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How to use custom shapes with Photoshop channels tutorial

color channels and Photoshop custom shapes

How to use Photoshop custom shapes with the powerful channels (red and green and blue) to create amazing color effects in CC 2017 2015 CS6 CS5 etc. The key panel is the channels panel which can be found via the window menu. Apply a Photoshop shape as a 'pixels' option to one channel, apply a custom shape to another color channel, combining Photoshop shapes across channels creating stunning RGB images. You can also use the channels panel with custom shapes in LAB and CMYK etc. You can split the channels into separate images and use the image files as RGB or grayscale and add additional shapes and effects and layers etc. You can then merge the image / channels back to a single image again. You can also use channels and shapes and type in Photoshop. This tutorial shows you how to use shapes with the Photoshop channel's panel.

Custom shapes to purchase

$7.79 (also GBP, etc) for the set, CSH format, download


BUY 13,000 Custom shapes for Photoshop CC 2017 2015 2014 CS6 CS5 etc and Photoshop elements to use with different color channels CSH 13,000 Custom shapes for Photoshop and Elements

  1. Select the custom shape / CSH tool

  2. Select color "channels" panel (from the window menu if not visible)

  3. Select fill pixels (for shape) - top bar

  4. Select one of the channels only (say RED)

  5. Apply current selected artwork to RED channel

  6. Select green channel

  7. Apply current selected artwork (you don't have to use the same artwork), perhaps offset from red design (or smaller or apply effect as well)

  8. Click RGB on channel panel to return to standard RGB view.

RGB Channels and applying custom shapes to different channels such as custom shapes to the red channel and green

custom shapes and channels in RGB

You can apply custom shapes to any channel. You can apply the shape once or multiple times. To change channels (no remote needed) select the required channel and then apply the artwork in the current color

  1. Window menu and channels

  2. Go to the channels panel

  3. Select the red channel

  4. Apply the custom shape in one location

  5. Select the green channel entry

  6. Apply the custom shape in another location and so on

  7. Select the RGB entry

Using different image modes (LAB etc) with the Photoshop channels for syan channel, lightness channel etc

lab mode and channels and different image mode in Photoshop

You can also use the RGB channels (as well as LAB channels and CMYK channels etc) to use visual effects to each channel in turn.


The vector CSH artworks can be added just as easily to the Lightness and a and B channels of LAB Image mode as well as the cyan and magenta channels etc of the CMYK image mode.


You don't have to use all the Photoshop color channels either. You can use the Lightness only and ignore the AB ones if you wish

  1. Go to the image menu in Photoshop

  2. Mode

  3. LAB

  4. Go to the channels panel (window menu)

  5. Select the LAB channel

  6. Select custom shape tool

  7. Select shape

  8. Apply shape in LAB

  9. Go to the channels

  10. Select "a" channel

  11. Apply shape etc

Split channels menu command for the custom shapes in Photoshop - sometimes you need RGB

lab and spread multiple channels and split command

You can add the artworks to the the various channels via the the panel but you can also work with them split into individual files for the red and green and blue channels. You can split them into individual files via the right side menu. The split command does not add the files as RGB etc but adds them as grayscale which is of little use if you wish to use the artworks with various effects that can only be used in RGB / LAB etc (and will not work in grayscale).


You can resolve that by going to each of the red and green etc (or cyan and magenta) and changing the image mode to RGB via the image menu and then adding the effects and additional vector paths to the artwork (the advantage of the split is also that you can then use them as layers instead of just pixels and then you can add styles into the mix).

  1. Go to the channels panel in Photoshop

  2. Right side menu

  3. Split channels (generates three different images for the red and green and blue)

  4. Go to the red image and image menu and set mode to RGB

  5. Go to the green image and image menu and mode RGB

  6. Repeat for the blue image

  7. Go to the red image and select the green channel for that (channels panel)

  8. Add custom shapes

  9. Go to the blue image and select the red channel for that

  10. and so on

You can also add all kinds of image effects such as blurs, camera raw etc as well as shape layers and brushes

Merge the split channels to combine the results of the custom shapes in Photoshop

merge channels for the shapes in Photoshop

Note - If you have worked in RGB mode during the split, you will have to return the modes back to grayscale for all the images otherwise the merge channels command is unavailable

  1. Channels panel in Photoshop

  2. Right side menu

  3. Merge channels

  4. Select mode

  5. Select channels

  6. OK

  7. Specify channels red / green etc and select file for channel

  8. Click OK

You can combine the channels back in a different order, i.e red becomes blue and green becomes red and blue becomes green (you cannot use the same image twice though)

Using Type with the color channels in Photoshop - create amazing type effects with the shapes and color channels

type across channel photoshop

Much the same can be done with type and the color channels to create many different color type effects. You can either use the split and merge approach and so you can add the type and effects to the artworks and perhaps combine with custom shapes in Photoshop and then merge; or you can just select the red channel or green channel etc and then click with the type tool.

  1. Go to the channels panel

  2. Go to the red channel

  3. Select the type tool

  4. Apply type in the red channel

  5. Resize the font size

  6. Click the check button or press esc

  7. Select menu and deselect

  8. Go to the green channel

  9. Add some additional type

  10. Go to the blue channel

  11. Repeat

  12. Go back to the RGB channels

Other tutorials

1. How to load multiple custom shapes in seconds for Photoshop tutorial

Youtube Video Tutorial

A quick video showing some uses of the Photoshop shapes and channels [Youtube]