How to Use the Paint Bucket Tool in Photoshop

Does Photoshop allow you to quickly fill in an image or portion of an image with a specific color? Absolutely! The Paint Bucket tool allows you to do this. You can think of it as throwing a bucket of paint at a canvas, but more targeted of course. 

I’m Cara and I’ve been in love with photography and digital image manipulation for some time now. Sometimes when I’m working with images I would like to fill in a section with a solid color or pattern. Instead of tediously painting it in with a brush, I can use the Paint Bucket tool. 

Come along and I’ll show you how it works!

Note: the screenshots below are taken from the Windows version of Photoshop CC. If you are using the Mac version, they will look slightly different.

Open the Paint Bucket Tool

First, you need to find the tool. There are 70 tools in Photoshop, so they don’t all fit in the toolbox to the left. For this reason, similar tools are grouped together and only the default tool’s icon appears on the toolbar. 

The Paint Bucket tool is hiding under the Gradient tool. To find it, you need to right-click to make the fly-out menu appear. Select the Paint Bucket tool from this list. 

When you click on it, the Paint Bucket icon will replace the Gradient tool icon on the toolbar. Now when you hit the keyboard shortcut G, the Paint Bucket tool will become active instead of the Gradient. 

Fill a Selection

Do you want to completely fill a layer (or a selection)? All you have to do is hit Alt + Backspace or Opt + Delete (Mac). This will color it in with your chosen foreground color. 

To fill it in with the background color instead, hit Ctrl + Backspace or Cmd + Delete on Mac. 

Paint Bucket Settings

You won’t always want to completely fill a selection, however. The Paint Bucket settings allow you to define what parts of the image will be affected. 

With the Paint Bucket tool active, the Options bar at the top will look like this. 

Foreground or Pattern

The first menu allows you to choose between Foreground and Pattern.  Foreground allows you to fill with your chosen foreground color when you click on the image. Choose Pattern to fill the area with whatever pattern you choose.

On the left, I filled part of the image with black. On the right, I used this tree pattern to fill. 

Blend Mode

Mode allows you to set the blend mode like many of the other tools in Photoshop.

Opacity

Opacity controls how strongly the effect is applied. At 100%, the effect will be applied full power. At 10%, much of the original image will show through the thin layer.

Tolerance

Tolerance is an important setting for filling the parts of the image you want to fill. The Paint Bucket tool colors in pixels according to the original color. 

Wherever I click, the program will color in other parts of the image that match that pixel. How closely the pixels have to match depends on the tolerance. 

If I set the tolerance to 0, the tool will only color in pixels that exactly match the pixel I click on. A higher tolerance will accommodate a larger range of colors. 

On the left is one click in the sand with a tolerance of 20. The right image shows one click in the sand at a tolerance of 80. 

Anti-Alias

Checking the Anti-Alias box creates a smoother edge that blends better with the surrounding image. Most of the time you’ll want to leave this checked. 

Contiguous

Checking the contiguous box means that the program will only color pixels that touch each other. Deselect contiguous so that the tool will fill in every pixel in the image that meets the selection parameters. 

All Layers

Checking this box allows you to fill in pixels on all the layers of your project — not just the current layer you’re working on. 

Paint Away!

With that, you have a good idea of where to find the Paint Bucket tool in Photoshop and how to use it. Have fun with it!

Interested in learning about more Photoshop tools? Check out our tutorial on using the Gradient tool here!

About Cara Koch
Cara fell in love with photography circa 2014 and has been exploring all corners of the imagery world ever since. When she felt limited by Lightroom, she dove headfirst into Photoshop to learn how to create the images she wanted.

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