I'm attempting to follow the below Photoshop tutorial, but steps 29 and 30 have me stumped.

The larger of the two white rectangles in the below image was created on its own layer. Once I have that layer selected, it's actually impossible to carry out step 29, as the "Add to shape area" button is greyed out on the tool bar. I can only do this by first making the black rectangle on a new layer, then subtracting the inner white square from that...

Relatedly, I have no idea how to do step 30. This is for a pencil icon to place within the square just created, but it does not specify what layer this should be made on.

Is it possible I should have Paths selected rather than Shape Layers at the top? I've tried this, but it didn't seem to do the trick. Once I created a work path, I didn't know what to do with it in order for it to add or subtract from the below layer, nor how to add more paths and be able to manipulate each individually (in the case of the pencil icon...)

Any help here would be greatly appreciated!!

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  • I've managed to solve the issue with Add/Subtract/Intersect etc. being greyed out - I needed to click on the vector mask itself rather than the layer. Nevertheless, I now have the same problem as when I use Paths - making the shape simply creates a work path that I am not sure what to do with. Surely not convert to selection, as then how would I apply the add/subtract? It also doesn't mention this in the tut. Jan 16, 2013 at 17:40
  • I don't really follow this. What version of Photoshop are you using? Shapes are DRAMATICALLY different between CS6 and all other versions.
    – Scott
    Jan 16, 2013 at 21:08
  • Sorry, CS5... Is there something specifically you don't follow that I could try to clarify? Jan 16, 2013 at 23:31

1 Answer 1


Okay if I follow things, based on the couple steps you've posted.....

For Photoshop CS5:

Select the Rectangle Tool.

In the Control Bar you want Shapes and Create New Shape Layer selected:
ctrl bar 1

Draw the rectangle (A new layer should be created).

Now click the Subtract from Shape option in the Control Bar:
control Bar 2

Draw a second, inner, rectangle.

Now click the Exclude Overlapping Shape Areas option in the Control Bar:
Control bar 3

Draw the rectangle for the pencil.

Select the Polygon Tool, enter 3 for the number of sides in the Control bar (don't change anything else):
Control Bar 4

And draw the point for the pencil.

You can see all this in an animation here:
(Purposely not posted inline to avoid large image load by default)

The animation was done quick and without any real attention to placement. Traditionally I'd use Illustrator for this then copy/paste as a shape layer into Photoshop. Or at the very least, I'd be using guides and aligning things better if drawing this in Photoshop.

  • Hi Scott, thank you very much for helping me out here. I'm following your instructions, but seem to have fallen at the first hurdle! When creating the square, in the Layers panel I don't get the square "Fill" icon (with black inside and a slider graphic at the bottom) next to the vector mask - I simply get a plain black square. Consequently, the shape I draw does not fill with black :( Also, the first step in the instructions I posted advises "Path Mode: Add to Shape" for this first rectangle. Is this wrong, then? Thank you again. Jan 17, 2013 at 17:07
  • @Zak833 Make certain the shape tool is set to "shape layers" -- "Add to Shape" is only available when you already have a shape, the first path it shouldn't be available. At least it's not here.
    – Scott
    Jan 17, 2013 at 19:51
  • No, it is set to Shape Layers and it still just creates an empty outline/path when I draw the square. I've even reset the tool :( I'll keep trying to figure it out... Jan 18, 2013 at 8:46
  • Also, I do have a shape selected - the big white square underneath the other two - and yet Create New Shape Layer is the only option (vs. Add/Subtract etc.) that isn't greyed out! Starting to think there's something wrong with Photoshop. Jan 18, 2013 at 8:49
  • Sounds like you may need to reset the preferences.
    – Scott
    Jan 18, 2013 at 9:04

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