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PSP Tips & Tricks
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dot 081 Color Replacer Tool Tips

The Color Replacer tool color replacer tool uses the foreground and background materials from the Materials palette to replace one material in an image with a new color/material, based on the tolerance specified for the Tool Options palette. You can use brush strokes to replace only those pixels that the brush touches or you can replace all pixels of a certain color/material in a selection or a layer. You can also set a Tolerance value so that the Color Replacer replaces colors/materials that are similar, not just identical, to the original. As the tolerance value is increased, more material is replaced. If you set Tolerance to 0, the pixels to be replaced must match the specified color exactly. With a setting of 200, all the pixels are changed.

To replace the background material with the foreground material, double-click the left mouse button anywhere in the image. To replace the foreground material with the background material, double-click the right mouse button anywhere in the image.

To confine the color replacement to a specific area, select the area before painting with the Color Replacer.

To replace colors/materials using brush strokes, on the Tool Options palette choose the brush tip, size, opacity, and other options.

dot 082 Drawing/Painting Straight Lines

To paint a straight line, click once at the beginning point, then press SHIFT and click the end point. To continue the straight line, move to the next point and press Shift and click.
Note: This works using any painting tool, including the Eraser tool (which erases in a straight line).

When you want to get a perfectly horizontal or vertical line while using the Pen tool pen tool, use the Draw Lines and Polylines mode, and hold down the SHIFT key while drawing the line.

dot 083 Selection Folders

If the default PSP installation is followed, there is a Selections subfolder created in the My PSP Files folder for the user to place selections. However, unless the Preferences are set up correctly within PSP, all selections from all subfolders within that folder, as well as all selections provided by Corel in PSP install Selections folder, will show up every time you go to load a selection. This could be very confusing. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just visit my
Using Selection Folders in PSP tutorial for a clear explanation of a good way to organize your tutorial selection folders.

dot 084 Mask Files

Masks are grayscale raster layers that cover parts of the layers in your image, either completely or with varying levels of opacity. White pixels in a mask show underlying layers, black pixels in a mask hide underlying layers, and gray pixels in a mask show varying amounts of underlying layers.

PSP recognizes many file types as masks - .psp, .pspmask, .pspimage, .jpg, .gif, .bmp, etc. It is not necessary to convert black and white or grayscale .jpg or .gif files to .msk files in order to use them as masks - just use them as they are. And you get the added benefit of a much smaller file as well - the .jpg or .gif file is much smaller, sometimes in the order of four to five times smaller.

dot 085 Creating A Mask From a Black and White Image or Grayscale Image

Here's a brief summary of how to create a mask from a black and white or grayscale image. There are actually three parts to this topic - creating a file that can be used as a mask, using an open black and white or grayscale image as a mask, and creating a mask file, or a .PspMask file, from the black and white or grayscale image.

Let's start with creating a file that can be used as a mask. Once the file to be used as the mask is selected, there are several ways you can create the mask. You can:

  • Save the image as a .jpg file to your masks folder.
  • Save the image as a .gif file to your masks folder.
  • Save the image as a .bmp file to your masks folder.
  • Save the image as a .psp or .PspImage file to your masks folder.

Then, you can load any of these files as a mask. That's right. PSP recognizes all these file types as masks. It also recognizes .msk files created in earlier versions of PSP as well as its own mask file type, with a .PspMask qualifier. But we'll get to that type in a moment. To use any of the above file types as a mask:

  • Open your target image.
  • Add a raster layer to the image and flood fill with whatever color, pattern, or gradient you want for the mask.
  • Choose Layers...Load/Save Mask...Load Mask from Disk, and select your saved "mask" file from the drop-list.
  • When you click OK, a new layer group will be created, containing two layers: the new mask layer, and the layer that was active when you loaded the mask.

To use an open black and white or grayscale image as a mask:

  • Activate the target image.
  • Add a raster layer to the image and flood fill with whatever color, pattern, or gradient you want for the mask.
  • Add a mask layer by choosing Layers...New Mask Layer...From Image.
  • In the Add Mask from Image dialog, select Source luminance in the Create mask from option. You may want to select Invert Mask Data, depending on your source image, but you can invert the mask later.
  • When you click OK, a new layer group will be created, containing two layers: the new mask layer, and the layer that was active when you created the mask layer.

Lastly, how do you save the mask as a .PspMask file? Once you have created the mask layer by ANY of the above methods:

  • Activate the mask layer.
  • Choose Layers...Load/Save Mask...Save Mask to Disk.
  • In the Save Mask to Disk dialog, enter the new mask name into the File Name box.
  • When you click Save, the mask will be saved to your default Masks directory, as defined in File...Preferences...File Locations, with the new name you entered, and a .PspMask extension.

Final note - if you can achieve the same results with a .jpg file that you do with a .msk or .PspMask file, and the .jpg file is less than half the size of the mask file, than why go to all the bother of creating the PspMask file?

dot 086 Basic Mask Editing

Edit a mask the same way you edit any grayscale raster layer. Select a mask layer on the Layers palette, and then use the painting tools or the effects commands to modify the mask. When you edit a mask, you change either the areas or the degree of masking. For example, painting over an object to mask it changes the area, while applying a gradient fill edits the degree of masking.

If you want to see the mask while you are editing it, choose Layers...View Overlay. By default, the mask overlay displays red semi-transparent pixels (50% opacity) to show the mask on the image. If a different color or opacity would make the overlay easier to see on an image, change the color or opacity for the mask layer using the Layer Properties dialog (right-click on the mask's Layer Name button and choose Properties).

Note: Painting on a mask with black adds to the mask area, effectively blocking the underlying area from being seen, while painting on a mask with white erases the mask, allowing the underlying layer to show. Painting on the mask with grays varies the level of masking.

dot 087 Finding the Color/Material You Just Used

When you've replaced a Foreground or Background Color with another color, and you need the previous color again, right-click on the color box (the color boxes are the small boxes to the right of the Materials boxes in the Materials palette) and find your color in the Recent Colors dialog box that pops up:
  • The top panel of that box contains the 10 most recently used colors.
  • The center panel contains 10 common colors, including black, white, and two shades of gray.
  • The bottom panel contains the Foreground and Background color boxes, and the Other button used to display the Color dialog.

In like manner, when you've replaced a Foreground or Background Material with another material, and you need a previous material, right-click on the material box and find your material in the Recent Materials dialog box that pops up. The top panel of that box contains the 10 most recently used materials; the center and bottom panels are the same as in the Recent Colors dialog box described above, except the Other button is used to display the Material Properties dialog, which lets you choose either a color, gradient, or pattern.

dot 088 Using Custom Brushes in PSP

To use .jbr brushes in any version of PSP from PSP 8 on, they must be converted to PspScript/PspBrush format. To do this:
  • Choose File...Import...Custom Brush
  • On the Import Custom Brush dialog, click Open, and browse to the folder that contains the custom brush. This will open the brush file, and you'll see all the brushes in that file in the left hand window.
  • Click the Add All button - all the brushes will move to the right window.
  • Click the OK button, and the brushes will be added to the "save to folder" designated in your Preferences...File Locations.

Custom brushes have two parts - a PspBrush file, which contains an image defining the shape of the custom brush, and a PspScript file, which defines the settings in the Tool Options and Variance palettes for the brush. These files are in the following format:


where xxxxxx is the name the user chose for the brush.

Both parts are essential to using a brush in PSP. Occasionally, one of these two parts gets lost, with these results:

  • If the PspScript file gets lost, the brush will not appear in the list of brushes. You can recreate the script file by moving the PspBrush file out of the Brushes paths as defined in File Locations and importing the brush again.
  • If the PspBrush file gets lost, the brush will appear in the list of brushes as a big blob. If you cannot find the associated PspBrush file, you will need to delete the PspScript file and re-import the brush from the original .jbr file.

dot 089 Editing Selections

In PSP, selections are fully editable. This means you can do any of the following, and more, to your selection:
  • Resize it - use the Pick (Raster Deform) tool.
  • Paint on it - painting with white adds to the selection, and painting with black removes areas from the selection.
  • Erase part of it - erasing with white removes from the selection, while erasing with black adds to the selection.
  • Rotate it - use Image...Rotate, or use the Pick tool..
  • Move it - use the Pick tool, or the Move tool.
  • Warp it - with the Mesh Warp Brush tool or the Warp Brush tool.
  • Tile it seamlessly - use Effects...Image Effects...Seamless Tiling.
  • Clone parts of it using the Clone Brush tool.
  • And even apply effects to it - use any filter that works on a grayscale image. For example, Gaussian Blur feathers the selection; the wave effect can produce some neat edge masks.
  • You can even add a tube to a selection.

To do all this cool stuff, once you've made a selection, enter into edit selection mode by choosing Selections...Edit Selection (ALT + S) or clicking on the Edit Selection button (edit selection button) on the Layers palette. A new Selection layer is added to the image:

selection layer

and a ruby overlay replaces the selection.

selection to rubylith

Do whatever you want to that ruby overlay, using any of the tools and available PSP effects. When you are finished editing the selection, choose Selections...Edit Selection (ALT + S) again to display the selection marquee, or just click on any layer in the Layers palette. Then do what you want with your selection.

Note: You can also enter Edit Selection without having a previous selection, and then use the painting tools to create the selection.

Here are some examples of what you can do. I started with a 100-pixel square selection. In each row, I've included the edited selection and a brief explanation of what I did to the selection. Finally, I included another image showing what the selection looked like after I exited selection edit and flood filled the selection with black:

paint editing
Paint Brush Tool
Clicked with round paintbrush once along top right edge with black (left-click), then once along bottom right edge with white (right-click).
after paint editing
eraser editing
Eraser Tool
Clicked with square eraser once along top right edge with black (left-click), then once along bottom right edge with white (right-click).
after eraser editing
leather texture editing
Fine Leather Texture
Applied Effects...Texture Effects...Fine Leather, Crackle preset.
after applying leather texture
gaussian blur editing
Gaussian Blur
Applied Gaussian Blur with a radius of 3.00.
after gaussian blur editing
mesh warp tool  editing
Mesh Warp Brush Tool
Used the Mesh Warp Brush tool to change the shape of the selection.
after mesh warp editing
wave effect editing
Wave Effect
Applied wave effect, both amplitudes = 1, both wavelengths = 4.
after wave effect editing
adding tube editing
Added Picture Tube
Added a tube of one of my hibiscus blossoms.
after adding tube editing

dot 090 Making Sure Nothing Is Selected

Did you ever go to do something, and find you can't? Like you try to draw a line, and nothing happens, or you add a new layer, and go to flood fill it, and nothing happens, or you try to apply an effect, and it appears nothing changed? Sometimes this is because you inadvertently created a tiny selection, usually only a few pixels in size, which is not noticeable. Or perhaps you've hidden the selection marquee, and then made a selection, and forgot you did that.

It would be nice if there were some way to "remind" us if there's an active selection. Well, guess what? There is. There's an icon you can add to a toolbar that will serve to remind you if you have an active selection. It's the Select None icon, and it looks like this when there is an active selection select none icon, and like this where there are no selections select none icon - nothing selected. Add this icon to your toolbar (see #049 Customizing ToolBars and Menus). Then, the next time you're trying to do something, and no matter what you try, it doesn't seem to work, glance at your Select None icon - if it's "lit up", you've got a selection somewhere. Deselect (CTRL + D), and I'll bet you can do what you were trying to do.

Version Note: In PSP X4, the Select None icon is so dark there is no visible difference between the way it looks where there is an active selection and what it looks like where there are no selections. Therefore, this Tip won't be much help in PSP X4. You'll just have to deselect when you're in this situation.

dot 091 Moving the Current Layer

Here's something you might want to do sometime - move an entire layer by clicking and dragging on its transparency. If you try that, clicking with the Move tool on the transparent area of one layer, and there's something under your cursor on a layer below, the Move tool will grab hold of what's on that lower layer and move it instead of the layer you were trying to move. Here's the secret to moving the active layer - just hold down the SHIFT key while you're using the Move tool, and you'll always move the active layer. Works every time.

dot 092 Fading An Image Into the Background

When you want to merge the edges of your image into the background, follow these six easy steps:
  • Set your background material to Color, and set the Background (Fill) Color to the color of the background you want to merge into.
  • Select the image (Selections...Select All, or CTRL + A).
  • Contract the selection by 10-15 pixels (Selections...Modify...Contract).
  • Feather the selection by 10-15 pixels (Selections...Modify...Feather).
  • Invert selection (Selections...Invert or CTRL + SHIFT + I).
  • Hit the delete key, repeating if necessary.

Here are a few other ways to fade the edges of an image into the background:

  • Use the eraser tool with a very soft, large, round brush on the edges. If you make a mistake, you can unerase with the right mouse button.
  • Apply a simple Gaussian blur.
  • Use a black and white gradient mask.
  • Use a large, soft Airbrush loaded with the color of the background - apply this color on a new layer.
  • Select the edge you want to fade into the background and apply an inside/outside feather to it. Then copy, deselect, and paste to a new layer. Move the faded edge into place, and you have a neat feathered edge.

dot 093 Merging Layers Down

This powerful command introduced in PSP 8 allows the user to merge two layers without hiding all the other layers. To merge the current layer with the layer immediately below it in the Layers palette, choose Layers...Merge Down. The resulting layer will be:
  • A raster layer if either layer is a raster layer.
  • A vector layer, if both layers are vector layers.
  • A mask layer, if both layers are mask layers.
  • A background layer, if the layer to be merged with is a background layer.

Alternate method: Right-click on topmost of the two layers to be merged and select Merge...Merge Down from the context menu.

Note: If the merge you attempt is not legal, the Merge Down command will be grayed out. One such illegal merge I have found is trying to merge a raster layer into a vector layer - that won't work. However, you can merge a vector layer down into a raster layer with no problem.

And here's another important item - the merged layer will take its name from the name of the layer merged into, the bottom of the two layers. So if you name your layers wisely, you won't lose the layer names.

I use this new command often - so often I've added it to a toolbar ( merge down button ), so it's always there handy and ready to use. See #049 Customizing ToolBars and Menus for more information on how to do this.

dot 094 Repeating A Command

When you want to repeat the last command you entered, use CTRL + Y.

If you want to repeat an effect or action you've recently used for one image on any other image:

  1. Activate the History Palette (F3).
  2. Activate the image where you used the command you want to repeat.
  3. Drag the action for the command you want to repeat from the History palette and drop it onto the image where you want to repeat that command.

This is especially handy if you've applied an effect, for example a Drop Shadow effect, to an image, and you want to apply that same Drop Shadow to another image, but you've since changed the Drop Shadow dialog several times. All you have to do is activate the image with the Drop Shadow you like and drag the Drop Shadow action from the History palette for that image (see red arrow in image below) and drop it on the image where you want to repeat that command.

history palette with script action indicated

If you want to apply an effect or action you've recently used on all open images:

  1. Activate the History Palette (F3).
  2. Activate the image where you used the effect you want to repeat.
  3. Right click on the action you want to repeat and choose 'Apply to other open documents' from the context menu.

dot 095 Adding or Removing Colors From A Selection

Another feature introduced in PSP 8 is Select Color Range, which is on the Modify menu. This feature allows you to add or remove any color from a selection. The color you choose is either added or removed from the selection, and the selection border changes. If you copy and paste the selection, the pasted area has the color added or removed. The Select Color Range, used in combination with invert and delete, makes the transparency filters (Remove Black and Remove White) unnecessary. Here's how to use this feature to remove a color, such as black or white, from an image:
  • Select all.
  • Choose Selection...Modify...Select Color Range.
  • Select the Subtract color range option.
  • Choose the color you want removed.
  • Click OK when you have the settings as you want them.
  • Invert the selection and delete.

This new facility does a lot more than the Remove Black and Remove White filters, because it works on any color, and it allows you to specify a color tolerance, and the amount of softness for the referenced color. As a Jasc PSP guru once said, "Select Color Range is your friend."

dot 096 Warping Text to Match Curve

Want your text to be warped to match the curve you're writing it on? If so, select the Warp Text check box on the Text tool Tool Options palette.

dot 097 Filling Text With Patterns Or Gradients

In PSP from version 8 on, text is filled from left to right with whatever pattern or gradient you have set in the Materials palette (unlike in PSP 7, where each letter was individually filled with the pattern or gradient). To fill each letter individually in PSP 8+, create vector text and convert the text to curves by selecting Objects...Convert Text to Curves...As Character Shapes:

gradient text psp8
gradient text after convert to curves
Gradient Text as created in PSP 8+ Gradient Text after Convert Text to Curves

dot 098 Making Brush Strokes Darker

Are you trying to make your brush strokes a little darker? Make sure the Opacity setting on the Tool Options palette is set to 100%. If that doesn't give you what you want, try increasing the Impressions per step value on the Brush Variance palette (F11) - but just a little, as it will slow everything down greatly if it's too high:

impressions per step

dot 099 Using the PSP Extension

If you would like to change the default extension for PSP images permanently from *.PspImage to the former *.psp extension, do the following:
  • Choose File...Preferences...File Format Associations.
  • In the File Type window, scroll down to and highlight "PSPIMAGE Paint Shop Pro Image".
  • Click the Extension button (lower right hand side of panel) to open the Extensions dialog. The preferred extension (the one PSP is currently using to save files) is at the top of the list.
  • To make psp the preferred extension, select psp in the list and click the Preferred button. The psp extension will move to the top of the list.
  • Click OK to save your changes.
  • In the File Format Associations dialog, click OK to save all changes made, or Cancel to close the dialog without saving any changes.

dot 100 Background Eraser Tips

The Background Eraser tool background eraser tool is one of the most fascinating of the PSP 8 innovations. Here are some of the tips I've collected - but first, just a bit about how the Background Eraser tool works.

The background eraser allows you to selectively erase pixels from the background while leaving an image intact. Its purpose is to erase background you don't want that lies around an object you want to keep. Place the center of the brush on the background you want to remove and overlap the edge of the brush onto the object you want to keep. Now trace around your object.

The Background Eraser performs its magic by erasing pixels similar to those under the brush, while leaving the other pixels unchanged. It constantly samples the pixels under its center, and uses complex algorithms to erase similar pixels in the surrounding area defined by the brush. In this way, you can easily isolate a puppy from the grass, or a balloon from the sky. The key is to keep the center of the brush away from the graphic you are trying to isolate. The edges of the brush can (and should) overlap the graphic as you erase, but the center of the brush always remains outside the graphic.

While you are in the Background Eraser tool, the left mouse button will erase based on the definition of the background and the right mouse button will unerase, or restore erased pixels, based on that same definition, but not completely. Holding down the BACKSPACE key and using the left mouse button will erase unconditionally, just as the regular Eraser does. Additionally, holding down the BACKSPACE key and using the right mouse button unconditionally unerases. For the lifetime of the tool the original image colors are remembered in the transparent areas, even though actual colors in these areas are changing. So, you want to stay with the Background Eraser tool until you are completely done.

And now, here are some of the tips I've gleaned from the "masters":

  • For the most part, use the default settings for the brush - these seldom need to be changed.

    background eraser default settings

  • You will find if very helpful to enable Show brush outlines on the Display and Caching tab, General Program Preferences.
  • When you have an image with internal holes containing background, use Discontiguous Limits rather than Contiguous.
  • If you have trouble preserving edges use Find Edges for Limits.
  • If the brush seems to consistently bite into your object, increase the Sharpness setting slightly to 80 or maybe 90.
  • For preserving subtle edges, setting Limits to Contiguous is better than Discontiguous, and setting Find Edges is even better then Contiguous.
  • You can get a better differentiation of object and background by increasing the Sharpness setting - do this in a restricted fashion since it is a very sensitive control.
  • When either your object is vividly colored but your background is unsaturated, or when you have a rather unsaturated object on a brilliantly colored background, consider checking Ignore Lightness.
  • For very careful detail work, switch off Auto Tolerance and manually set the Tolerance. It is difficult to do this better than the tool does itself, especially with a background and/or object where colors vary a lot.
  • If you have areas you need to unconditionally erase, stay with the Background Eraser tool, and hold down the BACKSPACE key. Otherwise you will lose remembered data in case you need to unerase, and you might get some truly psychedelic data on unerase.
  • Keep the brush center away from the subject you are preserving.
  • When the background is textured (variegated in color) but the object is relatively uniform near its edges, backspace erase unconditionally along the edge. Then right-mouse unerase just inside the object. You can get better results this way than trying to erase the background selectively.

For a detailed explanation of the intricacies of the Background Eraser tool, see Kris Zaklika's Using the Precision Background Eraser document.

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