There are many reasons you may need to know how to draw a circle in Photoshop, such as when creating logos or cropping and framing a photo. Today, I’ll explain how to make a perfect circle in multiple ways so you’ll never have to worry about drawing an oblong or wonky shape again. 

I will show you how to create a circle with the Ellipse Tool, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. You will also learn how to fill your circle with a color, gradient, or pattern. You will learn how to change the color and shape of your circle’s outline and adjust your new outline’s settings. Finally, you will learn how to crop an image into a circle and create a circular border around your cropped image. 

How To Draw A Perfect Circle In Photoshop 

To draw a perfect circle in Photoshop, first, select the Ellipse Tool by pressing U. Then click and drag out on your canvas while holding the Shift key to keep the shape symmetrical. Letting go of your mouse, you are now left with a perfect circle.

Let’s cover this option more in-depth, along with an alternative method to consider. The second option is quicker with the Elliptical Marquee Tool but has fewer customization options.

Option 1: The Ellipse Tool 

To start your perfect circle, click on the Ellipse Tool (U). If you don’t see the tool, click and hold on to the Rectangle Tool to reveal it. 

While clicking and dragging on the canvas to create the shape using the Ellipse Tool, you may notice that the shape you create is oblong and not a perfect circle. 

The trick to making a perfect circle with the Elliptical Tool is holding down the Shift Key. Holding down the Shift Key will lock the aspect ratio to a perfect circle shape as you drag the mouse on the canvas.

Changing The Color Of Your Circle Using The Fill Option

Once you have your perfect circle on your canvas, you can change its color any time in the Options bar by clicking on Fill. This will give you a list of folders of different themed palettes for you to choose from. 

You can also click on the Color Picker in the corner and choose a color that you might have in mind.  

Changing Your Fill To A Gradient 

You don’t have to stick with a dull old solid color. You can change your Fill to a gradient by clicking on the Gradient Icon in the Fill Options Window

When you click on the Gradient Icon, you are presented with a list of folders of themed gradients to choose from. 

You can play around with the settings at the bottom of the window, but the most useful one is the Angle option. Click and drag the dial around to discover the best angle for your gradient.

Changing Your Fill To A Pattern

Another cool thing about changing the Fill of your shape is that it doesn’t even have to be a color. You can fill your shape with a Pattern by clicking on the Pattern Icon in the Fill Options Window

Clicking on the Pattern Icon will open up a list of themed patterns for you to choose from. 

There are not many settings for the pattern fills, but Scale is an option you will probably want to adjust as the patterns are often too large for the fill. Adjust the percentage up and down until your pattern is legible within your circle.

Changing Your Fill To Transparent  

You can even change your fill to no fill with the Transparent Fill Option in the Fill Options Window. Doing this will make the inside of your circle transparent, so you must ensure you have a stroke selected to see your circle. 

Changing The Color Of Your Stroke 

You can change the look of your stroke with the Stroke Option in the Options bar. Clicking the Color Selection Icon will open a list of themed folders for you to choose colors from. 

You can also click on the Color Picker in the top right corner to choose whatever color you may need. 

Changing Your Stroke To A Gradient 

Your stroke, much like your fill, does not have to be a solid color. You can make your stroke a gradient with the Gradient Icon in the Stroke Options Window.

You can adjust the settings at the bottom of the window, but the most important one is the Angle option. It’s always a good idea to turn the angle a few times to see what fits best for your project. 

Changing Your Stroke To A Pattern 

You can change your stroke to a pattern with the Pattern Icon in the Stroke Options Window. The list of themed patterned folders will be available to choose from. 

Much like using a pattern with the fill, you will most likely need to change the Scale of the pattern to make it look right within the stroke. 

Making Your Stroke Transparent 

Just like with the fill, you can erase your stroke by clicking the Transparent Stroke Icon in the Stroke Options Window. This will erase your stroke, so you must have a fill active to see your shape. 

Changing The Size And Shape Of Your Stroke

You can change the size of your stroke with the Set Shape Stroke Width option. Adjust the slider to the right or left to enlarge or shrink the stroke size. 

You can also change the actual shape of your stroke with the Set Shape Stroke Type option. 

You can change your stroke from a solid line to a dashed or dotted line. 

You don’t have to settle with the standard dotted or dashed line either. There are plenty of settings to alter your line shape by clicking the More Options button

I encourage you to play around with all the options to see what works best for your project. The most used and useful options are the Dash and Gap options. 

  • Adjusting the Dash will add or subtract the number of dashes in your stroke
  • Adjusting the Gap will change the size of the gap between each dash

Here’s a quick tip about adjusting these settings. If you move your mouse on the word “Dash” or “Gap,” your cursor will change to a scrubbing cursor, allowing you to click and drag left or right to change the amount or size of your dashes.

Hit OK when you’re done with your edits.

Option 2: The Elliptical Marquee Tool 

The second option to make a perfect circle is using the Elliptical Marquee Tool. You can find this tool by clicking and holding on to the Rectangular Marquee Tool

Make sure that you set the Feather to 0 in the Options bar

You then need to create a new layer by clicking the Add new layer button and making sure the new layer is selected.

Hold down the Shift Key as you drag your mouse across your canvas to make a perfect circle. 

Now that you have your circle selection down, you need to fill it in with a color. Right-click (Win) or Control + click (Mac) on the circle and choose Fill in the list of options.

A window will pop up asking what you want to fill your circle selection with. Choose Color to quickly fill your selection with the color of your choice. Click OK to confirm your color. 

To finalize your circle, deselect your selection by pressing Control + D (Win) or Command + D (Mac).

This is a fast way to make a perfect circle in Photoshop. However, you won’t be able to edit the fill or the stroke as you would using the Ellipse Shape Tool.

How To Crop Images Or Layers Into A Circle In Photoshop 

Cropping images into a circle shape is just about as easy as making a circle shape in Photoshop. Here’s how to cut out a circle in your image and how to export the image the right way. 

To start this process, click on the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M). Hold down the Shift Key to make the circle a perfect one. 

You can also hold down the Space bar while you hold down the Shift Key to easily reposition your selection. 

Once you have your selection in place, it’s time to cut out the rest of your image by using a layer mask. With your layer selected, click on the Add Layer Mask button

Your image itself will be cropped within the circle shape. 

Your cropped image looks great so far, but before you export it to your computer, it’s best to cut out the excess canvas you don’t need in the final image. You can do this by trimming the image. Go to Image > Trim

An options window will pop up. Under Based On, ensure the Transparent Pixels option is selected, and all four directions are checked under Trim Away. Doing this will enable Photoshop to automatically resize the canvas to make your final file the exact size it needs to be. 

Now that your image is the exact size that it needs to be, you can export it by going to File > Export > Export As

When the Export Options Window pops up, select PNG under Format. Doing this will allow you to preserve your image’s transparency by clicking the Transparency checkbox. 

Make sure not to forget to check this checkbox. Otherwise, the background will be white instead of transparent when you export your image. 

When you’re ready, click on Export to download your image to your computer. 

How To Create A Circle Border In Photoshop 

After cutting your image into a circle, you may want to add a border in the shape of a circle to your final image. There’s a good amount of setup to make things work, but once you have everything set, you will have many options at your disposal to customize your border. 

To start this process, grab the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) and hold the Shift Key and drag your mouse to create a perfect circle selection on your image. You can hold the spacebar to move the entire selection as you create it to find the perfect spot.

Once your selection is in place, click the Add Layer Mask button to hide the rest of the image.  

You’ll need some more space to create an outline behind your image. Grab the Move Tool (V), and move your photo to the middle of the canvas. 

Now that you have enough room to work with, grab the Ellipse Shape Tool (U). Hold down the Shift Key to make a perfect circle and cover your image. 

The circle you just made will be your outline by the end of this process. In the Layers panel, drag your ellipse layer below your original layer. 

With your outline behind your image, you will first notice that it is not aligned correctly. 

To make sure your image is perfectly aligned, hold Control (Win) or Command (Mac) and click on the layer mask itself in the Layers panel. This will put a selection around your mask. 

With your mask selected, click on the ellipse layer and then the Move Tool (V)

In the Options bar, click on the Align Horizontal Centers and Align Vertical Centers to perfectly align your image with your outline.  

When you’re done, press Control + D (Win) or Command + D (Mac) to deselect your selection.  

If you feel like your outline is too thick or thin, you can use the Move Tool (V) to make your outline bigger or smaller by pulling on the corner handles and then re-aligning the image and outline again as described above. 

Now that your border is a perfect size, your options for customizing your outline are almost limitless. 

To start, make sure your Ellipse layer is selected and click on the Ellipse Shape Tool to get access to the settings in the Options bar.  

Now you can customize the outline in so many different ways. For example, you can start by changing the color of your outline by clicking on the Fill color

You can add an additional stroke to your outline shape layer creating a double outline effect. 

You can change the stroke’s shape to a dashed or dotted line with the Set Stroke Shape Type

You can change your fill from a solid color to a gradient. 

You can even have a transparent fill which will give the effect of your stroke outlining your image. 

You could spend hours tweaking the look of your border. Let your imagination fly with these tips and tricks!