from thickness to placement). We can also remove the stroke, by clicking the color icon and picking the “No Color” option - the one with the red slash.

highlight no color button inside the swatches panel in adobe photoshop

We can remove a shape’s stroke by selecting the “no color” button from the swatches panel.

Another setting we can work with in the Properties panel: rounding a rectangle’s corners – all at once or, even better, one by one and give it that cool asymmetric look.

To change them all at once, we need to make sure that the link icon is active. Adding a value to any of the corners will make the other three follow along.

highlighted link corner radius button in adobe photoshop

We can link or unlink a shape’s corners radius so we can change them one by one or all at once.

If we click on the link icon, we will release all corners from their connections and we’ll get to edit them one by one. As we can see below, we’re working only with the bottom right corner, making it curve as the others look the other way and don’t change at all. 

adjusting corner radius values in adobe photoshop

We can see the changes happening in our shape’s corners as we adjust the radius values.

Bonus tip: if we hover our mouse over the corner icon, as we see in the image below, the cursor changes into this icon with two arrows. If we click and drag to the right or the left while this icon is visible, we change that corner’s curve value. Awesome, huh?


adjusting corners by clicking and dragging in adobe photoshop

We can also change the corner radius values by clicking and dragging the mouse from one of the corner’s icons.

 If the link icon is active, dragging will change all corners at once! Boom! If you add different values to each corner, link them all, and then use this feature, you’ll end up with some  amazing and irregular shapes.

rectangle with asymmetrical corners in adobe photoshop

Starting from different radius values on each corner, we can work some cool asymmetrical shapes.

This is beginning to feel exciting, isn’t it? Let’s push on and try some stars!

Drawing a Star with Polygon Tool

To draw stars, we need to select the Polygon tool from inside the Shape Tool.

highlighted polygon tool from the shape tool in adobe photoshop

We can find the Polygon Tool inside the Shape Tool menu in the left toolbar.

If we make no changes, we’ll click and drag to get a default pentagon shape. If we move up to the Shape Tool Options bar, we’ll find the Sides option, from which we can add or subtract a number of sides for more complex shapes.

Let’s keep the 5-sided setting and click on the Additional Path Options button placed next to Sides. Inside this we’ll have the Star checkbox available for selection.

star feature highlighted inside the additional options panel in adobe photoshop

We can look inside the Additional Shape and Path Options panel for extra settings that modify our shapes.

Time travel #1

Adobe recently changed this feature. If you’re working with a brand-new Photoshop version like 2024, this has changed a little. We can also keep the 5-sided shape, but when we hit the Additional Path Options button, the panel now holds different settings. We lost the Star checkbox and got the brand new, all flexible, Star Ratio field. If we set its value to 50%, we’ll be able to create a classic and shiny five-pointed star.

Updated additional path and shape gradients in adobe photoshop with new star features

Adobe recently updated Photoshop’s Additional Path and Shape Options panel.

We’re back!

Inside the Additional Path Options, we check the Star box and keep Indent Sides By a value of 50%.

Next, we click and drag, holding Shift to keep proportions, and we have ourselves a potential sheriff’s badge from an old western movie.

five-pointed star shape created in adobe photoshop

We click and drag to create a five-pointed star and edit its attributes whenever necessary.

Timeout #2

Shapes, from basic to complex, have a strong impact on our minds and the way we understand and react to the world around us. For more information, check out this  article on graphic design and how shapes influence everything, from logos to typography, from illustration to composition. 

Bonus: Custom Shape Tool

I had some time so I decided to add a little extra that is not included in the class. Custom Shape is another amazing option from the Shape Tool, and it uses sets of vector-based objects that you can resize and recolor with basically no effort. There are a huge number of sets and preset shapes available, ready to be imported into our designs.

Here’s a little something I created using some Custom Shape flowers, rectangles, circles and triangles, all just for fun!

artwork created from basic and custom shapes in adobe photoshop

We can easily create artwork like this with the skills we’ve learned in this post. This one has Custom Shape flowers, some geometric shapes and a few brush textures, all blending together.

What’s Next?

Surprised? I hope that this post has made clear that Photoshop can change your life as a designer, even when you only have a few basic skills. Observe the world around you, find shapes that bring up strong emotions, and capture them in your work. 

When you become a BYOL member, you gain access to my Photoshop Essentials course as well as my 30+ additional courses on Figma, Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, Webflow, and more. As a BYOL member you will also enjoy personalized support, earn certificates, and tackle exciting community challenges. Get started here.

See you in class! - Dan