Using Bitmaps as Fills Flash

Procedures for working with bitmaps as fills have changed significantly since Flash 4. Upon import, a bitmap appears on the Stage in the current frame of the active layer. However, it also lands in the Library, where it truly resides. In fact, you can delete the bitmap from the Stage without clearing it from the Library. However, you might not have noticed that, on import, the bitmap was also deposited in the Bitmap Swatches drop-down of the Fill Panel. Bitmaps that appear in this new Bitmap Swatches are automatically broken apart on import and may be modified with any of the Flash drawing and painting tools.

This is the Bitmap Swatches drop-down of the Fill Panel.

This is the Bitmap Swatches drop-down of the Fill Panel.

Here’s how to acquire and apply a bitmap fill (of a bitmap that’s already been imported) in Flash 5:

  1. Open the Fill Panel and choose Bitmap from the Fill drop-down menu.A display of all imported bitmap swatches appears.
  2. Click to select the bitmap swatch that you want from the Bitmap Swatches.(If there is only one, it is automatically selected for you.) The Fill Color button in the Toolbox automatically updates to display the selected bitmap fill.
    • If a fill is currently selected, it is updated with the bitmap you have selected.
    • If no fill is currently selected, choose the Paint Bucket Tool and use it to fill any shape.
  3. In either case, as shown in Figure below, the resulting fill contains your bitmap, which can be manipulated with the Paint Bucket Transform Fill modifier.

Using a bitmap as a fill can produce some interesting designs.

Using a bitmap as a fill can produce some interesting designs.

Breaking a bitmap apart
Breaking apart a bitmap means that the bitmap image is subsequently seen by Flash as a collection of individual areas of color. After an image is broken apart, it may be modified with any of the Flash drawing and painting tools. You can select individual areas of the broken apart image with any of the selection tools, including the Magic Wand option of the Lasso Tool. (This is not the same as tracing a bitmap, which reduces the vast number of colors in a bitmap to areas of solid color and turns it into vector format.) The command duplicates the new Flash 5 automatic conversion of an imported bitmap as it arrives as a swatch in the Bitmap Swatches of the Fills Panel. You cannot use Modify➪Break Apart to generate a variant fill from the same bitmap.

The Magic Wand Option of the Lasso Tool is used to select ranges of a similar color in either a bitmap fill or a bitmap that’s been broken apart. After you select areas of the bitmap, you can change their fill color or delete them, without affecting the Bitmap Swatch in the Fills Panel. Click the Magic Wand option in the Toolbox to invoke the Magic Wand Settings dialog.

The Threshold setting of the Magic Wand
The Threshold setting defines the breadth of adjacent color values that the Magic Wand will include in a selection. Values for the Threshold setting range from 0 to 200 the higher the setting, the broader the selection of adjacent colors. Conversely, a smaller number results in the Magic Wand making a narrower selection of adjacent colors. To see the threshold settings see below.

A value of zero results in a selection of contiguous pixels that are all the same color as the target pixel. With a value of 20, clicking a red target pixel with a value of 55 will select all contiguous pixels in a range of values extending from red 35 to red 75.

The Magic Wand Settings dialog

The Magic Wand Settings dialog

The Smoothing setting of the Magic Wand option
The Smoothing setting of the Magic Wand option determines to what degree the edge of the selection should be smoothed. This is similar to antialiasing. (Antialiasing dithers the edges of shapes and lines so that they look smoother on screen.) The options are Smooth, Pixels, Rough, and Normal. Assuming that the Threshold setting remains constant, the Smooth settings will differ as follows:

  • Smooth: delivers a selection with more rounded edges
  • Pixels: the selection clings to the rectangular edges of each pixel bordering similar colors
  • Rough: the edges of the selection are even more angular than with Pixels
  • Normal: results in a selection that’s somewhere between rough and smooth


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