This has to be a silly question but I cannot see how, in Photoshop CS5, to draw a red bordered ellipse with a transparent fill over a picture. I often find myself doing this to highlight an area of a screenshot when posting an image to StackOverflow or sending an email to IT support.

In Adobe Fireworks it is pretty easy:

  1. Select the ellipse tool
  2. Set the fill to transparent
  3. Set the pen to red
  4. Draw the ellipse

Fireworks screenshot

It is straightforward following the same steps in Microsoft Paint.

MS Paint screenshot

But in Adobe Photoshop the ellipse tool seems to only have one colour

Photoshop screenshot

Photoshop screenshot, toolbar close-up

I could draw the solid red ellipse and then draw another slightly smaller ellipse to mask out the central region but that seems too long-winded for what must be a commonplace simple task.

What is the speedy lightweight way to call out an area of a picture by plonking a solid bordered ellipse with a transparent fill on it in Photoshop?

  • 1
    For posters to learn from down votes it is useful if the person down-voting leaves a comment explaining why.
    – dumbledad
    Commented Oct 17, 2013 at 9:40

1 Answer 1


Simply use the Ellipse Tool to draw an ellipse and set the Fill to none and the Stroke to whatever you want.


Edit: For versions of Photoshop older than Photoshop CS6

Simply set the Fill Opacity to 0% and add a stroke Layer Style


  • Thanks Scott. That's exactly what I'd hoped / expected to find. I've added another Photoshop screenshot to the question that focuses on the menu / toolbar. Mine looks nothing like yours: I do not see stroke and I do not see fill.
    – dumbledad
    Commented Oct 17, 2013 at 9:41
  • It would be helpful to state what version of Photoshop you are using. I've added to my answer for older versions of Photoshop.
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 17, 2013 at 9:47
  • Thanks Scott, that's a useful way of acheiving the effect that I am after, though it is more long-winded than I would expect. I've added "CS5" to the first line of the question. I didn't add it initially as I assumed that this was such a basic and obvious function that it would exist in Photoshop from time immemorial - clearly not!
    – dumbledad
    Commented Oct 17, 2013 at 9:52
  • It does take more effort in pre-CS6 versions. That's why Adobe wants more $$$ for newer versions with improved features. :)
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 17, 2013 at 9:53
  • This answer uses a Shape or Path instead of the "Pixels" option. Is there any way to have a "Pixels" ellipse without a fill?
    – Dai
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 8:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.