PI5 Particle Paint Tool Artistry

Dazzle preset enhancementA secret weapon for adding flare and drama to your images lies at the bottom of the Paint tool tray -- the Particle Paint tool! Most often I use the Dazzle preset, like I did on the wings and tail of this flying unicorn I drew, but the others are also worth exploring too. All of the presets add soft, semi-transparent rounds of shimmering, harmonizing colors.

This tutorial shows you how to make three special effects with the Particle Paint tool to add a little magic to your work: A floral-look background tile courtesy of Creative Painting's Tile option; adding magical highlights to an ordinary photo; and to add clouds to a flat blue sky.

To make a unique background tile, start with File, New and make a new True Color file 100 X 100 pixels. Select the Particle Paint tool. In the Attributes toolbar, choose Particle Brush from the Preset dropdown list. In the Color box, you'll see that the default color is purple. You can click in the Color box and pick another color if you like. 

The Particle Brush preset can be used by clicking and adding little circles of color, or you can drag it to create a trail of circles. Experiment with various clicks and drags, leaving plenty of white space. If you click and don't like the color, right click, Undo and try again. You will end up with something like this.

basis for tile

Choose Effect, Creative, Painting or from the EasyPalette's Painting Gallery, right click on Sponge 1 and select "Modify Properties and Apply."

When the Painting dialog box opens, choose Paint template 35. By default, Pattern 28 is selected. As you can see in the Preview window, the colors are a bit dark for a background tile. To lighten the look, drag the Opacity slider up to 650. To make the image tile automatically, select (check) the box for Tile. This little-known feature in Creative Painting can help you to create some lovely background tiles, even from scribbles and dots like these!

Creative Painting dialog box

Click OK to make this soft floral tile. To view the tile as it would appear in 256 Indexed Colors in a browser, choose Web, Web Preview, Tile. Click Escape, or hit any key or the space bar to return to the work space. (You may want to save your tiles as JPG's, however)


Experiment with different Paint templates and Patterns for different tiles. I made the tiles below with the same Particle Paint tool image.

Template 36 Template 39, Pattern 39 Template 24, Pattern 38
Template 36 Template 39, Pattern 39 Template 24, Pattern 38



If you have a photo with a central interest and mundane background detail, this Particle Paint tool trick can add a magical look to your image. I'm using this picture of flowers from my lily pond.

flower image

To keep the Particles off the central focus in the image, first use the Lasso selection tool to select around the flower and main leaves. Try to select a couple of pixels outside the edges, all the way around. Remember to double click to close the selection, shown at left.

Right click and Invert, to select the background instead. Right click again and Soften. When the Soften dialog box opens, soften by 20 pixels.

make lasso selection

Now choose the Particle Paint tool. In the Attributes toolbar, select Dazzle from the dropdown list. Make one change -- edit the Transparency to 25. Again, the default color in the Color box is purple. You may need to experiment a little to get a color that harmonizes with the colors in your image. I'm using the default of purple because I like these colors. 

Click around in the image to add big, soft circles of pastel colors. Again, if you don't like a color and it doesn't look right in a particular location, right click, Undo, and repeat until you get an effect you like. Here's the flower picture with Dazzle particles added. I think it just needs a fairy perched on a toadstool to make the image perfect!

dazzle particles added


The last example of putting the Particle Paint tool to work is to add fluffy clouds to an unremarkable sky. I'm using this picture I took of a pelican sitting on the beach.

beach picture

Select the Particle Paint tool. In the Attributes toolbar, select Explosion, a mingling of fiery reds and oranges, from the Preset dropdown list. Edit the brush size to 65 and the Transparency to 90. Click in the Color box and select white. You'll notice that once you edit the Explosion preset, the preset will list "None." Don't worry, the attributes are still there. Lightly drag across the image and add some fluffy white clouds.

add clouds

I like to add a little extra zip and depth to clouds by airbrushing some pink or purple onto them. To do this, select the Airbrush Paint tool. In the Attributes toolbar select Fat Stroke from the Preset dropdown list. Edit the Transparency to 95. Click in the Color box and select a very dark purple (RGB=102, 0, 153). Airbrush along the bottoms of the clouds and dot in the middle of the larger clouds.

airbrush purple on clouds

Want to turn a bright sunny day to to the moody look of a beach before the storm? Choose Effect, Magic, Light. When the Light dialog box opens, click the Options button and edit the values as shown below, using a pale purple light color.

Magic Light dialog box

This version of the beach scene looks quite different than the one we started with!

stormy beach look


Don't forget to try out the other Particle Paint tool presets. For example, make a tree trunk, then add leaves with the Leaf preset in various shades of green. Start with dark green underneath, add a lighter green on top, then add a transparent yellow on top for highlights.

make a tree with Leaf preset

Or you could make a whimsical caterpillar with the Particle String preset and green paint.

particle string caterpillar

Now go give your Particle Paint tool a workout and see what you can come up with!


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