Sometimes you just want color, a big swath of it. In Photoshop, there are plenty of ways to fill an area with color. This month we show you how to use Fill commands to surround a special subject with a solid color, a jazzy pattern, or a gradient of color.
Youíll need a photo with a striking foreground. It could be a person, a house, a tree, or a vase of flowers. Your experiment could even be an original Christmas card.
Select A Subject
Start by opening a file with the subject youíd like to feature. Weíve chosen the face of a toddler puckering up for a kiss. From the Image menu, choose Image Size and make note of the imageís actual pixel height and width.
Select the Magnetic Lasso tool. It is located in the upper left of the tool palette. Itís an icon depicting a triangular lasso with a magnet. If you donít see it, click and hold the left mouse button on the Lasso tool, then select the Magnetic Lasso. The options for the tool are in a horizontal menu above the image. To ensure a smooth, no jagged selection, set the Feather option to five pixels (5 px). Feathering around a selection compensates for hard-to-select edges, such as the babyís hair in our photo.
Now click around the edge of your subject to select it. When you reach the initial selection point, a tiny circle appears. Double-click it to complete the selection. Go to the main menu. From under the Edit menu, select Copy.
Open A New File
Next from the File menu select New. Specify a Width and Height at least as large, or slightly larger than, your original file. (You can crop it later if necessary.) Save the new file as Portrait.psd.
Then from the Edit menu, select Paste. Voila, your subject. Use the Move tool (the arrow and cross icon in the upper right) to place the image more precisely. To see what type of background works best with it, youíll create various layers filled with solid colors, fancy patterns, and gradients of color.
A New Layer
If you donít see the Layers palette, select Show Layers from the Windows menu. At the bottom of the Layers menu, click the Create New Layer icon, the little notepad icon.
To pick a fill color, click the foreground color box in the Photoshop tool palette. Select any color you like. Return to the tools palette and click the Paintbucket icon, also known as the Fill tool. Now, click the image window. Poof! It fills with color. If your subject is hidden, go back to the Layers palette and use the mouse to drag the image layer above the fill layer.
For each new background fill, first create a new layer. This lets you have many possible backgrounds before finally deciding which you like best. To hide a layer, click your mouse on the eye icon. To delete a layer, just drag it to the little trashcan in the Layers palette. Be sure to save your work.
A Pattern Fill
Next weíll fill with a pattern. Click the Create New Layer icon in the Layers palette. In the horizontal menu youíll see the options available with the Paintbucket tool. The default action is to fill a layer with the foreground color. Under the Fill option, click the arrow and select Pattern. Then click the Pattern arrow to select one. Click the image window and watch it fill. To try another pattern, start a new layer and select another.
A Gradient Fill
Slightly trickier is the gradient fill, a fill thatís a blend of colors. But first, go to the Layers palette and hide the other backgrounds youíve selected by clicking off the eye icons.
Next, from the Layer menu, select New Fill Layer and then Gradient. Click OK. Then select a gradient and click OK again. To edit the gradient, return to the Layers palette and double-click the gradient icon. Not only can you change the gradient colors from here, you can select a new style (such as radial or diamond), a new angle, reverse the colors, and scale the swaths of color in the gradient. Practice and use the Move tool for different effects.
Save Your Fave
But in the end, which to choose? Click off the eye icons or delete the layers you donít want. We finally chose a simple pastel fill, one that matches our toddlerís cheeks.
The Portrait.psd file will retain all the layers youíve created. To create a new file with just the fill you prefer, simply save the file with a new name by choosing Save As from the File menu. Go to File/Save As. Type a new name for the image, select the JPG format, and click Save.
Now that youíve got the background basics, go forth and fill!