How to Fill in Photoshop

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Imagine coloring a large Photoshop project one pixel at a time and you will appreciate the role that the Paint Bucket and Fill tools play when creating or modifying images. The various fill tools are selected using icons, menu selections and keyboard shortcuts, with different ways to complete your filling tasks.


Using the Paint Bucket Icon

Image Credit: Image courtesy of Adobe

Clicking the Paint Bucket icon from the toolbar is the quickest way to access a fill tool. When it is selected, moving the cursor over the image adds a paint bucket icon to the cursor arrow. Clicking on the image fills the selected pixel and others of similar color value around it with the foreground color, indicated by the top color selection box on the toolbar. Changing the active fill color can be done several ways with color selection boxes including:


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  • Click the swap arrow to reverse the foreground and background colors.
  • Click on the foreground box and choose a new color from the Color Picker dialog box.

Simply choosing the Paint Bucket tool and color may not give you the result you expect. When you select the Paint Bucket icon, the tool options load under the menu bar at the top of the screen. These options alter how the tool affects the image. From left to right, these options and their purposes are:

  • Select the foreground color or pattern for fill.
  • Choose the blending Mode.
  • Opacity indicates how solid or transparent the fill color will be.
  • A low Tolerance fills pixels close to the color value of the pixel clicked, while a high tolerance fills a wider range of similar values.
  • The Anti-alias box smooths the fill color edges when checked.
  • The Contiguous box fills only pixels adjacent to the clicked pixel when checked.
  • The All Layers box fills pixels on any other layers in your project as well as the current layer, when checked.


Using the Edit Menu

Step 1

Select the area you want to fill using any selection tool. If you are filling a complete layer, select it from the Layers panel.

Step 2

Image Credit: Image courtesy of Adobe

Click Edit on the menu bar and select Fill from the drop-down menu. The Fill dialog box opens and you can select the options to control your fill process. These include selecting the foreground or background colors from the toolbar, another color selected from a further dialog box, or additional advanced options -- content-aware, pattern or history fills. Select Blending Mode and Opacity if desired, and click Preserve Transparency if you want to ignore pixels that are currently transparent. Click OK to apply the fill.



Keyboard shortcuts Shift-F5 and Shift-Backspace access the Fill dialog directly.

Other Keyboard Shortcuts

As your skills using the various fill tools grow, you can reduce keystrokes by selecting specific fill steps using the keyboard rather than clicking icons and menus and then selecting parameters.

  • Alt-Backspace fills the layer or selection with the foreground color.
  • Ctrl-Backspace fills the layer or selection with the background color.
  • Shift-Alt-Backspace fills the layer or selection with the foreground color using Lock transparent pixels.
  • Ctrl-Alt-Backspace fills the layer or selection from the source state of the History panel.