How To Subtract Shapes In Photoshop

If you are new to Photoshop, there are probably a variety of tricks and tools you aren’t quite familiar with. One of those might be subtracting shapes from an image.

There are a variety of ways to subtract shapes in Photoshop:

  • Combine shapes in the Layer menu
  • Make a selection with the marquee tools
  • Use the magic wand tool
  • Invert selections to subtract around shapes

Subtracting shapes in Photoshop can be a quick and easy process, as long as you choose the right tools and know how to use them. Below, you’ll learn about the best ways to subtract shapes in Photoshop, so you can easily decide which method is best for your project.

How Do You Subtract A Shape In Photoshop?

Subtracting shapes is a great way to quickly create designs in Photoshop. Whether you’re designing business cards or creating websites, this is a useful skill to know and one you may use more than you think.

However, not all design projects are the same and will require the same editing methods. While it may seem pretty straightforward to subtract shapes in Photoshop, the method you use will depend on the look you are trying to achieve.

The easiest way to figure out which methods to choose is to open up your document and try them out for yourself.

Combine Shapes In the Layer Menu

The most straightforward way to make a shape subtraction is to use the Subtract Front Shape option from the Layer menu. This is best used for those who are working with multiple shapes and would like to subtract one from the other to create an entirely new shape.

For example, let’s say you would like to make a crescent moon shape. Start by creating two overlapping circles of the same size on your canvas.

Next, make sure both layers are selected and click on the Layer tab in the menu bar at the top. Find Combine Shapes and select Subtract Front Shape. This will remove the front circle and anything behind it, leaving behind the crescent moon shape.

Make A Selection With The Marquee Tools

Using Subtract Font Shape isn’t the only way to create a crescent moon. Another way is to use the marquee tool to subtract shapes from an image.

To do this, first, start by creating your base circle. Next, grab the Elliptical Marquee tool from the toolbar. Holding the Shift key to create a perfect circle, create a round selection that overlaps your existing shape.

After your selection is made, hit the Backspace on your keyboard to delete the selected area. You should now be left with a crescent moon. To deselect the selected area, simply press Ctrl/Command + D.

Subtract Shapes With the Layers Panel

Continuing with the crescent moon example, let’s subtract shapes using the Layers panel.

Start by creating two overlapping circles on your canvas. Next, hold Ctrl/Command, and select the thumbnail of the top circle in the Layers panel. You should see a dotted selection appear around the circle on your canvas.

Release the Ctrl/Command and click into the layer that contains the bottom circle. Press the backspace button on your keyboard to delete the selection. Now hit Ctrl/Command + D to deselect the selection.

Now, remove the top circle from view by either hiding it in the Layers panel or deleting the layer altogether. You should be left with a crescent moon on your canvas.

Invert Selections To Remove Everything But the Shape

One final option for subtracting shapes is to do an inversion. This is best used when you like to keep the element within a shape and remove everything outside of it.

Let’s say you are creating a t-shirt with a geometrical design. You have filled your canvas with your chosen pattern, but you would like the design to be in the shape of an oval.

Grab your Elliptical Marquee tool from the toolbar and create a selection on your canvas. Next, click Select from the menu you bar and choose Inverse. This will change the selection to everything on the outside of the oval, instead of everything on the inside.

Now, hit the backspace to delete the selected area and you should be left with an oval shape filled with your design. You can now save and upload your design to a site like Placeit, and you should only see the oval-shaped pattern across the t-shirt.

Final Thoughts

This article should have given you a few ways to subtract shapes in Photoshop. Depending on what you hope to achieve, each method of subtracting shapes has its pros and cons. Which one you use will ultimately depend on the complexities of your design and your preferred style of editing.