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How To Draw the Outline of a Shape with Photoshop Elements

Stroke a Shape to Give it an Outline in PSE


Outlined Shape using Stroke Command

How to Create an Outlined Shape in Photoshop Elements | View Larger

Screen Shot © Liz Masoner

A forum member wants to know how to create shape outlines using Photoshop Elements. BoulderBum writes: "I'm aware of the shape tool, but all I can get it to create is a solid shape. There has to be a way to draw only the outline of a shape! After all, the outline appears when the shape is selected... Is it possible?"

I'm happy to say it is possible although the procedure is not at all obvious!

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 2 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Select the custom shape tool.
  2. In the options bar, choose a custom shape from the shape palette. I am using 'Butterfly 2' from the default shapes in Elements 2.0.
  3. Click next to 'Style" to bring up the styles palette.
  4. Click the small arrow in the top right corner of the styles palette.
  5. Choose 'visibility' from the menu, and pick the 'hide' style from the styles palette.
  6. Click in your document window and drag out a shape. The shape has an outline, but this is just a path indicator, not a real outline made of pixels. We're going to convert this path to a selection, then stroke it.
  7. Make sure your layers palette is visible (Window > Layers if it's not), then Ctrl-Click (Mac users Cmd-Click) on the shape layer. Now the path outline will start to "sparkle." That's because the selection marque is overlapping the path so it looks a little strange.
  8. Click the new layer button on the layers palette. The selection marquee will look normal now.
  9. Go to Edit > Stroke.
  10. In the stroke dialog, choose a width, color, and location for the outline. I picked 2 pixels, bright yellow, and center.
  11. Deselect.
  12. You may delete the shape layer now--it is no longer needed.


  1. The outlined shape is on it's own layer so you can move it independently.
  2. The outlined shape is not a vector object so it can't be scaled without some loss in quality.
  3. Explore the other shapes styles that come with Elements from the menu you accessed in Step 4.
  4. Download free styles you can add to Elements from the Free Layer Styles Index. Any styles you see for Adobe Photoshop can also be used in Photoshop Elements. You will also find free shapes and patterns here that can be used in Elements as well.
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