Why and How to Use Drawing Modes For Vector Drawing Tools in Photoshop

Why and How to Use Drawing Modes For Vector Drawing Tools in Photoshop

Vector drawing tools in Photoshop are extremely useful and popular. You can draw regular or custom shapes, paths or even pixels. Yes, it is not mistaken, you can draw even pixels straightly without any additional conversion what can be useful sometimes although not recommended.

In this post, I will cover drawing modes for vector drawing tools which determines what you will draw: shape, path or pure pixels using traditional vector drawing tools.

What are drawing modes + why and how to use them

The very first question you may have is what are drawing modes and why use them anyway? First thing first: drawing modes are available when vector drawing tools like Pen or Rectangle Tool becomes active. Drawing modes instructs Photoshop what will be the end product of your drawing:

  • Shape drawing mode will instruct Photoshop to automatically create a shape layer in the Layers panel.
  • Path drawing mode will tell Photoshop that you want path outline in the Paths panel.
  • Pixels drawing mode will instruct Photoshop to draw pixels on a regular pixel-based layer. 


For your further information in case you are new to Photoshop, there are some differences between vector and pixel-based shape: you can convert vector shape to pixels but not vice versa.

What about paths? Well, you can use them to create vector mask, vector shape, selection or to insert them in Photoshop action like when recording flexible actions or when automating popular puzzle pieces effect, for example.

How to set the drawing mode

You can set drawing mode from the Options bar before drawing. You can not change your mind later because drawn pixels will not magically become a vector shape layer if you change your mind and drawing mode after the shape is drawn.

Here are the steps to set drawing mode for vector drawing tools in Adobe Photoshop:

  • Activate some of the vector drawing tools like Rectangle Tool, Line Tool, Pen Tool...
  • From the Options bar use the Pick tool mode drop-down list to set drawing mode to Shape, Path or Pixels.
  • Start drawing.
Set drawing mode for vector drawing tool in Photoshop
To set drawing mode for vector tool do the following:
  1. Activate vector drawing tool from the Toolbox
  2. Use Pick tool mode drop-down list to set drawing mode


Product used in this tutorial:
Adobe Photoshop CC 20.0.6

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