Learn how to create complex designs in Photoshop from simple shapes. Learn how to quickly rotate shapes, how to find and fill them and some ideas for using them in your own work.

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Complete transcript of this video:

Hello, I’m Helen Bradley. Welcome to this video tutorial. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to create complex designs from simple shapes in Photoshop. And this will work in practically any version of Photoshop. Before we start on this tutorial I’m going to show you exactly what you’re going to end up with so that you can get an idea as to what we’re aiming for. This is the kind of complex shape that we’re going to create in Photoshop, and we’re going to do it using Photoshop shapes. And what I’ve done is I’ve created a shape on this middle layer and then another shape on the top layer. And what I’ve done is actually blended the two together using a blend mode. But if you liked it you could actually just settle for this shape. You can take any part of this tutorial and use the pieces of it in your own art. So let’s just tuck this image away and let’s get started. And the first thing that we’re going to do is to create a brand new file. And I want to make this file a fixed size because I’m going to need to use some of these dimensions in a minute. And I’m going to make it 4,000 by 4,000 pixels because that’s going to make the math really easy. I’m going to set it to RGB color and I’ll have a white background. So that’ll be just fine. I’ll click Ok. The first thing I’m going to do is add a new layer to make sure that everything is kept separate of this background layer. And then I’m going to choose View and then New Guide and I’m going to add two guides. I’m going to add them at 50 percent horizontal and then another one at 50 percent vertical. And I’m going to choose View and make sure the Snap is turned on and that we’re snapping to guides. Now let’s go and find a shape. Now the shape tools in Photoshop CS6 that I’m using are a little different to in the earlier versions but they work pretty much the same as long as you just follow along here. Now the first thing I’m going to do is select a shape. Now this is the shape that I used earlier. So let’s just click on that to use it. I’m to set my foreground color. I’m going to make sure that I’m working in pixels. Now in earlier versions of Photoshop there’s icons here not a dropdown list. But what you want is Filled Pixels. And then I’m going to make sure my shape is selected, and I’m going to select my layer and draw my shape. And I’m going to set it away from the center line. But before I finish drawing it I’m just going to hold the spacebar and position it. Now I’m going to want it more accurately positioned but we can do that in a second, just let go and it’s filled. I’m going to click the move tool and I’m going to zoom in here because I want to make sure that this is in the exact right position. So yes it has snapped into the correct position. So I’m going to leave it there. Now I’m going to choose Layer, New Layer Via Copy. Now this is critical that you use these steps that we made a second layer and then we’re going to press Ctrl or Command T to get into Transform mode. Now we want to rotate this shape but we want to rotate it around the center point. So I’m going to grab this sort of marker here in the middle and drag it over the center point of my image. And I can check up here and this should say 2,000 pixels by 2,000 pixels. And if it’s not dead right I can come in here and change it. We want it to rotate around the exact midpoint. Then we need to change its angle. And I’m going to rotate this one 30 degrees. So each one of them is going to be rotated 30 degrees from the previous one. And I’ll click the checkmark. To save myself having to do that repeatedly I’m just going to press Ctrl Alt Shift T, which is Command Option Shift T on the Mac. And as you can see every time I press that key I get a rotated shape. I’ll do that until I rotate around the full 360 degrees. I’m then going to click on the first of these layers I’m going to Shift Click on the last of them so they’re all selected and then choose Layer, Merge Layers. And I could just press Ctrl or Command E. And that’s put that shape on a layer all by itself. And really that’s all we’re going to do to create this small complex shape. Let’s go and add a brand new layer, and now let’s go and find a different shape. Here’s the Custom Shape tool. Let’s go and find a different shape to use. Now earlier I used this shape. So let’s just select it. It’s sort of like a little rickrack design. I’m going to change my foreground color so it’ll be a little easier to see and I’m going to drag it on the image. Now I’m not concerned that it drags in proportion here. I think it’s more interesting perhaps if it doesn’t. I’m going to position it roughly where it goes, then zoom in with the Z or Zoom tool.     I’m going to choose the Move Tool and make sure that it is directly on that line, so it’s snapped to that line. Now I’m going to make a new layer, Layer, New Layer Via Copy. With this new layer I’m going to make sure I have Move Tool selected. I’m going to move its center point so that its rotation point is right over the middle of my image. I’m going to check up here and if it’s not at 2,000 by 2,000, and X and Y at 2,000 and 2,000 I’m going to make it 2,000 and 2,000. And now I’m going to rotate it. And this one I’m going to rotate just 10 degrees and click the checkmark. And then I’m going to Ctrl Alt Shift T a number of times, in fact 35 times, for this to rotate around and finish its rotation. Then I’m going to grab this layer, click on it, scroll down to the last of these layers, Shift Click on it and then merge them with Layer, Merge Layers or press Ctrl or Command E. So let’s just zoom out here and this is our new shape. And this is the shape with the original one underneath. And now I can impact how these shapes relate with each other by for example setting an Overlay Blend Mode. You can see that we’re getting a different effect. And we can use all sorts of blend modes for these layers to control how they interact with each other to get different effects in our pattern. Now I like that one so I’m going to settle for that. And let’s just add one final layer to this. I’m going to click on the layer. I’m going to add another color. It’s going to be a dark purple. And this time I’m just going to add a circle, a filled circle. And I’m going to add it out here. Actually let’s make it an oval. Now a filled oval, I’ve just dragged the oval out. I need to fill it. The foreground color is the dark purple that I want. So I’m going to Alt Backspace, Option Delete on the Mac. Now I could if I wanted to add some additional circles. So if I wanted to align these or not align them as I wish I can do that. So let’s just add a few different shapes in here. And we’re going to use these to decorate our piece. So having created those shapes I’m now going to select the Move Tool and Ctrl Click on this layer so that I’m going to affect the entire layer. I’m just going to move this down so it’s centered. Now we’re going to do exactly the same thing as we did before, Layer, New Layer Via Copy. We’re going to use the free transform Ctrl or Command T. We’re going to move this transformation point into the center of the circle because we want everything centered nicely. We’re going to change this to 2,000 by 2,000 pixels in case it is not already set up to be that. And then we’re going to choose an angle. I’m just choosing an angle there is a factor of 360 degrees. So I’m going to choose 36 this time and click the checkmark. And now Ctrl Alt Shift T, Command Option Shift T on the Mac, to create my rotations. The same as before, select the first layer, Shift Click on the last of these layers, Ctrl or Command E to merge them. And now let’s see what we have. I’m going to zoom out. You can see that these dots have given us a little bit more visual interest in our design. And we can just run through these blend modes to see what sort of effect we can get with the blend mode. So I’m just running through down the blend mode list to see if any of these are giving me an effect that I like on my design. Well I kind of like the green that I’m getting with this exclusion. So there you have the way of creating a complex pattern in Photoshop. And all we’re doing is creating shapes and rotating them around a known center point. When I’m through I’m going to choose View, Clear Guides and that will get rid of the guides so that we can see our finished pattern. And we could use that as a repeating pattern in Photoshop. We could make it into a shape. We could do all sorts of things with it. We could even make it into a brush if we wanted to. I’m Helen Bradley. Thank you for joining me for this Photoshop tutorial. You can find more of my tutorials on the this YouTube channel. And visit projectwoman.com for tips, tricks and articles on Photoshop, Illustrator and Lightroom.

Helen Bradley