Creating speech bubbles in Photoshop using the Custom Shape Tool (Pre Photoshop CS6)

*Note: This tutorial was written for Photoshop versions before CS6. You can find a tutorial with step by step instructions for making speech bubbles in Photoshop CC here.

Speech bubbles are used a LOT around the web in logo designs and as icons. Photoshop comes with a set of speech bubble shapes just waiting to be used, but they are hidden away a little bit. Here’s how to create your own speech bubble graphics.

1. Select the Custom Shape Tool on the toolbar.

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2. On the Options bar at the top of the screen, choose the paths option.

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3. Again on the Options bar, click on the drop-down box called Shape. This opens a set of default shapes that can use for drawing vectors. Click on the triangle on the top right corner – this opens a drop-down menu – and from there choose Talk Bubbles.

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4. A dialog box will open asking if you want to Replace or Append the current set of Shapes. I usually choose Append, and this adds the new set of shapes to the end of the currently visible shapes.

5. Now scroll down through the shapes and you’ll see a lovely set of speech bubbles.

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6. Click on the bubble you want to draw and then click and drag out the shape on the image window. Hold down Shift to constrain the proportions on the bubble.
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At this stage, you’ve drawn out a vector path but there are no pixels at this stage. We can stroke or fill (or both) the shape at this point but first, it’s important to set up the colours and brush that we’ll use.

8. On the colour picker on the toolbar, choose your foreground. I picked dark red #990000.

Click on the brush tool and in the options bar choose a size, hardness and shape of the brush that you want to use. The size of the brush dictates the width of the stroke you will apply to the path you’ve just drawn.

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I chose a hard, round 15 pixel brush. This will vary for you depending on the size of the path you draw and how thick you want the stroke to be.

9. Open the paths panel. At the bottom of the panel click on the Stroke Path button.

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This adds a 15 pixel stroke to the path.

The path will still be visible, so to turn it off click anywhere on the grey area under the path name (it will say Work Path unless you changed the name) on the Paths panel.

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10. If you wanted to fill the bubble with colour you would do the same steps as above but click on the Fill button on the bottom of the palette.

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11. (Optional) You can, of course, add all kinds of styles from the layers panel or choose Windows > Styles to add extra oomph to your bubbles. Here are a few examples;

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Download my Photoshop Custom Shapes Cheatsheet

The three-page cheat sheet gives you a quick start to working with Photoshop’s Custom Shape tools and a visual guide to every shape that comes with Photoshop.