Photoshop: Shape layers and Vector masks: Adobe what were you thinking?

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  • Updated 6 years ago
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This has been posted on the Photoshop CS6 beta forum, but as it contains both a critique of the beta and a suggestion for future development, I'm also posting it here.

That's not a rhetorical question. I really am trying to understand what the Ps team's thinking is here.

It seems to me that you're trying to force an artificial distinction between a shape layer and a vector mask where very little actually exists.

Maybe you thought that differentiating the two would make them easier to understand?
IMHO what you've actually got is messy, harder to understand and inconsistent.


If anyone want's to follow my chain of thought - try this:
Create a simple shape layer - with a solid colour fill and a solid colour stroke.

With that shape layer highlighted in the layers panel...
Shift click on the Shape path thumbnail in the properties panel.

and, surprise, surprise - you've now 'converted' this to an 'old style' shape layer, revealing what it actually is - a solid colour fill and vector mask.

You can manipulate that fill layer and vector mask just like you can in CS5.
You want to get it back to a CS6 style shape layer? Ensure the vector mask is targeted for the layer and shift click again on the path thumbnail in the properties panel.

This is true for any of the other shape layer fill types.

Solid fill = colour fill layer + vector mask
Gradient fill = gradient fill layer + vector mask
Pattern fill = pattern fill layer + vector mask

The only significant difference to the user is the ability to have strokes on the shape layers.

I've spent a good few hours exploring these layers. Once you get beyond the basic 'create a shape with a fill and stroke', there is one inconsistency after another. Too many to include in this post. Frankly it's a mess.

I think the reason it's a mess is because you're trying to force this distinction.

Here's a suggestion for the future:

Revert back to the visible 'layer content + mask' display of CS5 in all cases.

Have one button/menu that toggles between 'shape layer' or 'vector mask' when you have one of these layers targeted:
  • If it's set to 'shape layer' you can set the fill and stroke options and the stroke will display.

  • If it's set to 'vector mask' it works like CS5, but any existing stroke options are kept in memory (as they seem to be in CS6) so that if/when the layer is toggled back to 'shape layer' the stroke is visible again.

Simple and understandable.
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Mike Abbott

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Posted 6 years ago

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