Creating Preset Shapes

Created as a Quick Guide in 2003 Copyright SuzShook
Made a "Version-Independent" Tutorial March 2009
Property of SuzShook

This tutorial is my own creation;
however, most of the techniques used in this tutorial, I have learned from others!
Therefore, if you recognize any contribution you have made, I thank you!
And I thank you as well for respecting this as my work by not posting it,
in whole or in part,
in any other location without written permission from me!

Individuals and PSP graphics groups are invited to share my tutorials with others with TEXT LINKS ONLY.
You can e-mail me to let me know you are adding one or more of my tutorials to your list if you like -
it's always fun to know who is doing them!

This tutorial was originally published as a Quick Guide in 2003. With the demise of the Quick Guide capability in PSP, this Quick Guide is being re-published as a mini-tutorial!

This tutorial will show you how to create and save preset shapes in PSP.

I make my tutorials as brief as possible, without the customary paths, details, and how-to's. For those veterans among you, this will be welcome! But for those less familiar with PSP, I included a "Glossary" that contains all the details omitted in the tutorial. If you need a little extra help, check the Glossary section. Just click on the button below - the Glossary will open in a new window.

PSP glossary button

This tutorial assumes you have a working knowledge of Paint Shop Pro at the intermediate level (or advanced beginner level with the Glossary). It was originally written in and for PSP Version 7, then revised for PSP 8, and now made "version-independent". Screen shots for this tutorial can come from any version of PSP - where there are significant differences from version to version, a green "Version Note" will be included, along with multiple screen shots if necessary.

Where a note/tip refers to a version of PSP and all higher versions, a + sign will be used to indicate this. For example, if a note/tip applies to PSP X and higher versions, I will use the convention "PSP X+".

If you try this tutorial, and find something is inaccurate for your version of PSP, please EMAIL ME to let me know so I can fix it!

Screen shots in this tutorial are resized - your work will be larger than this!

Supplies - For this tutorial, you will need the following:
  • Paint Shop Pro - any version. The latest version of PSP can be found at the Corel site HERE.

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Ok, now we're ready to begin! Grab your mouse and let's get started!

Remember to save often!

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This tutorial will show you how to create a vector image with many shapes, and save this image as a shape library with each image as a separate shape. It will also show you how to save a composite vector image, an image composed of several different shapes, as a single shape. Suggestions are included for editing shape libraries.


Create a new image with the following settings:

  • 200x200 pixels
  • Vector background

Choose the Preset Shapes tool preset shapes tool (P), select the Ellipse shape from the drop-list, and use the following settings:

Retain style (UNchecked)
Create as vector (CHECKED)
Anti-alias (CHECKED)
Line style (#1 Solid)
Line width (1)

In the Materials palette, select the Foreground/Stroke material and Background/Fill material for your circle. I used a black (#000000) stroke and a red (#FF0000) fill.

Holding down the SHIFT key, draw a circle.

circle shape

Repeat the process to add a square and a triangle to your vector image. These can be added on the same layer, or on separate layers.

Note: Even if you place your shapes on separate layers, when the shapes are exported, PSP will move all the shapes to a single layer, and rename that layer as "Shape Library".

I added my new shapes on the same layer. For each additional shape:

  • Choose the Preset Shape tool.
  • In the Shapes drop-list, choose a different shape.
  • Set the Material options - I chose #00FF00 for the square shape fill, and #0000FF for the triangle shape fill.
  • Draw the shape.

Your image should look something like this:

image with three shapes


Let's take a look at some preset shapes terminology before continuing. Here are several very important facts you need to remember about shapes:

  • First of all, preset shapes are stored in files called shape libraries, which contain one or more vector objects. The shape libraries are the files listed in your Preset Shapes folder, and are in the format xxxxx.PspShape (or xxxxx.jsl, if you have older, pre-PSP 8 shape libraries).

  • PSP gives each individual shape, or vector object, a shape name. The names it uses are taken from the object names, which you will find on the Sublayer Name buttons of the vector objects (shapes). Click the plus sign (+) next to the vector layer to expand the layer and display the objects. Here's the Layer palette for a preset shape I created consisting of four butterflies:

    layer palette
    Version Note: The Layer palette may look different in your version of PSP - what is important here is to notice the names of the vector layer and its sublayers (vector objects) which will be the same in all versions of PSP.

    The names pointed to by the red arrows in the above image are the names that will appear in the shapes drop-list. It will make absolutely no difference what the vector layer name is - in this case, Butterflies - nor will it really matter what name you use when you export the shape, creating the shape library. It's the vector objects names, or sublayer names that matter when you're creating preset shapes. If I export the above image, calling the shape library ss-Butterflies.PspShape, I will not see "ss-Butterflies" (the shape library name) in my shapes drop-list, nor will I see "Butterflies" (the vector layer name) in my shapes drop-list. What I will see is "butterfly01" and "butterfly02" and "butterfly03" and "butterfly04". More on this later....

  • The shape names must be unique, not just within a particular shape library, but the names must be unique across all shape libraries in PSP. If the names are not unique, only the first shape PSP finds with the name will be visible - the others will be totally unavailable!

  • The names you see in the Shapes drop-list are the shape names taken from the Sublayer Name buttons, NOT the names given to the shape libraries when the shapes are exported.

If you look at your Layer palette, you will see that the vector objects in the sublayers of our image were given the names of the shapes that were used to create them:

layer palette

If we want to save this image as a Preset Shape, we'll need to change these names. We can't export a preset shape that has a sublayer name of "Triangle" because that name is already used by the Triangle shape. Likewise for the Square and Rectangle sublayers - these names are already "in use" by existing shapes, so we can't use these names for our shapes. What we must do is rename each of these sublayers before exporting the shapes, ensuring the names we choose are not already in use by other shapes. Remember, if the names are not unique, the shapes may not be visible.

To rename the shape layers, choose ONE of the following:

  • Double-click on the Sublayer Name button, and change the Name in the Vector Property dialog;
  • Right-click on the Sublayer Name button, choose Rename from the context menu, and when the name appears highlighted in an edit box, type the new name, and press Enter;
  • Right-click on the Sublayer Name button, choose Properties from the context menu, and change the Name in the Vector Property dialog;
  • Highlight the Sublayer Name button for the object you want to rename, choose Objects...Properties and change the name in the Vector Property dialog.

I chose to rename my three layers 'MyEllipse', MyRectangle', and 'MyTriangle' (I know, not very creative, but they ARE unique):

layer palette

Rename your sublayers now.


We've now completed the first steps in the process of creating a PSP preset shape - we've drawn our vector objects and made sure the sublayers were named uniquely. The next thing we need to do is select the objects to be exported. We'll do this using the Pick tool pick tool (K).

Version Note: The Pick tool was new in PSP X - in prior versions, use the Object Selection tool object selection tool (O).

To select the shapes to be exported, with the Pick tool active, do ONE of the following:

  • Holding down the SHIFT key, click on each shape in the image;
  • Drag the cursor to create a rectangle around the object(s) you want to export. The rectangle must enclose all objects completely to select them.

Alternately, you can select the vector objects to be exported from the Layer palette. To do this:

  • Click the plus sign (+) next to each layer containing objects to be exported to expand the layers and display the objects.
  • Holding down the SHIFT key, click the Sublayer Name buttons of ALL objects you want to export.

No matter which way you choose to select the objects to be exported, a bounding box will appear in the image surrounding the objects you selected:

objects selected

Note: If you choose to export ALL objects in the image, there is no need to select them - the default if NO objects are selected is to export ALL objects. However, I ALWAYS select the objects I want to export anyway, just to be sure I am getting ONLY and ALL the objects I want to include in my shapes library. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!


You can check to see where your Preset Shapes are being saved by choosing File...Preferences...File Locations. Click on Preset Shapes in the File types panel (yellow arrow below), and read the Save to path name in the Preset Shapes file folders panel (red arrow below):

file locations dialog

The default location for storing shape libraries is in the My Documents...My PSP Files...Preset Shapes folder. You can also store shape libraries in a different folder, as I do on my system. However, in either case, the above dialog will tell you where your new preset shape will be saved.

To save the image as a PSP Preset Shape, do ONE of the following:

  • Choose File...Export...Shape;
  • Right-click on the image and choose Export...Shape from the context menu.

export shape dialog

Type a name for the library file and click OK.

Important Notes:
  • The shapes library file will be saved to the default Preset Shapes folder, with a .PspShape extension.

  • The name that appears in the Enter file name box when the dialog opens will be the last name you used for a shapes library file. Change this name to the name you want to use for this shape library. For the shapes you've created for this tutorial, I would strongly suggest using a name that begins with one or more exclamation points, to keep it at the top of your Preset Shapes list (especially if you are using PSP XI+) - something like !!!TestShapes will do fine. For more information on how PSP sorts and lists shapes, see the Version Note following this list of Important Notes.

  • There will be a File Locations button file locations button present in the Export Shape Library dialog - click that button to change the default Preset Shapes "save to" folder (Version Note: PSP 8 does not have the File Locations button).

  • It is not necessary to enter the .PspShape extension with the file name in the Enter file name box - it will be added to the file name you choose if it is not already there.

If you choose the Preset Shape tool, and click the Shapes drop-list, you will find your new shapes listed!

Version Note: The way shapes are sorted and listed in the shapes drop-list varies from version to version. Though shapes are listed in what could be called a "quasi-alphabetical order", the order is far from being intuitive! Here's what I've discovered over the years in my testing:

  • PSP 8 does the worst job of listing shape names, listing them alphabetically by File Locations folder, then by shape library name, and then by the order of the vector object layers within the shape library vector image! Don't even go there!

  • PSP 9 and PSP X list shapes alphabetically by shape name - this is as it should be!

  • Versions of PSP starting with PSP XI appear to list shapes alphabetically by shape library name, but not necessarily alphabetically by shape name within the shape library. Therefore, the shape list will, at times, appear to be haphazard at best!

Here are my new shapes in the Shapes drop-list:

shapes list

Find your new shapes in the Preset Shapes drop-list. Create a new image and use your new preset shapes to draw. Make sure Retain style is checked to keep the same colors.


What if you want to save a combination of shapes as a single (composite) image? That's possible, too - you just have to group the shapes. Let's try this.

First of all, select the objects that will comprise the composite image using any of the methods outlined in STEP 4 above.

Then use ONE of the following methods to group the shapes:

  • In the vector image, right-click on the group with the Pick tool and choose Group from the context menu;
  • In the Layer palette, right-click on any of the selected sublayers and choose Group from the context menu;
  • Choose the Group command from the Objects menu.

Here's what the Layer palette looks like after grouping:

layer palette after grouping

When shapes are grouped in this manner, the name given to the group sublayer is the name that will appear in the Shapes list. Therefore, rename this layer before exporting. I called my group sublayer CompositeShapes:

layer palette after grouping and renaming

If you have the group layer highlighted, as in the above image, when you export, you will be exporting the composite shape. Go ahead and export this composite shape. Then activate the Preset Shapes tool again and find your new composite shape in the Shapes drop-list. Here's mine:

shapes list with composite shape

Saving a composite image such as this has many advantages. For one thing, it will probably save space - you are saving several images in just a single entry. Using a composite image is particularly appropriate when you are building an image from several shapes. For example you might use four or five ellipses (circles) to build a CD image. Each of the sublayers (objects) would be called Ellipse. When you've completed a complex shape like this, just group the layers and give a unique name to the group layer. Be sure the group layer is highlighted when you export the shape, and it won't matter that all the sublayers (objects) have the same name.

You can use the entire composite image in PSP, or you can use just a single part of the image. Just be sure the Retain style and Create as vector check boxes are checked when you use the shape as a Preset Shape. Open a new image and try using your composite image as a Preset Shape now. Take a look at your Layer palette - notice that all layers are intact, just as you saved them.

To remove one or more of the shapes from the image you just created, highlight the layer, and press the DELETE key. Whoosh - that shape is gone! To change the vector properties of one of the shapes, double-click on its Sublayer Name button to open the Vector Property dialog. Here you can change its Stroke or Fill, the Stroke Width, the Line Style, etc. Or, activate one of the layers, choose the Pen tool, Edit mode, and do some node editing. Anything's possible.

You can even ungroup the layers in a composite image, by doing ONE of the following:

  • In the Layer palette, right click on the group name and choose Ungroup from the context menu;
  • With the group layer highlighted in the Layer palette, choose the Pick tool, right-click on the image itself, and choose Ungroup from the context menu;
  • Choose the Ungroup command from the Objects menu.


Finally, you can open shape libraries and make changes to them. All you have to do is browse to the Preset Shapes folder, and double-click on the shape library you wish to edit.

Note: If you don't remember what name you gave to the shape library you want to change:
  • Activate the Preset Shape tool.
  • In the Tool Options palette, click the Shapes drop-list.
  • Hover your cursor over one of the shapes in that library. If tool tips are enabled, the complete path to that shape library will appear momentarily at the cursor.

Let's do that now for the shape library we created in STEP 5 above, renaming the shapes. Browse to the shape library you created in STEP 5. Double-click on it to open it in your PSP workspace.

Use the Layer palette to rename each of the objects in the shape library you just opened. Use MyTriangle1, MyRectangle1, and MyEllipse1 for the new names.

When you have finished working on the file, save it (File...Save) and close it (CTRL + F4).

To see the changes in your Tool Options palette, you'll need to "refresh" the Preset Shape tool options. To do this, simple activate another tool - any one will do - and then re-activate the Preset Shape tool. The system reloads the shape libraries, and your shapes will be there with their new names! Go ahead, try it.

You can use this same method to change any of the vector properties of shapes, such as the material (color/gradient/pattern), or even the size of the shape. Don't forget to refresh the Preset Shape tool options by selecting another tool before returning to the Preset Shape tool.

Note: If your changes are not visible in the Preset Shapes drop-list, see STEP 8 below, which contains some notes and tips, including how to delete the Shapes cache file.


Here are a few additions notes and tips:

  • If you try to save a shape library that contains shape names found in other shape libraries, you will receive a warning message. Here's what it might have looked like if we had tried to export the shapes we created in STEP 2 above BEFORE changing the sublayer names:

    duplicate shape names warning dialog

    When this happens, it is best to click the Cancel button, correct the shape names, and try the export again. If you continue to save this library, some of your shapes will be unavailable.

  • Remember, the shape name comes from the object Sublayer Name button - or from the group Sublayer Name button in the case of composite shapes. Be sure this name is unique.

  • If you find the Preset Shape tool options won't refresh after editing shape libraries, you may need to delete the preset shapes cache file. If you don't know where the cache files are stored on your system, choose File...Preferences...File Locations, click Cache in the File types box (yellow arrow below) and write down the current location of the cache file. It is listed in the Folder box (red arrow below) of the Cache file folder panel:

    file locations dialog for cache files
    Note: If you can't read the entire path name to the cache file, place your cursor in the File types box and click the END key on your keyboard to get to the end of the name. You can also highlight the entire cache folder box, copy the path, and paste it into an address box on a browser window - this will take you directly to the cache folder.

    Now, to delete the Shapes.PspCache file:

    • Close down PSP.
    • Browse to the cache folder and delete the file called Shapes.PspCache.
    • Restart PSP.

    PSP will rebuild the Preset Shapes cache file the next time you select the Preset Shape tool, and you will see your changes.

  • Though we used the Preset Shape tool to create our shapes in this tutorial, that's not the only way to create shapes. We could have hand-drawn shapes using the Pen tool (V) in Drawing Mode in PSP 8, or in one of the three drawing modes (Draw Lines and Polylines, Draw Point To Point - Bezier Curves, or Draw Freehand) in PSP 9+. In PSP 8, the object name would then have been "New Shape"; in PSP 9+, the name of the vector objects would all have been "New Path".

    Another option would have been to use the new shapes tools (Ellipse, Rectangle, and/or Symmetric Shape) to generate our shapes (PSP 9+) - using these tools produces shapes called 'New Ellipse', 'New Rectangle', and 'New Symmetric Shape'.

    Regardless of the manner used to draw the shapes, make sure the sublayers (vector objects) are renamed uniquely!

That's about it! This has been a long tutorial, but it contains some very important information about how to create preset shape libraries - a brief summary follows.

To create preset shapes for your system:

  1. Draw the vector objects you want to save as preset shapes.
  2. Make sure each object - or the group sublayer if you are creating a composite shape - is UNIQUELY named.
  3. Use the Pick tool (or the Object Selector tool) to select all the objects to be saved.
  4. Use Export...Shape to create a new shape library.

Have fun creating preset shapes for your system - the possibilites are endless! Dingbat fonts provide exceptionally great shapes - you might want to take a look at my Making Preset Shapes From Dingbat Fonts script which you can find on my Scripts page - this script does all the work for you, automatically!

Hope you have enjoyed this tutorial as much as I did creating it!

If you have any problems, comments, or questions, please do not hesitate to Email me.


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