93. Create a Layer Filled with a Color, Gradient, or Pattern
Before You Begin
91 About Layers and the Layers Palette
92 Create a New Image Layer
94 Create an Adjustment Layer
100 Mask an Adjustment or Fill Layer
If you want to create a layer that contains a color, a pattern, or a gradient, you can create a fill layer. With a fill layer, the new layer is filled entirely with the one color, pattern, or gradient you select. However, unlike an image layer that you can indeed fill with a color or pattern (using the Paint Bucket tool) or a gradient (using the Gradient tool), a fill layer can be masked. This means that you can control what the fill layer covers up on the layers below the fill by masking portions of the fill layer. Initially, the mask doesn't prevent any data from flowing through from the fill layerin other words, when you create a fill layer, it initially acts just like an image layer, covering up everything below. After creating the fill layer, however, you can paint on the mask to change it so that only portions of the fill layer are viewed. (See 100 Mask an Adjustment or Fill Layer.)
Another neat thing about fill layers is that they can be used to instantly fill any selection with a color, gradient, or pattern. The selection in this case is not actually filled, but its shape is used on the fill layer's mask to block the layer's fill from appearing anywhere else but within the confines of your selection. In this manner, you can fill with a gradient text you created using the Horizontal or Vertical Text Mask toolsomething you can't do using the ordinary text tools.
You can use fill layers for different effects in your image. For example, you can create a fill layer, mask out the center and create an instant frame for the image on the layer below. You can place the fill pattern layer over another layer, lower its opacity, and to use it to give that layer a "texture." You can also insert a fill layer and paint freely on the mask, creating a free-form shape or scribble that's filled with whatever color, pattern, or gradient you chose. And better yet, you can go in after the fact and exchange the fill you originally used for something else until you find just the right look.
Select the Layer To create a fill layer that automatically fills only the area within a selection, make that selection first in step 1.
Open an image in the Editor in Standard Edit mode and save it in Photoshop (*.psd) format. In the Layers palette, select the layer below where you want the new fill layer to be. The Editor inserts the fill layer directly above the selected layer.
Select Fill Layer Type
Choose Layer, New Fill Layer, Solid Color to add a fill layer that is all one solid color; Layer, New Fill Layer, Gradient to add a fill layer using a gradient color pattern; or Layer, New Fill Layer, Pattern to create a fill layer using a pattern.
You can also add a fill layer by clicking the Create Adjustment Layer button on the Layers palette and selecting Solid Color, Gradient, or Pattern from the menu that appears.
Specify Layer Settings
On the New Layer dialog box, in the Name field, specify the desired name for the layer. Adjust the Opacity and blend Mode if desired. Click OK.
If you enable the Group with Previous option in the New Layer dialog box, you'll create a clipping mask, and your chosen fill will fill only the opaque pixels in the layer directly below and not other lower layers. If you change those pixels (erase some of them or paint more of them on the lower layer), the fill changes its shape to be visible only where the opaque pixels in the lower layer appear.
You can limit where the fill layer appears within this opaque pixel area, through its fill mask. See 163 Mask an Image Layer for more on clipping masks. See 100 Mask an Adjustment or Fill Layer to learn how to change the fill layer mask.
Specify Fill Settings
Depending on the fill type you selected in step 2, you will get a different dialog box. If you selected a Solid Color fill layer, the Color Picker dialog box displays so that you can select the appropriate fill color. See 113 Select a Color to Work With if you need help in choosing a color. Click OK.
If you selected a Gradient fill layer, the Gradient Fill dialog box displays. Select a Gradient from the list box. Choose a gradient Style and adjust the Angle, which controls the direction in which the gradient transitions from one color to the next. By lowering the Scale, you can have these transitions occur more often. Enable the Reverse option to reverse the colors in the gradient. Enable Dither to reduce jagged transitions, especially in lower-resolution images. Enable Align with Layer to use the layer's outer perimeter to calculate the gradient. Click OK. See 119 Fill an Area with a Gradient for more help in selecting a gradient.
If you selected a Pattern fill layer, the Pattern Fill dialog box displays. Select a pattern and adjust its Scale. Click the Snap to Origin button to reposition the pattern so that it's aligned with the image borders. Enable the Link with Layer option so that you can click in the image and move the pattern on the layer until you get its position just right for your purposes. Click OK.
Keep in mind that several gradient patterns use the current foreground color. Before creating a gradient fill layer, select the desired foreground color to make finding the right gradient easier. See 113 Select a Color to Work With for more information on selecting the foreground color.
If you want to make modifications to a fill layer later on, click the fill thumbnail on the Layers palette. The corresponding dialog box displays so that you can adjust the fill's settings. For example, if I clicked the fill thumbnail on a gradient fill layer, the Gradient dialog box would display, showing the current settings for the fill layer. Make the desired adjustments and click OK.
View the Result
The new fill layer is created using the color, pattern, or gradient option that you selected. You will notice that in the Layers palette there are two icons for the layer. The first icon shows the type of fill that was added. For example, if you created a color fill, the icon contains the color that was used. The second icon shows the mask. It's white where the fill shows through to other layers and black where the fill is blocked. Unless you made a selection in step 1, you'll notice that the mask is initially white, meaning that the fill completely shows through at the moment, covering all data on the layer below. You'll learn how to edit the mask to block the effects of the fill in 100 Mask an Adjustment or Fill Layer.
When you're satisfied with the image, save the PSD file. Then merge the layers together and resave the result in JPEG or TIFF format, leaving your PSD image unflattened so that you can return at a later time and make different adjustments if you want.
In this example, I took a photo of some race cars and devised a unique frame for it using fill layers. First I created a selection using the Selection Brush, marking the area where I wanted the photo to show through. I inverted this selection to mark where I wanted the fill pattern to appear, and then inserted a fill layer. The layer was instantly masked, and showed through only where I had selected. The photo seemed to need something at the outer edge, so I created a rectangular selection, inverted that, and filled that selection with dark red using another fill layer. The result is a unique frame that fits the racing car theme better than any of the premade frames the Editor offers.