Custom Shapes and Layer Styles
If you are a regular user of custom shapes in Photoshop, here are a few tips on using them when combined with layer styles. The benefits of using custom shapes for smaller work are the ability to scale losslessly and to experiment with colour and effects by way of saved layer styles. Getting Artwork from Illustrator into Photoshop To paste a path from Illustrator make sure the AICB option (Preserve Paths) is switched on in Illustrator (File Handling and Clipboard Preferences). This will allow you the option of pasting the path as a shape layer.
Saving New Shapes
With the Path selected, go to edit>define custom shape. It is then added to your library
Getting New Shapes
Use the great Adobe Exchange Studio http://share.studio.adobe.com/ to find great new shapes.
Working with Layer Styles
When adding some depth to a custom shape, consider experimenting with building up layer styles one by one. Often taking an existing layer style from Styles palette and adapting certain settings, you can get a feel of how the layer styles interact with each other.
Using the Pathfinder
To work with the Pathfinder tool in custom shapes, make sure the tool selected is the custom shape tool. You will not be able to paste the path otherwise.Once pasted it works in the same fashion as it does in Illustrator with the ability to save the combined/subtracted etc shape as a new custom shape. You can use the direct selection tool to move a point or the whole path if you need to fine tune any effect.
Using a layer mask with a custom shape is a powerful way or isolating an effect or area. However the layer style automatically will follow the new outlines of the custom shape if a mask is applied.In the Blending palette, clicking the option 'Layer Mask hides effects" ensures you can do masking without influencing the layer effect.
Applying Effects to Multiple layers.
Simply click on the word effects in the layer palette and drag it on top of any layer you wish to apply the current style to. If you have multiple effects applied to a shape but want to apply just a single style such as "Inner Glow" to another shape, simple click on that effect in the layer palette and drag in the same fashion. For multiple layers, it is best to link the layers, control click to "copy layer style" and then choose "paste layer style to linked"
Styles Palette & Variations
Keeping a good library of particular effects is very helpful in replicating an effect from a previous project into a new piece. For instance I keep a library of skin tones and light effects to help speed the process of making artwork in a particular style.The sheer range of options in the layer styles palette means most effects can be simulated including water, fur, grass, glass and metal. A simple switch between layer styles and opacity settings can render an ambulance into a pimped up van.
While I find custom shapes and layer styles to be a great way to work, particularly in Icon and Interface design, there are some niggles. Some of these might have been solved in CS 2 but what I have gathered, they're still outstanding issues.
- No way to scale an effect automatically with the scaling of the custom shape. You manually enter a percentage in Layer>Layer Style>Scale Effects.
- No way to set a default style for certain effects. Opening up the stroke style will always present you with a bright red 3px stroke.
- Buggy handling of scaling multiple shapes. Sometimes if the path is selected on one shape it will scale only that and no other object.
- The ability to stack the layer effects in any order. At the moment you have to duplicate the shape to stack effects in a certain way
- More control with the gradient tool for small work. Very difficult to get a gradient to align with an angled object.
- Gradient Mesh tool for Photoshop as well.