Graphic Thoughts: Follow the Star
Posted Mar 5, 2009

I'm not really sure if this idea came to me when I was listening to "Stars" by Switchfoot (one of my favorite bands), feeling the heartache of yet another Dallas Cowboys season with no postseason play (you know, that team with a star on its helmets that can't seem to make the playoffs), or if it's because I've had so many people ask me how to make a star in Photoshop, but I've decided it's time to show you the easy way.
While you could certainly find a font or Photoshop brush to make a star, there is actually a very easy way to do it within Photoshop. And if you do it this way, you can even dictate the number of points! Here's how.

Step 1: Create a Five-Sided Polygon
Create a new document in Photoshop (Ctrl+N on Windows, Cmd+N on the Mac). Then with any color selected, choose the shape tool (U). Its default shape is a rectangle; if you hold down your mouse button on the tools palette, you’ll get more choices. Choose the Polygonal shape tool (the icon looks like a stop sign).

Once that’s selected, look at the top of your screen and you’ll see a text-entry area along with the word “Sides.” Go ahead and type “5” in that area. You’ll also see a little black drop-down icon that opens the “Polygon Options” dialog (Figure 1, below).

Photoshop Polygon Options dialog

Step 2: Create a Sharp-Pointed Star
Click the Polygon Options area, select “Star,” and enter “50%” in the box adjacent to “Indent Sides By.” You’ll now be able to draw out a perfect five-pointed star shape, which you can then rotate and stamp in place.

The star is actually a Photoshop shape at this point. If you’re so inclined, you could alter the nodes on each end with the Direct Selection Tool (A) (Figure 2, below).
Shapes created in Photoshop by altering nodes on 5-pointed star
Step 3: Try Different Star Shapes
Of course, you might not need a sharply pointed star. One of the cool things about the Star setting is that if you go back and click the little black arrow drop down (circled in red in Figure 1), you’ll then have more Polygon options (Figure 3, below). Feel free to change the numbers to anything you like other than 5—try 16. What you’ll see is Radius/Smooth Corners/Star. If you deselect Star, you’ll then be able to create all sorts of shapes such as Octagons, Nonagons, Decagons … well, you get the point!

Alternate polygon options

Again, Photoshop doesn’t have to be complex at every stage. I hope my articles continue to show you how really cool stuff can happen in just a few clicks! As always, email me at lance at
pixelpops.com if you have further questions or comments. I love hearing your comments—keep ’em coming!

Lance Gray (lance at pixelpops.com) is the chief creative pixelmonkey at PixelPops Design, LLC. For questions, thoughts, or ideas simply email him.