Let's say I have 2 vector shapes on 2 separated layers, A and B.
Both are circles, B is smaller than A.

I want to "cut out" the smaller circle (B) from A, to obtain a donut (A minus B), on a single layer.

In adobe flash it's just a matter of move B over A and then press delete, can't find the equivalent in photoshop.

5 Answers 5


sorta kinda works the same way in Photoshop. Use the fact that a selection is defined independently of layers:

assuming that the object to subtract is all by itself on it's layer B:

  1. Cmd-click on the layer icon of layer B, to select the shape's outline
  2. make layer A active (the selection is still the outline of the shape in B)
  3. hit delete (or menu Edit->Clear)
  4. hide or delete layer B

Let's now assume your object is in the form of a vector mask. You could rasterize it, then it's normally editable. Or, you could create a layer mask from the selection (you created earlier from the other vector mask) to hide what's underneath.

  • That looks exactly like what I want to do, however when I get to 3) and hit del, I get "Could not complete your request because the content of the layer is not directly editable" (layer A contains just a vector shape). Am I meant to do this in illustrator or similar instead?
    – Razor
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 18:37
  • pulled up the solution from my comment to the article. thanks @iWasRobbed Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 11:44

stumble across your question, don't know if this answer might help or not since you have asked long ago. From your elaboration, I think you can work out this way:

Use direct selection tool.

Select vector B and click on the path of circle B, select the whole path by using shift key (select all path dots, 4 dots)

Copy (Ctrl+C), then select vector A, click on the path of circle A, Paste (Ctrl+V).

Up until this, you will have two different paths in the same layer presumably on layer vector A.

With pen tool function selected. Make sure the path B still highlighted (all path dots), choose the Subtract from shape area from the available options.

Then you will get your donut shape, while maintaining as a vector. Hope it helps. =)

ps: I'm using CS2, it could be different in other versions.


I have been trying to do this (well atleast what i think you are trying to achieve) for quiet a while now.. but never knew what to do.. i understand this is old but i thought for those who are still looking around for an Updated/more specific(CS6) answer all you have to do is

select the two shapes in layer panel with ("cntrl + click" (this is for windows))

i made sure that the one i cut out is on top of the other(i am certain that is necessary) and than right click on the two on the main screen.. (work area) and there is a tab available that says "subtract front shape" and that works perfectly..

Hope that helped..

  • +1 "Subtract Front Shape" with Pen Tool worked for me
    – ow3n
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 16:14

You should be able to use the Magic Wand tool in photoshop to select the shape then EDIT >> CUT. Depending on the version of photoshop you can then use the new Content Aware Fill to fill in the spot where the shape used to be.

  • "Could not use the magic wand because the target is a fill layer". I am working with 2 vector shapes, much like 2 circles made with ellipse tool, I thought wand was for raster images?
    – Razor
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 17:31
  • Ahh didnt realize they were vectors. I dont know Illustrator that well but I think that is the way your going to have to go since it is far better equipped with working with vectors than PS> Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 18:26

Select both the shapes in the layers panel, then right click on one of the shapes on your canvas, then select one of the "subtract shape" options

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