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Introducton to Adobe Photoshop
What is Fill / Paint Bucket  

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Fill Tool Selection Example Fill tool

Fill is available either as an Edit Menu choice or as a Toolbox selection as seen in this sample.

Some Tools have keyboard shortcuts and some of them even have Shift-key modifiers.

The use of keyboard shortcuts are highly productive. Choose a few often used commands and learn their shortcuts. Add a few shortcuts each week.

Before long, shortcuts will become second nature. Some of the basic ones are universal to Windows, such as the following:

  • Save:
  • Cut:
  • Paste:

Ctrl + S
Ctrl + X
Ctrl + V

Fill command

Fill can be applied to a selection, layer, or to a layer element(s). The default settings are Normal Mode, Opacity 100%, Fill with the Foreground color, as in the sample below.


Check select it to avoid the jaggies. Jaggies are the pixel stair-stepping which can be seen in any lines or edges which is off the true vertical or horizontal axes.

Fill Options Example

Tolerance Option

Tolerance setting ranges from 0 to 255. The 0 setting works fine with a smooth single color background. Enter a higher tolerance to select a broader range of colors.

Getting the proper Tolerance setting is like focusing a camera lens. Get close by over-setting and under-setting. Using intervals of 25 to 50. Then bracket by smaller intervals to zero-in on the target range.

Cursor placement can be critical when doing a broad range Fill. The actual Fill-range is determined by the exact cursor placement but it is difficult to click on the same spot each time when testing the Fill Tolerance setting.

It would be helpful if Photoshop provided a Repeat-Fill command. This would allow for a single-click-position to be used for multiple Tolerance range tests.

Until then, I offer two work-arounds. One is to use the magnified mode. The other is to create a new layer above the target layer. Place a cross hair marker on the new layer. Activate the target layer and fill using the cross hair as a guide.

Pattern Fill Option

Pattern option is ghosted until a pattern is defined. This can be seen in the previous sample.

Define Pattern Sample

Pattern Fill is a powerful tool allowing you to fill with any image element. The image can come from a clip-art or be custom-made. Even transparent areas can be part of the Pattern.


  • Define a pattern image area using the rectangular marque (m key) tool.
  • Set Define Pattern mode (Edit > Define Pattern).

Pattern is now available as an option under Paint Bucket Contents list as shown to the right.

Pattern Fill Sample

Fill Menu Dialog Box

Choosing Edit > Fill from the menu selections opens a dialog box with different options than the Paint Bucket Palette. The drop down list offers more choices.

I use the Paint Bucket Palette most of the time because it is convenient and fast.

It also has the tolerance option not available in the Fill dialog box.

Fill Requester Sample

There will be some in-use Fill command examples in the Real World Examples Section. The next TOPic is Cloning/Rubber Stamp.

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