I can't seem to figure out how to create a shape that creates its own layer without it being created behind an other. How can I do this?

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This is what I'm trying to create:

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Instead I'm getting this, which doesn't allow me to align the rectangles correctly

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  • 5
    All of these shapes are in their own layers. So as far as I can tell, your layers form a big blob of color just because you've used only a single color and nothing to differentiate the rectangles from each other. You can reorder layers by dragging them vertically in the Layers panel on the right, but it's not going to make a difference visually, unless you change the color of each rectangle or something. – Joonas Jun 26 '15 at 13:42
  • Yup, I've done that, but they all align to the same position – Connor3456 Jun 26 '15 at 15:44
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    It's still unclear to me what it is that you're trying to achieve. If you could try and explain that a bit more? – Joonas Jun 26 '15 at 19:17

"Layers" is the core idea that will allow you to put various parts of your content in any arbitrary order. "Shape" in Photoshop generally refers to what is created by using the Pen tool. But I think you are using the term "shape" to refer to any element that shows what we call "shape" in daily language. You can use the Pen tool or the marquee tool then fill it with a color to create these shapes. The pen tool by default puts new "Shapes" on their own layer as my attached image shows.The shapes may be parts of a photograph, multiple photographs, hand-drawn shapes, so long as they are on separate layers you can change the order by simply drag-and-drop of the layers that represent these shapes. Fair warning: Using the pen tool may be a frustrating experience until someone shows you the ins and outs of it.enter image description here


OK, this is the final answer to your question:

  1. Before adding any shape, click on the icon next to the trash can; it looks like a square inside a square. This will create a new blank layer.
  2. Now, using the marquee selection tool select an area, you will see the marching ants running around your selection.
  3. Pick a foreground color and fill the selection with that color.
  4. Add a new blank layer, add a new selection, pick a new color and fill the selection.
  5. Now you have two layers with two "shapes" on it.
  6. Press the letter V to grab the Move Tool.
  7. You will see alignment icons on the toolbar.
  8. Select both layers and click on one of the alignment tools, say align left or top.

You will see that the two colored shapes will align as you instructed. You can change their order by dragging a layer in the layers palette up or down, changing the order of the layers. You will see that your image will change to reflect the new order of things.


(I don't know how else to do it, so I am providing a link below. I am not promising to keep the file there forever, so download it if you want to see it.) There is a small downloadable file at the following link. It is a PSD file with one background and two colored shapes. That should give you a clear idea.


  • Hello! Thanks for the response. What I am looking to do is assemble rectangles using the alignment tools but they all are aligning in the same position. graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/13595/…. This question above is the same issue I'm having but the answers given have not resolved the problem. – Connor3456 Jun 26 '15 at 15:20
  • I believe the problem lies with the fact that each shape sits on a full width/full height background. So, when you align them you are actually aligning the layers which are of identical sizes. Instead of putting them on a white background on each layer, put the shapes on BLANK backgrounds. Now the shape is the entity that will align rather than the entire layer. – user45605 Jun 26 '15 at 15:36
  • Hey, sorry for being such a noob. The thing is, im not actually adding a background, i'm just clicking on the shape button and creating a rectangle from there. – Connor3456 Jun 26 '15 at 15:50
  • @Ryan You must use blank layers before adding the shape content, if you have any color fill on that layer that fills from edge to edge on which you draw your shapes the align tool will behave the way you describe. You may reread my answer and follow the instructions exactly. – user45605 Jun 26 '15 at 23:00

If you merely want 1 layer with all the shapes on it...

Set the Shape Options in the Control Bar across the top of the screen, to Combine Shapes before you draw anything...

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All your shapes will then appear on the same layer:

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If you, by chance mean, you want the layers to be created in reverse order, so you draw a new shape behind existing shape layers....

Well, that's not how Photoshop works. New layers, including new Shape Layers, are created at the top of the layer stack always.

You would need to draw the largest rectangle first, then the next smallest, then the next smallest, and so on.Or draw all your shapes, then rearrange the layer stack in teh Layers Panel so the sizes are in the order you want.

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