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The Materials Palette
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The Materials Palette
Created by: Zonia

In this lesson we will cover the Materials palette and the Material dialog.

The Materials palette is where you change the material options. Materials can be a color, a gradient, or a pattern. You can also add a texture to the color, gradient or pattern.

At the top left there is a Color tab and a Swatches tab. When the Colors tab is selected a multi-colored box is displayed. The numbers of colors displayed depends on the color depth of the currently selected image. The default color depth is 16 million colors. You can quickly choose a color by moving the mouse pointer around in the color box until you see a color you want. Then left-click to set it as the Foreground color or right-click it to set it as the Background color.

Swatches is kind of like presets for the Materials palette. You can save any selected color, gradient, or pattern to the swatches for easy access to them. After a color, gradient, or pattern is saved to swatches simply left-click on it to make it the Foreground material or right-click on it to make it the Background material.

The top rectangular box on the right is the Foreground and the bottom rectangular box is the Background. For most tools you left-click to use the Foreground and right-click to apply the Background. When using some tools such as Text, Preset Shapes, and the Pen tool the Foreground is the Stroke (outline) and the Background is the Fill. There are also some brushes such as Animal Fur which combines both the Foreground and Background.

Standard Toolbar - New (image) button

Let's see how this works. Go to File || New and create a new canvas.

  • Width = 300 pixels (Put 300 in the box beside Width Pixels)
  • Height = 300 pixels (Put 300 in the box beside Height Pixels)
  • Resolution = 72.00 pixels (Put 72.00 in the box beside Resolution)
  • Background = Raster (Make sure there is a dot in the circle in front of Raster)
  • Color Depth = 16 Million Colors (24 Bit) (Select 16 Million Colors from the drop-down list)
  • Color = Transparent checked

Click on OK.

Paint Brush Tool Now click on the Paintbrush tool in the Tools toolbar. It should be the 7th icon from the top if you are using the PSP 8 default settings. If it isn't there click on the arrow beside the 7th icon and choose it from the menu.

Preset: Reset to Default Option

In the Tool Options palette, click on the arrow under "Presets" and then click on the "Reset to Default" button. This will set the Paintbrush options to the factory defaults.

Tip: It is a good habit to always reset to default before using a tool or preset unless you specifically want to use the current settings.


Make sure the Colors tab is selected in the Materials palette and left-click in the color box to choose a color for the Foreground. Then right-click on a different color to set the Background.

Place your mouse somewhere in your new image and, holding down the left mouse button, drag the mouse around. You have just painted with the Foreground. Now right-click with your mouse and drag the mouse around. You have just painted with the Background. Hit the Delete key to clear your image.

Click on the arrow under "Presets" (in the Tool Options palette), choose one of the Animal Fur presets and click on OK. Now drag your mouse around in your image, holding down first the left mouse button and then the right mouse button. See how it combines both the Foreground and Background? Using the left mouse button makes the Foreground more dominant and using the right mouse button makes the Background more dominant. Hit the Delete key to clear the image again.


Materials Solid Color OptionMaterials Texture OptionMaterials Null Option

Materials Solid Color Option
Materials Gradient Option
Materials Pattern Option

Back to the Materials palette. Under both the Foreground and Background boxes you will see a row of 3 buttons. If you examine the first button you will see an arrow in the bottom right corner. The arrow indicates that there is more than one choice there.

Click on the first button and you will see 3 choices: Color, Gradient, and Pattern. This is an easy way to switch between them without using the Materials dialog.

The second button is the Texture button. You use this button to turn Texture on/off. I will explain Textures later.

The last button is the Null button. If you have the Paintbrush tool selected it will be greyed out because it does not apply to the Paintbrush. It is for tools that use the Foreground as a Stroke and the Background as a Fill (remember: Text, Preset Shapes, etc.).


Materials palette - All Tools option

One last thing on the Materials palette is All Tools. If there is a check in front of All Tools that means the Foreground and the Background will not change when you change tools. If there is not a check in front of it then when you change tools the Foreground and the Background will change to the materials last used for that tool.

Note: If All Tools is greyed out it simply means that tool doesn't use any materials. Simply select a tool (you should already have Paintbrush selected) that uses a material. To turn All Tools on/off click into the box in front of it.

Materials palette - Materials Box

Now you know how to change the color for Foreground / Background and you know how to change to Gradient and Pattern but how do you change the Gradient and Pattern? That is where the Material dialog comes in.

Left-click in either the Foreground or Background box on the Materials palette. If you click in the Foreground box any changes you make in the materials will affect the Foreground. The same goes for Background. Click Cancel to close the Material dialog.


Paint Brush Tool

Let's create an image while we cover the Material dialog but first let's go over the Tool Options for the Paintbrush tool. Click on the Paintbrush tool if you don't have it selected already and reset to default.

The first option in Tool Options for the Paintbrush (and most tools) is Presets. As you have already seen PSP comes with several presets preinstalled. In Lesson 2, Options and Basics, we covered how to save, delete, and reset to default presets. Earlier in this lesson we learned how to use them.

The second option in the Tool Options palette is Brush Tip. You should have a black circle with the edges kind of faded. If you click the arrow beside the circle you will see a variety of brush tips to choose from. To change brush tips simply click on the one you want to use and click on OK.

The rest of the options:

  • Shape: Choose round or square.
  • Size: Changes size from 1 (small) to 500 (large).
  • Hardness: Adjust the focus from 1% (soft) to 100% (sharp).
  • Step: Amount of space between strokes from 1 (close) to 200.
  • Density: Adjust paint flow from 1 (less paint) to 100.
  • Thickness: Ajust the thickness (shape) of the brush from 1 (line) to 100 (circle).
  • Rotation: Adust the angle of the brush from 0 (no angle) to 359 degrees.
  • Opacity: Adjust the transparency of the paint from 1 (almost transparent) to 100 (no transparency).
  • Blend mode: Dictates how the paint will blend with layers below it.
  • Stroke: Can set Continuous on/off. Continuous stroke disables the build up feature of the Paintbrush and maintains a continuous color, therefore painting over a stroke has no effect unless you click on the New Stroke button to start a new stroke.
  • Wet Look Paint: Looks like wet paint with softer color towards the middle and darker color along the edges.

I encourage you to experiment with the settings to see for yourself what they do. For example you will see that adjusting the rotation doesn't have an effect unless you also adjust the thickness. For now though reset to default and let's move on to the Material dialog.

We are going to be working on the Foreground only but keep in mind the Material dialog works exactly the same for the Background.


Materials palette - Materials Box

You should have the new image we created earlier open and your Paintbrush tool selected and reset to default. Click on the Foreground box in the Materials palette to open the Material dialog.

Make sure the Color tab is selected. You will see the color circle. Click into the circle to change to that color.

Inside the circle you will see a color box that contains varying shades of the color you selected in the circle. Click around in the box to change the shade of the color. Tip: If you need a darker shade of a currently selected color click above the little circle in the box, for a lighter shade click below.

The color boxes below work the same way as the color circle except you have less colors to choose from.

You can also manually set a color by adjusting the R (Red), G (Green), and B (Blue) or the H (Hue), S (Saturation), and L (Lightness) settings.

Optionally you can enter an HTML code in the HTML box to set a color. A lot of tutorial writers use that option. You don't actually need to enter the # sign when entering the code, but if you do make sure there isn't any space between the # and the number.

Choose a color you like and click on OK. Notice how the Foreground box in the Materials palette changed to that color.

Position the mouse to the upper left of the blank image and, holding down the left mouse button, paint your first initial. Don't worry about neatness at this point. Make sure to leave room to the right for 2 more letters.

Materials palette - Materials Box

Click on the Foreground box in the Materials palette and choose the Gradient tab in the Material dialog.

A thumbnail of the currently selected Gradient is displayed. Click on the arrow beside the thumbnail to see thumbnails of more gradients you can choose from. Click on a gradient you like and the thumbnail will display the one you chose.

Instead of me telling you what the Angle, Repeats, and Invert settings do, while watching the thumbnail change the settings and see for yourself.

The Style buttons let you choose between Linear, Rectangular, Sunburst, or Radial gradient. Under the Style buttons is where you can enter your desired settings for the currently chosen style. Again watch your thumbnail and try changing the style and style settings.

Edit Paths enables you to change where PSP looks for gradients. Therefore if you don't see a gradient that you know is there make sure there is a path to the folder it is in.

Note: The Edit button under the thumbnail lets you edit the currently selected gradient and/or create a new one. There are lots of tutorials available to teach you how to create your own gradients.

Once you have selected a gradient you like and set the settings how you want them click on OK.

Position your mouse in the upper middle of your image and, holding down the left mouse button, paint your middle initial. Make sure to leave room to the right for 1 more letter.

Materials palette - Materials Box

Click on the Foreground box in the Materials palette and choose the Pattern tab in the Material dialog.

Choosing a pattern works the same as choosing a gradient. Click on the arrow beside the thumbnail and choose a pattern you like. You should already know what Angle does. Scale changes the size. Therefore if you have a pattern with big boxes and you lower the scale the boxes will become smaller. Edit Paths works the same way as the one on the Gradients tab except this time you choose a path to where your patterns (also known as backgrounds and fills) are located. Once you have chosen a pattern you like click on OK.

Position your mouse in the upper right of your image and, holding down your left mouse button, paint your last initial.
Save Image Before we finish the Material dialog let's save our image. Go to File || Save in the menu bar. Type in what you want to name your image, make sure "Save as type" is set to "JPEG - JFIF compliant", and click on Save.

Materials palette - Materials Box

Left-click on the Foreground box to display the Material dialog. Notice to the right there is a place to turn Texture on/off and select the texture you want to use as well as set the Angle and Scale. Keep in mind when using textures that you have to apply (paint or fill) multiple times to darken the texture. Textures are great for giving your image a texture such as canvas or brick wall.

Also to the right you will see thumbnails of the Current and Previous selections and an "Add to Swatches" button. Clicking on the Add to Swatches button will bring up a dialog; just name the swatch what you want and click on OK. It should now be in the Swatches box of the Materials palette. You can save colors, gradients, and fills (patterns) to swatches.

  That's it for this lesson. I hope you enjoyed it.