I want to create shapes using Photoshop's Pen Tool, and then adjust their fill and stroke colors... possibly even their stroke widths.

(I know, my demands are outlandish. "What do you think this is? Some... kind of... vector program?!" I can hear them already.)

If I create a shape using the Rectangle Tool or one of its relatives (see below), Appearance options... appear.

Here they are, under Properties ↓ (above the Layers panel for most people).

However, should I be so greedy as to want to draw a custom shape all by myself, that's another story.

It should be mentioned that there is a Custom Shape Tool. But instead of letting me draw a custom shape, it plays a cruel joke and decides for me which shape I am to use. For example, a pussycat:

Very funny. Scratch that idea. I know about the Shapes panel, but I'm not looking to choose some pre-made cookie cutter shape or define a new shape for re-use. I want to make a custom shape, probably for one-time-use, and to be able to do it quickly.

There is a way to define a path using the Pen Tool, and then navigate in the menu to:

LayerNew Fill LayerSolid Color...

And a result is achieved that is usable - if you only need a fill but not a stroke.

Take these two layers for example. They both have the "vector" icon.

But herein lies deception.

For the one created using the Rectangle Tool offers Appearance parameters for further editing, while the one created using the Pen Tool + New Fill Layer only offers a void in my soul. (And Density and Feather sliders.)

Below is a GIF comparing the options available when one layer is selected versus the other.

To be more specific, it seems the layer made as a Color Fill is really just a fill with a clipping mask. But it would have been much more helpful had they gone the extra pixel to at least include a way to convert this to a proper shape that can be stroked.

Why is it like this? By what reasoning has Adobe devised such machinations?

And most importantly - is there a way to quickly create a vector shape with customizable Appearance using the Pen Tool?



1 Answer 1


Yes, but you can forget the Properties panel. It's of no use here (as far as I can tell). I almost never use this panel. It's a fairly recent addition to Photoshop, probably still has teething problems. "Why" Adobe does certain things in certain ways or their reasoning behind it is not really answerable here. You'd have to ask them.

Anyway, with the Pen tool selected you can change the fill and stroke options in the tool settings along the top. You can also use the Path Selection tool and Direct Selection tool (if you want to edit the path) to select a shape you drew with the pen tool. These tools also display the stroke and fill settings in the options along the top.

enter image description here

  • Thank you - this is happy news! I think the inconsistency of the Appearance being editable sometimes and other times not, is what threw me off. It explains why a solution to this this was hard to search for.
    – Mentalist
    Commented Apr 12 at 9:41
  • @Mentalist Yes, it's almost certainly an inconsistency in their implementation of the properties panel. I haven't checked but I would guess there are probably complaints about it if you search their support forum. It's a head scratcher.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Apr 12 at 9:48

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