My goal is a rectangular vector mask that I can freely resize without resizing the masked layer, but I'm confused about the interplay between shapes and vector masks:

  • I can't figure out how to convert a dedicated shape layer to a vector mask. Ctrl + drag automatically rasterizes the shape, leading to the second problem:
  • If I draw a rectangle on a vector mask, I can't figure out how to treat that rectangle like a regular shape layer; I don't know how to resize it (or even move any of the anchor points) without also resizing the masked layer.

1 Answer 1


If you have a shape layer that you want to use as a mask for another layer you could just use a regular clipping mask like I describe [here].

A clipping mask is probably a better option but if you do want to use the shape as a vector mask you will need to copy the shapes path and use that as a mask.

For example, I have an image and a shape layer:

enter image description here

  1. Use the Path Selection Tool (A) to select the shape layers path.
  2. Copy.
  3. Hide the shape layer and select the layer you want to mask.
  4. Paste.
  5. Select the pasted path, right click and select Create Vector Mask.

Create a vector mask

Vector mask applied

To edit the vector mask you use the path selection tools to select the path itself. Use the Path Selection Tool (black arrow) to select the entire vector mask and use the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow) to select individual anchor points.

With the path selected you can edit and resize without affecting the masked layer itself.

Editing a vector mask

  • Cheers mate, exactly what I needed.
    – user70223
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 19:00
  • I've been using clipping paths, because I couldn't find the right tutorial explaining how to do vector masks from an existing shape. Your explanation is perfect. Thanks! This method is also better than clipping masks, I find, because the image/mask is locked and can be easily moved together or separately and they select as a unit (clipping paths, you have to group first).
    – John Brand
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 13:37

Your Answer

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