• Filling Shapes with Text in Photoshop: Tracing Shapes with Curvy Lines

    This week, we are continuing our series on creating and filling text boxes. Last week, we introduced Photoshop's pen tool with straight lines. This week, we'll explore the flexibility of the pen tool with curved shapes and freeform drawing. If the shape you are filling has curves like bracket frames, Fancy frames, wheels, quatrefoil shapes, or the purple journaler in Readymade Extended Journalers No. 2, you have several options. Here's how to get started:

    Begin by opening a document and getting the Pen Tool.
    Make the following choices in the Options bar at the top of the editing window:
    Tool mode: Path
    Path operations: Combine Shapes
    Path alignment: Align to canvas
    Tick the box by Auto add and delete

    Method 1: Multiple Anchors

    This is the easiest way to address curved sections. Since type doesn't have smooth edges anyway, this is a perfectly acceptable way of creating a text box around curved shapes.

    • Bring your cursor over to the document. I'm using Wood Veneer Wheels No. 1 for the sample.
    • Click to add an anchor point in the place you want to start outlining the text box. Now move the cursor and click again to create another anchor. Don't click and drag – just click. As you click, you'll see the path form between the anchor points. Keep clicking to add more anchors until you reach the original anchor point.
    • When you hover over the initial anchor, the pen tool cursor changes to include a small circle at the bottom right corner. This is a visual clue that you are about to "close" the path. Click the initial anchor point to complete the shape, making it ready to fill with text.


    • Get the Type tool and select a font, size and color in the Options bar.
    • Click the Character and Paragraph panels icon in the Options bar to view the floating Character/Paragraph panel.
    • Click on the Paragraph tab and choose Justify All icon on the right side of the box.
    • Move the cursor over to your document and position it inside the shape you drew. The cursor changes to an "I" surrounded by a circle when you are inside the shape. Click anywhere and begin typing. Your text will be constrained to the shape.
    • Tick the checkmark in the Options bar to confirm the text.


    Method 2: Bézier Curves

    • The second method is to cause Photoshop to curve the line between two anchor points. To do this, create the first anchor point using the same settings listed at the beginning of the tutorial. I'm using Readymade Extended Journalers No. 2 for the sample.
    • After making the initial anchor point, move your cursor and click again to add another anchor point half-way around the curve.
    • Drag your mouse a little away from the anchor point to drag out the direction handles. As you drag out the handles, the path curves between the two anchor points. To create a deeper curve, drag out a longer handle. Now move your cursor to the next spot you want to anchor and click. You won't need to drag – just click because the second anchor already had a handle extending from it so the new path segment arcs already. Continue adding anchor points, curving where needed or making straight lines by clicking without dragging.
    • Be sure to close the path by clicking the original anchor point at the end.
    • Fill the curved shape with text using the same method as for straight lines: Get the Type tool and move the cursor over to your document and position it inside the shape you drew. Click and begin typing. Tick the checkmark in the Options bar to confirm the text.


    Method 3: Draw It by Hand

    • If you have a talent for drawing, get the Freeform Pen Tool (under the Pen Tool in the Tools panel.) I'm using Messy Doodle Frames No. 2 for the sample.
    • Click and drag the cursor on your document to draw out a shape. Use the same Pen Tool settings listed at the top of the tutorial. Using a graphics tablet as a mouse gives you a more natural feel for this method. As you click-and-drag on the document, you'll see the path line being drawn.
    • Be sure to close the shape by clicking the first anchor point. When you release the clicker, the software adds anchor points to your sketch.
    • Fill the shape with text by getting the Type tool and positioning the cursor inside the shape you drew. Click and begin typing. Tick the checkmark in the Options bar to confirm the text.


    This technique gives you the most control over the creation of a text box in the shape of your choice. Any shape you can dream up can be created using the Pen Tool in Photoshop. In the next tip, we'll move on from text boxes and start looking at methods for creating text on paths around shapes.