How to draw a life belt in Photoshop

As with all things PhotoShop there are many ways to achieve the same result.

One of the “newer” features of PhotoShop is working non-destructively. This means not having to start over every time you need to make changes or the need to keep zillions of copies of the same file. How? Well, you manipulate the original image using layers and vector masks which in turn can be turn on or off, moved around and changed after being applied. All in the same .psd or .tif file. Neat huh?

We will also be taking a look at layer styles, vector masks, cirkular text, custom contour and a few other things

I should mention that this tutorial is for Mac, but I’m sure most commands will be almost the same on a PC. If not, try and experiment.

Aprx time: ten minutes.

Here we go.

Create a new document (CMD+N).

Make it biggish and make sure it is sqaure with a transparent background. For this excersize I’ve made a 1200 x 1200 pixel document.

Next save the dacument as a .psd file.

Now press CMD+R to fetch them old rulers if they aren’t visible now.

Mousedown on the rulers to your left and pull towards the centre. Notice how a line magickly appears. So hold down the mouse and pull towards the dead centre of your transparent document. In my case it’s 1200 divided by two equals, that’s right, 600.

Repeat but this time pull from the top and down to 600 pixel vertical.

Continue to do this untill you have blue lines at 100, 400, 800 and 1100. Vertical and horizontaly


DID YOU KNOW You can switch between your sub-tools by holding down SHIFT and pressing the allocated key

Choose Circular Marque Tool or press ‘m’

Click in the centre of the image where the lines meet and hold SHIFT+ALT down at the same time. Drag outwards until you reach the outer most blue lines.

Choose Paint Bucket or press “g”. Make the foregroundcolour white. Click inside the circle.

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Now choose the margue tool again and click outside the circle to deselect.


DID YOU KNOW You can hide the guides by pressing CMD+H

Now it’s time to meet a close relative of the circular marque tool, the Rektangular Marque Tool. Press SHIFT+M until you have selected the retangular marque tool.

Pull from the centre of the image upwards to your right.

Once more drag from the centre, but this time, hold down SHIFT (a small plus sign appears next to the crosshair) and pull downwards to your left.

Select foreground colour. In my case it’s orange #FF5500.

Choose paint bucket or press “g” and click inside the marques you made.

Now choose the margue tool again and click outside the circle to deselect.


Choose vector mask to get a white box to appear next to the image in your layers palette.

Choose circular marque tool and drag from the centre outwards to about one third of the image.

Make sure you have selected white and black as your foreground and background colours. Black being the background colour. Or press CMD+D

Hit CMD+BACKSPACE (the delete button with the arrow pointing left right above the return-key)

And voila. You’ve knocked a whole through it. You haven’t removed anything, you’ve just masked with black what we don’t want to see. Notice the black circle on your layer mask.


I’m not talking about loud music, but volumetrix. We need to inflate the lifebelt and what better way than layer styles. Lets give it some shadows, pomp and circumstance.

Drop Shadow – Ads a little shadow to make it look like it is hovering and ads volume.

Inner Shadow – Now we’re talking. Notice the shadow on the inside, but that they don’t go all the way out to the edge. That’s a custom contour homebrew.

Inner Glow – A little edge highlight.

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Bevel & Emboss – Removes some of the sharp edge.

Pattern Overlay – Some strukture ads a little imperfektion.


We want the text to appear inside the lifebelt so on we go and choose the ellipse tool or press “u”.

Pull a circle from the centre and out to just a tad further than the four inner rektangles.

If you want the circle to become smaller og larger press CMD+T and pull out or inwards by pulling the corners while holding down SHIT+ALT.

Select the text tool or press “t” and place the marker at the 12.01 o’clock position.

The marker will change from being surrounded by a “box” to having a “tilde” through it.

Now we can write: wordpress photoshop photography webdesign. I’ll fiddle with the letters a bit to make it symmetric.

You will probably get a different result depending on font-face, distance between chars among other things.

Lets remove the circle by clicking the eye next to the layer (not your own eye okay)

It looks like the word “photography” takes up to much space. Let’s fix it by decreasing the distance between the letters.

Here I change the text

It’s still a bit cramped, so I’ll increase the circles radius by selecting the text layer.

Press CMD+T hold down SHIFT+ALT and pull one of the corners. Again the text needs some ironing out.

Almost finished. I’ll give the letters a little depth. Select the layer with text (not the text itself) and click Fx (Layer styles).

OK. Lets see it without the guidelines (CMD+H)

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Perfect. Well done.

And notice how few layers it takes


So you wanna make changes, huh? Perhaps you feel the inner circle is a bit small. I certainly couldn’t fit inside it. No problem. We’ll just adjust our layer mask.

Set the background to black.

Click the white square next to lift belt in the layers palette to highlight it.

Press CMD+T and hold done SHIFT+ALT and pull one of the corners.

Ta-da. The lifebelt has a bigger whole hole.

Want to make it smaller?

Set the background colour to white. Click the layer mask as above.

Press CMD (a little square will appear) and click the layer mask again. You’ve now selected the white that surrounds the black dot.

Press CMD+T and simultaneously hold down SHIFT+ALT and drag one of the corners towards the centre.

As you’ve probably noticed with the layer mask, anything that is black disappears. You can draw or make crazy selections using black on your layer mask and it will appear immediately.

That is one of the true benefits of working non-destructively with images in PhotoShop. Just remember to save as .psd or .tif and you can always return an make edits to your layer, layer masks and layer styles.

Here are two more examples:

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