PFB: Fill me in

Hello again, time now for another seemingly simple tool in Photoshop the fill tool.

Today: the Fill and Gradient Tools


The humble fill tool, simple in its function. To fill a large space with a color instead of having to paint it in and possibly missing spots. There is however another function of the fill tool that can be quite cool. First as always where to find it, in the tools menu and it looks like a little paint bucket. Its hotkey is G.


In the menu option for foreground there is also an option for pattern; if you have that option selected it will appear in the grey box beside. It is a really cool function of the fill tool as you can fill just a small section, or a large section for that matter, of a picture with a pattern. Along with this you can also set the mode to any of the ones I briefly discussed in PFB: Layers, What You Need to Know and place it over the other layers to have an effect. Below is just a quick preview of some of my favorite layer modes with the fill tool set to foreground color.

FillExpAs you can see there are a lot of different effects you can achieve with just a simply wash of color and a different blending mode. These modes will also work with the pattern setting. These effects were achieved by placing a solid fill layer over top of the image and setting that layer to each of the blending mode.

The Gradient Tool: With this tool you can create smooth transitions of color or shade. The gradient tool has its own menu for setting the blending of the tool and picking colors. Along with doing straight color to color transitions you can also set the transparency allowing you to fade into the background image. Let’s start with the menu.


The first box, that has the transition of black to white, is your presets drop down menu; there are a few cool pre-made gradients for you to try before you get on with making your own. Next the 5 buttons represent to different types of gradients you can draw. In order: Liner, Radial, Angle, Reflected, and Diamond. As with many other tools you can set the Mode and Opacity. The next three check boxes offer a different way in which the gradient functions. Reverse simply changes the direction the gradient is drawn. Transparency allows you to set a transparent color within the gradient. The Dither check box helps to reduce banding. I have a quick example below of this concept.


Drawing a gradient is simple, place your cursor where you would like the gradient to begin that click and drag in the direction you want it to go, when you let go the gradient will appear. Depending on how long of a line you draw as you click and drag, your transition between colors will vary; short line = short transition, long line = longer transition.

Gradient EditorTo make your own gradients click on the preview bar that shows the current gradient. This will open up the gradient editing window that looks like this one on the left. From here you can add multiple colors and vary the transition length and opacity of colors. You can select from a range of preset gradients or save your own. In the gradient type menu you can select to either make a solid gradient like the one on the left or a noise gradient which is a sort of mash up of colored bars. Using the little color squares on the bar in the menu you can drag them to the left or right to effect the color positions. The small grey diamond shapes control the fade between the two colors, currently the red middle color is selected so the control arms from both the yellow and blue fades are available. You can also pick your own color with the color tab.


Gradients are great to used with layer masks, I know I haven’t really talked too much about them yet but they are simply enough to grasp. Layer masks work with grey scale to create transparency of a layer, white equals totally opaque and black totally transparent. Layer masks exist separate from you layer but they are linked to it and you can enter the mask mode by holding ALT while clicking on the layer mask to see exactly what it look like and not the effect it is having on the layer. I will show you a practical example using gradients.

Land (11) Animals (3)Say I wanted to put this great-blue-heron standing in the water to this new beach scene. First I would cut out the heron with the selection techniques mentioned here in my other tutorial. Then using gradients and layer masks I’m going to make a reflection in the water. I will use the linear gradient set to black fading into transparent or white; this will be used on the layer mask and not on the actual layer itself as that would just draw the gradient over top of the heron.

harron1 harron2I placed the heron in the image standing in the water and mirror imaged of him on the bottom like to create a reflection. In the first picture it looks rather silly but it will get there. On the mirror image layer I added a layer mask and, with layer mask selected on the layers panel, I added the gradient to fade the heron’s reflection into the water. Using the smudge tool explained here, I fit the reflection to the contour of the water. There you go, reflection made using gradients. harronMaskViewI also added what the layer mask looked like in mask view mode so you get an idea of what is actually happening on that mask. As you can see I used a very short line to create the gradient that is why the fade is so short and the amount of black and white is so great.

Thank you for reading my tutorials I hope as always that you learned something to help you further your creative selves.

Brush set used to make Title Image: Mels Brushes, Sailor Jerry                     Font used in Title Image: Font Squirrel, East Market


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