The paint bucket tool

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Unlike remedial paint bucket tools in other painting programs, which apply paint exclusively within outlined areas or areas of solid color, the Photoshop paint bucket tool offers several useful adjustment options.

In Version 6, you access the paint bucket controls in the Options bar, as with all tools. When you select the paint bucket, the Options bar automatically updates to show the available controls. If you don't see the Options bar, press Enter, double click the paint bucket icon in the toolbox, or choose Window ^ Show Options. Also note that the old keyboard shortcut for selecting the paint bucket — the K key — now selects the slice tool. The paint bucket and gradient tools share a flyout menu in the toolbox; press G to toggle between the two tools (or Shift+G, depending on your preferences setting for tool toggles).

Here's a look at the paint bucket options:

* Fill: In this pop-up menu, choose whether you want to apply the foreground color or a repeating pattern created using Edit ^ Define Pattern. The Define Pattern command is covered in the "Applying Repeating Patterns" section of Chapter 7.

'J Pattern: If you select Pattern from the Fill pop up, click the Pattern icon (or the adjacent triangle) to display the Pattern drop down palette, as shown in Figure 6-1. The palette contains icons representing the icons in the current pattern preset—Photoshop 6 lingo for a collection of patterns. Click the pattern you want to use.

You load, replace, edit, and create pattern presets just as you do brush presets, working either in the Preset Manager dialog box or the Pattern palette menu, which you display by clicking the triangle labeled in Figure 6-1. Photoshop 6 enables you to create multiple patterns; you're no longer limited to one custom pattern.

The Chapter 5 discussion of custom brushes details presets fully, so I won't waste space repeating everything here. Be sure to also check out Chapter 7, which explains ways of creating custom patterns.

Click to display palette menu

Click to display palette menu

Figure 6-1: These options govern the performance of the paint bucket tool.

♦ Tolerance: Raise or lower the Tolerance value to increase or decrease the number of pixels affected by the paint bucket tool. The Tolerance value represents a range in brightness values, as measured from the pixel that you click with the paint bucket.

Immediately after you click a pixel, Photoshop reads the brightness value of that pixel from each color channel. Next, the program calculates a color range based on the Tolerance value — which can vary from 0 to 255. The program adds the Tolerance to the brightness value of the pixel you clicked to determine the top of the range and subtracts the Tolerance from the pixel's brightness value to determine the bottom of the range. For example, if the pixel's brightness value is 100 and the Tolerance value is 32, the top of the range is 132 and the bottom is 68.

Figure 6-2 shows the result of clicking on the same pixel three separate times, each time using a different Tolerance value. In Color Plate 6-1, I raised the Tolerance to 120. But even with this high setting, I had to click several times to recolor all the nooks and crannies of the oranges. The moral is, don't get too hung up on getting the Tolerance exactly right — no matter how you paint it, the bucket is not a precise tool.

♦ Anti-aliased: Select this option to soften the effect of the paint bucket tool. As demonstrated in the left example of Figure 6-3, Photoshop creates a border of translucent color between the filled pixels and their unaffected neighbors. If you don't want to soften the transition, turn off the Anti-aliased check box. Photoshop then fills only those pixels that fall inside the Tolerance range, as demonstrated in the right example of the figure.

♦ Contiguous: When you select this check box, Photoshop fills only contiguous pixels — that is, pixels that both fall inside the Tolerance range and touch another affected pixel. If you instead want to select all pixels that fall within the Tolerance Range, deselect the check box. I turned the option on when creating Figure 6-2 and Color Plate 6-1.

♦ All Layers: Select this option to make the paint bucket see beyond the current layer. When the option is selected, the tool takes all visible layers into account when calculating the area to fill. Mind you, it only fills the active layer, but the way it fills an area is dictated by all layers.

♦ Mode: This menu offers a selection of blend modes, which determine how and when color is applied. For example, if you select Darken (Shift+Alt+K), the paint bucket tool affects a pixel in the image only if the foreground color is darker than that pixel. If you select Color (Shift+Alt+C), the paint bucket colorizes the image without changing the brightness value of the pixels.

In Color Plate 6-1, for example, I used the Color mode to change a few oranges to blue and the background to green, all by clicking at five different spots with the paint bucket tool. I then touched up the stray pixels the paint bucket didn't catch with the paintbrush and airbrush tools.

Paint bucket cursor

Paint bucket cursor

Figure 6-2: The results of applying the paint bucket tool to the exact pixel after setting the Tolerance value to 16 (top), 32 (middle), and 64 (bottom). In each case, the foreground color is light gray.
Figure 6-3: The results of turning on (left) and off (right) the Anti-aliased check box before using the paint bucket tool. It all depends on whether you want cottage cheese or little spiky coral edges.

For a thorough rundown of blend modes, see Chapter 13.

♦ Opacity: This option works just like when you paint with the paintbrush. Enter a new value or press a number key to change the translucency of a color applied with the paint bucket. (Press 0 for full opacity, 9 for 90 percent opacity, and so on.)

I feel the need at this point to expound a bit more on the All Layers option. For an example of how this feature works, look no further than Figure 6-4. The dog sits on one layer, and the fire hydrant rests on another layer directly below it. If I were to click the fire hydrant when the dog layer is active and the All Layers check box is turned off, I'd fill everything around the dog. The paint bucket can't see the hydrant; all the paint bucket can see is the transparent area of the dog layer, so it would try to fill that area. To avoid this, I selected All Layers and then clicked on the hydrant. With All Layers on, the paint bucket can see all layers, so it contains its fill within the hydrant, as in the middle example of the figure.

Paint Behind Mode Tool Photoshop Images
Figure 6-4: Although dog and hydrant are on separate layers (top), I can mix them together with Use All Layers. This option enables me to fill an area of the hydrant (middle), even though the dog layer is active. Then I paint in front of and behind the fill without harming the hydrant (bottom).

Because the fill and hydrant are on separate layers, I could edit the two independently. I used the airbrush to paint inside and behind the fill (using the Behind brush mode, discussed in the previous chapter). I painted the teeth and eyes with the paintbrush and used the smudge tool to mix colors around the white fill. (Naturally, I had to turn on the All Layers check box on the Options bar when working with the smudge tool as well.) As a result, all the bizarre alterations you see in the bottom example of Figure 6-4 were applied to the dog layer. I didn't change a single pixel in the hydrant layer (which is a good thing — in light of my changes, I might like to get that hydrant back).

To limit the area affected by the paint bucket, select a portion of the image before using the tool. As when using a paint or edit tool, the region outside the selection outline is protected from the paint bucket. To see an interesting application of this, skip ahead to the "Using the paint bucket inside a selection" section later in this chapter.

When working on a layer, you can protect pixels by locking the layer's transparency in the Layers palette. Like all layering issues, I cover the locking options in Chapter 12.

Here's one more paint bucket tip for good measure: You can use the paint bucket to color the empty window area around your image. First, make your image window larger than your image, so you can see some gray canvas area around the image. Now Shift-click with the paint bucket to fill the canvas area with the foreground color. This technique can come in handy if you're creating a presentation or you simply don't care for the default shade of gray.

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