When I have a circle shape and now I substract from it a little square in the middle, what I get is a shape that looks like hollowed circle. But in fact in its paths I still have my whole shape of circle and a 'substraction path'of a shape of square. How to make it a real substracted path, so when I combine this shape with others, the substraction path doesn't affect them?

Here is more of an explanation:

1) at first I make asimple substraction on a square - notice what happens on a vector mask: it is a square and a substraction of a rectangle. It wouldnt bug me that much if not when...


2) then I add another shape...

3) and finally try to merge this two into one shape.

combining paths

The substraction makes a nice Cshape with the first shape, but also messes up the other shape.

The effect I need is just a C shaped polygon that I can merge /wo ruining rest of composition, and still get the nice, resizable shape of the whole.

sorry for not inserting images, but my reputation won't let me.

  • Hi Wicktor - can you explain "How to make it a real substracted path, so when I combine this shape with others, the substraction path doesn't affect them?" - perhaps you could show an example?
    – e100
    Jul 13, 2012 at 9:25
  • 2
    Wiktor Despite your very confusing description, I believe the problem is the stacking order. Also, you are talking about shapes and pasting shapes into shapes and merging shapes. You might want to refer to the 2 separate layers that say "Shape" as "Shapes", and the additional "shapes that you use to add and substract these shape layers" as "Paths".
    – Joonas
    Jul 13, 2012 at 11:08
  • 1
    Yes, this is the stacking order. Thank you for the answer, sorry for the confusion I made. I wouldn't figure this out.
    – Wiktor
    Jul 13, 2012 at 11:23

2 Answers 2


Draw your first shape. Then with that path highlighted, select "Subtract Front Shape" on the control bar and draw your second path.

You'll end up with 1 shape comprised of 2 paths and a hole in the larger shape.


Additional information after your edit

Although the above may seem "obvious" to you based on your comment below, the answer applies even after you've edited your question and added additional imformation.

The key to what you are doing are the Path interaction options.

Here's an additional animation to show you that it's really a matter of choosing the right interaction method before you draw a shape, that's all.

interaction 2

The Path Interaction options are "sticky". They stick tot he shape you draw immediately after choosing an option, and they will stick to future shapes until you change the options. So, to this end, you often need to change the interaction method as you put down new shapes.

If you set the interaction options to "Subtract Front Shape" then it stays on Subtract Front Shape and everything you draw will be subtracted. By altering the interaction options while you create shapes you can use the shape tools to create just about any random configuration of positive and negative areas, all within one shape or vector layer.

  • 1
    Thats one hell of an animated .gif
    – Ryan
    Jul 13, 2012 at 1:43
  • Thanks for the answer, but that what you have shown is obvious. Still when you would create another shape, then paste this shape into new shapes area, the substraction would affect both. And this is not what I want.
    – Wiktor
    Jul 13, 2012 at 8:48
  • I don't understand "paste this shape into new shapes". You'll need to provide more information. And what's obvious to some is not to others. No one here knows you're level of experience with the software. I tried :)
    – Scott
    Jul 13, 2012 at 8:50
  • @Wiktor - see my edit to my answer.. it's the same solution, just a different path interaction method.
    – Scott
    Jul 13, 2012 at 16:13
  • Amazing answer! GIFs! In addition: “Merge Shape Components” under the Path operations popup menu (the one with Combine Shapes etc) might be of use. Jan 12, 2013 at 8:07

How to make it a real substracted path, so when I combine this shape with others, the substraction path doesn't affect them?

You should be merging the shapes/paths into 1 shape object prior to combining the shape with other shapes.

  1. at first I make a simple substraction on a square
  2. then I add another shape...
  3. and finally try to merge this two into one shape.

You're mistaken. At step 1, you make a subtraction. You have 2 shapes. At step 2, you add another shape (based on your sample image, it is below the shapes that comprise the "C"). You now have 3 shapes, which means step 3 is not executing the way you expect.

In this example, you have 1 subtractive shape (a horizontal), and 2 additive shapes below it (a square, and a vertical rectangle). Since the subtractive shape is subtracting from all the shapes below it, it affects your square and vertical rectangle.

You can change 3 things to fix this:

  1. Merge the 2 shapes in step 1 before you add another shape.
  2. Don't merge the 2 shapes from step 1, but make sure the new shape is at the top of the pile
  3. Create all your shapes, but selectively merge the shapes you want to combine (In other words, even though you have 3 shapes on your layer, you can direct-select 2 of them and merge just those 2). This will have the same effect as option 1.

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