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Mirroring Paths to Create Shape Symmetry

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With Photoshop's increased sophistication with handling paths, users have more reason to create and use shapes directly in Photoshop rather than looking to another illustration program. Duplicating and combining mirrored paths can help create perfectly symmetrical shapes without painstaking measurement. This article provides what you need to create shapes and designs that are fit for storage and reuse through the new Photoshop Shapes library.

Richard Lynch is the author of a number of books and articles on Photoshop, scanning, and digital imaging, including Special Edition Using Adobe Photoshop 6. He is currently at work on a book about digital photography: The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Digital Photography.

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A symmetrical shape has perfect mirroring, either horizontally or vertically, or both horizontally and vertically, so that the shape is perfectly balanced. Symmetrical shapes are useful for creating buttons for the Web, making shaped selections, creating special effects, creating special characters, defining your own Photoshop Shapes set, working with clipping paths, creating transparency, and more.

Working with perfectly symmetrical shapes is important when freehand approximation just won't cut it. It is also useful for quickly creating simple image elements, such as hearts or arrows; and more complex elements, such as decorative tailpieces and logos (see Figure 1). Working with paths has been possible for awhile in Photoshop, but control over the result was not always so easy. Many times, users would have to turn to other programs (such as Illustrator) to create what they needed and then bring it back into Photoshop.

Figure 1a, Figure 1b

Duplicating elements vertically or horizontally can produce perfectly symmetrical shapes. They can be used as is to create flat elements, or developed with other Photoshop effects to create more complex image elements.

Photoshop 6 has improved path handling, and allows you to do a lot more with creating and implementing vector shapes. Once you have created the shape, you can store it in a Photoshop Shapes set and have it available whenever you need it.

This tutorial will walk you through the steps of creating a symmetrical shape, and show how to save it for later use.

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