I have a little Photoshop-Problem and couldn't find a solution for it by searching the web. I guess I'm doing something wrong, so it would be brilliant if someone could point me into the right direction.

The problem is: I'd like to subtract one shape from another. But every time I try to do this by clicking on the respective button in the toolbar, I get a very queer result, where all of the background is suddenly filled with the colour of the first shape. But when I use the same operation via right-click, everything works. Why could that be? I'm very confused.

enter image description here enter image description here

Any idea what the problem could be?

Thanks in advance


  • You could try switching which one is on top visually. Thanks for contributing and welcome to GraphicDesign.SE! If you have any questions let us know Feb 6, 2015 at 20:59
  • This ultimately comes down to how your paths are "stacked".
    – Scott
    Feb 6, 2015 at 21:34
  • Thanks for your replies. I tried changing the layer order with no effect. I also tried to merge the layers. In that case it works. I can use the path arrangement button to properly "stack" the layers and then apply the desired path operation. Unfortunately in the real document (not my test-document) I don't want to merge the layers, so this isn't an option. Could it be I've configured something wrongly? Or am I using the wrong tools, maybe?
    – Thalaia
    Feb 7, 2015 at 20:08

3 Answers 3


When you use Subtract front shape (from the tools options bar) it subtracts the front shape from the whole document and it uses the color of the front shape as default which is the circle.

enter image description here

When you use subtract front shape by selecting the two object(circle and rectangle) the front shape(circle) is subtracted from the rectangle.

enter image description here

Thanks Digiscape Gallery

  • Hi Digiscape Gallery, thanks for your answer. The first part I've understood, I think. It makes sense, that if the shape is subracted from the whole document it's basically inverted (shape wise). With the second part, I still have some problems: How exactly may I select the two objects? I always use the path selection tool. But as can be seen in the screens I attached to my OP, both shapes are selected (as the path anchor point are visible). I fear it's so simple, I'm just overlooking something.
    – Thalaia
    Feb 7, 2015 at 19:59
  • Btw: I realized it works, when both shapes are on the same layer, properly stacked and the correct one is selected (just the one). But when they are on different layers, I just can't use the button. Instead I have to right-click or use the menu (Layer - Combine Shapes - Subtract Front Shape). Can it even been done via toolbar in this case or are there two different functions that just are named the same?
    – Thalaia
    Feb 7, 2015 at 20:00

Use the shift key to select two layers. Go to your layers panel by pressing shift, select the two layers and then go back to the screen and then right click your mouse.

Thanks Digiscape Gallery


Create two shapes in one layer and select shape which you want to subtract (but confirm that your selected shape must be in front of other shape). Apply "Subtract Front Shape" (command from the option bar).

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