Using Paths to Paint Strokes in Photoshop

Vector Paths have always been a more effective drawing tool than Rasters when it comes to flexibility and edit-ability. Using them in Photoshop to paint onto bitmaps can prove to be an incredibly useful way of working.

In this post I’ll be explaining one technique for drawing rasters with vector paths in Photoshop that I find hugely useful.

This is the starting image, I’m going to add light rings around the Lanterns, giving them a miniature Saturn effect.

Step 1: Start by creating a new layer and naming it “Ring 1”. Keep this layer selected for now.

Step 2: Select the Ellipse Shape Tool. Use the Control Panel to set the tool to “Path”. This way it will draw a Work Path rather than a Filled Shape.

Step 3: Hold down ALT and draw an Oval from the Middle of a Lantern the required size for the Light Ring. Open the Path Panel and note the Work Path now there.

Step 4: Select the Direct Selection Tool (White coloured Arrow) and use it to manipulate the Anchor Points and Handles of the oval path into the desired shape.

Step 5: Select the Brush Tool. Set the size of the brush to the size you require for the Ring (TIP: Use the [ and ] brackets to change the brush size while its preview is visible over the image.

Step 6: Use the Eyedropper to sample the Brightest part of the Lantern. This will ensure the Ring has a similar lighting effect as the Lantern.

Step 7: Return to the Path Panel and open the Panel Options Menu. Choose “Stroke Path”. From the Dialogue window that opens choose “Brush” from the Tool option. This will add a Brush Stroke to the Path shape on the Layer “Ring 1”.


Step 8: Add a Layer Mask to the Ring 1 layer. Using a foreground colour of Black, use the Brush tool (size and hardness as appropriate) to paint out any parts of the Ring that should appear to go behind the Lantern.

Step 9: Create a New Layer named “Ring 1 Glow”. Keep this layer selected.

Step 10: Return to the Brush Tool options in the Control Panel. Change the size of the Brush to at least double its current value and set the Hardness to 0 (zero). Select a Darker shade of Foreground Colour from the Lanterns.

Step 11: Repeat step 7 to create another, larger softer stroke effect on Ring 1 Glow.

Step 12: Change the Ring 1 Glow layers Blend Mode to Linear Dodge (Add). This will create a glowing light effect for the ring.

Step 13: Hold down ALT and drag the Layer Mask from the Ring 1 layer to the Ring 1 Glow layer. This will duplicate the Mask and finish the effect.

Step 14: Keep adding more Working Paths to the other Lanterns, remember to use the correct layers for each ring you create.