Working with Flash Color Flash

Flash 5 has three levels for working with Flash Color. The first level is Toolbox Color. At the intermediate level are the Stroke and Fill Panels, which can be used to set any predefined color, or immediately capture a color from anywhere on screen with the Eyedropper Tool, or invoke the system color picker. At the third level are the Mixer and Swatches Panels, where Alpha can be set for individual swatches, colors can be mixed and edited, and color sets can be added to, subtracted from, or loaded into the Swatches Panel. For many operations, proceeding from any of these panels, you can use existing swatches or any onscreen color, or set a color without needing to access any other panels. Other more complex operations, such as creating a gradient, require adjustments across several panels.

Using Toolbox Color
Just as there are several ways to approach the subject of color, there are also a number of ways to access the various but fundamentally similar color-handling tools in Flash 5. The quickest, and perhaps most convenient route is to approach color from either of the Color buttons located on the Toolbox: the Stroke Color and the Fill Color buttons located in the Color Tray. As we discussed earlier, these options serve double duty: Although these controls appear to be Color Chips that indicate the current color, they’re also buttons. Click either Color button to open the current Swatches pop-up and select a new stroke or fill color. Whenever any Flash drawing or painting tools are activated, the current stroke and fill colors are represented by the Color controls located in the Flash Toolbox. These controls are present regardless of which tool is being used.

Clicking either the Stroke or Fill Color button opens the current Swatches pop-up. This pop-up displays the same Swatch set that is currently loaded in the Swatches Panel. It includes a hexadecimal color entry box which facilitates keyboard entry, as well as cut-and-paste of hex values and a button that launches the Color Picker. Depending upon the tool selected, the Fill Color pop-up may also display a No Color button. The Swatches pop-up for Fill Color also includes a row of Gradients at the bottom of the solid colors. For all Drawing Tools, elementary color selection is accomplished by clicking either the Stroke or Fill Color buttons, and then choosing a color from the Swatches pop-up. If the color you want is not there, you may opt to invoke the Color Picker by clicking the Color Picker button. Alternatively, you may also open the Mixer Panel to create a new color and add it to the Swatches.

The Toolbox Color Tray and the Stroke and Fill Swatches Panels

Toolbox Color Tray and the Stroke and Fill Swatches Panels

Tools that create a line include the Line Tool, Pencil Tool, Ink Bottle Tool, Pen Tool, and because they draw outlines around their fills both the Oval and Rectangle Tools. Each tool relies upon the Stroke Color button, which appears in the Toolbox Color Tray. Click the Stroke Color button to open the Swatches pop up, which contains all colors in the current color set, including any new colors that have been temporarily added to the set. It is identical for any tool that has a stroke color.

In addition to tools that create lines, there are also fill tools. The fill tools include the Brush, Paint Bucket, Oval, and Rectangle Tools. Each of these tools is accompanied by the Fill Color button, which also resides in the Color Tray of the Toolbox. Clicking the Fill Color button invokes the Swatches pop up. Although the Fill Swatches popup is similar to the line pop up, it has one significant difference: It has another row of swatches at the bottom, which are gradient swatches click one to fill with that gradient. The Fill Swatches pop-up contains all of the colors and gradients in the current color set, including any new colors or gradients that have been temporarily added to the set. It is identical for any tool that has a fill color.

Applying color from the Stroke and Fill Panels
You won’t need to keep all of the color panels open to use colors. That’s because, for most color operations, the colors are already present in any panel you’re using. Flash 5 color works best if you use the Mixer Panel to create new colors, and the Swatches Panel to manipulate the display of colors that are available in the other panels. If you already have a predetermined palette for your project (which is a smart workflow), you may find that you do most of your color work from the Stroke and Fill Panels. The Stroke and Fill Panels each have a single option available from their options triangles:The Stroke option invokes the Line Style dialog while the Fill Panel option invokes Add Gradient. Below , the Fill Panel is set for solid colors only.

The Stroke and Fill Panels

The Stroke and Fill Panels

The Fill Panel is also used for working with bitmap fills.

Working with the Swatches Panel
Think of the Swatches Panel as a way to organize your existing swatches and to manipulate the display of colors that are available in the other panels. Use the Swatches Panel to save color sets, import color sets, and reorder or change selected colors.

On the left, the Swatches Panel is shown after using the Sort by Color option. On the right, it’s shown with the default sort, and with the Options pop-up displayed.

Swatches Panel is shown after using the Sort by Color option

The Options pop-up of the Swatches Panel has options that are used to manipulate and administrate individual swatches as well as various color sets:

  • Duplicate Swatch: Use this to duplicate a selected swatch. This can be useful when you want the make a range of related color swatches by duplicating and then editing subsequent swatches from the Mixer Panel.
  • Delete Swatch: Botched a swatch? Select and delete it here.
  • Add Colors: Opens the Import Color Swatch menu, which is a simple dialog used to locate, select, and import color sets. Add Colors retains the current color set and appends the imported color set at the bottom.
  • Replace Colors: Also opens the Import Color Swatch menu. However, Replace Colors drops the current color set when it loads the selected color set. If the current set has not been saved it will be lost.
  • Load Default Colors: Clears the current color set and replaces it with the default Flash color set. Again, if the current set has not been saved it will be lost.
  • Save Colors: Opens the Export Color Swatch Menu, which is used to name and save color sets to a specific location on your hard drive. Color sets may be saved in either the Flash color set on the PC (.clr), on the Mac (.fclr) or Color Table (.act) format.
  • Save as Default: Saves the current color set as the default this action replaces the original default Flash color set.
  • Clear Colors: When Clear Colors is selected, the swatches in the current colors window are removed, leaving only black and white.
  • Web 216: Upon initial installation, this is the default Flash color palette that is displayed in the Swatches Panel. Select this option to replace any current color set with the Web-Safe Palette of 216 colors.
  • Sort by Color: Click this button to rearrange an accumulation of custom colors into a palette that is freshly reordered according to color. It sorts by hues, with the values of each are arranged together from light to dark in declining order. However, once you’ve sorted a palette in this manner there is no toggle to return to the other view so save your palette before sorting, and then save the sorted palette, too.

Working with the Mixer Panel
The Color Mixer, which is shown below, enables you to create new colors, working within any of these three color spaces RGB, HSB (Hue, Saturation Brightness, or hex using either the interactive Color Bar or the Color Value slider controls. All colors are handled with four channels, which are RGBA (Red, Green, Blue, Alpha). New colors can be added to the current Swatches, which causes a new swatch to appear in the Fill, Stroke, and Character Panels just select Add Swatch from the Options pop-up. When working with the Mixer Panel, to add a new color just select Add Swatch from the Options pop-up.

The Color Mixer gives you precise control over the creation of new colors, including Alpha values.

Color Mixer gives you precise control over the creation of new colors, including Alpha values.

There are two ways to change the Alpha value for a selected color: Either drag the Alpha Slider until the Alpha readout looks right or enter a numeric value in the Alpha readout. Numeric entry is useful when you already know what level of transparency is required, while the slider is useful for interactive fiddling with transparency to get it just right as indicated in either the Stroke or Fill Color button. In Figure below, a copy of the Flash icon is donating its orange color to our palette. On the right, this orange is shown with the Alpha or transparency of the color set to 30 percent. Before proceeding, this swatch was saved from the Options pop-up by clicking Add Swatch.

When selecting a color from the Swatches pop-up of the Mixer Panel, the Dropper Tool enables you to pluck a color from anywhere in the interface.

selecting a color from the Swatches pop-up of the Mixer Panel

Below shows the Mixer and Swatches Panels on the left. Previous to this shot, we used the Duplicate Swatch command of the Swatches Panel to duplicate the 30 percent-orange swatch. You can see this duplicate swatch highlighted at the bottom of the Swatches Panel on the left. Using the Mixer, we returned the Alpha of this swatch to 100 percent. Then, we used the Save Colors command to add both swatches to the current color set.

Use the Mixer and Swatches Panels to add a new color Swatch and then save the new color(s) to the current color set.

Use the Mixer and Swatches Panels to add a new color Swatch and then save the new color(s) to the current color set.

As shown below, the new color an Orange with an Alpha value of 30 percent is selected for a ten-point solid line. This same color may also be used as a solid fill. However, to create gradients with new colors, including transparent colors, you need to use the drop-down menu of the Fill Panel, as explained in the next section.

A newly created color, with an Alpha value, is selected for a solid line (left). The drop-down menu of the Fill Panel is used to initiate the creation of custom gradient fills (right).

A newly created color, with an Alpha value, is selected for a solid line (left)

Creating gradient colors
Often you’ll find that creating a custom gradient swatch requires that you use several panels. In addition to the Fill Panel, this usually requires the Mixer, and sometimes the Swatches Panel. The drop-down list of the Flash 5 Fill Panel lists two gradient styles: Linear and Radial. When editing or creating a gradient, the current changes can be saved by clicking the Save button at the bottom right of the Panel, which adds another gradient to the Swatches Panel. The gradient shown below is being modified from a default black and white linear gradient.

The Pointer Color button displays the color of the active Color Pointer.

The Pointer Color button displays the color of the active Color Pointer

To change the color of the active pointer, which has focus, click the Pointer Color button and then select a color from the Swatches pop-up. The Fill Color button is updated to reflect the change. Note that the Swatches pop-up contains all of the solid colors in the current color set, including any new colors that may have been temporarily added to the set. As shown in Figure below, the left-hand pointer is being changed to a color that has an Alpha value, which is indicated by the grid pattern in both the Color Preview and, upon release of the pointer, by the Fill Color button.

Changing the color of the active pointer for a gradient

Changing the color of the active pointer for a gradient

To customize another point of an existing gradient, click that Color Pointer to give it focus. The right-hand Color Pointer was given focus which means that it is active and can be edited. Switching from one Color Pointer to another changes the Fill Color button to display the color of the pointer that has focus. While the Color Pointer has focus, click the Fill Color button and choose a color from the Swatches pop-up, or drag the Dropper out into the interface to acquire a color from any item onscreen, including any color displayed in any open Flash panel.

Changing the second point of the gradient

Changing the second point of the gradient

Below shows, the gradient from the previous figure was applied to this simple composition of a circle described by a custom, fuzzy stroke. On the layer behind is a black pattern of black lines, which is visible through the transparent portions of the gradient fill that’s been applied to the circle on the top layer. Note the active swatch in the Swatches Panel, and the Gradient Preview of the left-hand Color Pointer in the Mixer Panel, which has focus in the Fill Panel.

Below shows was changed to a radial gradient and then the left-hand Color Pointer of the previous figure was moved to the right by clicking and dragging it to a new position. The Gradient Preview adjusts immediately to reflect this change. To add a new color to a gradient, you need to add a new pointer to the Gradient Editor, by clicking slightly beneath the bar. To remove a pointer, drag it downwards, away from the bar of the Gradient Editor.

Applying a new gradient, with a transparent color, to an object

Applying a new gradient, with a transparent color, to an object

Adding a new pointer to the Gradient Editor

Adding a new pointer to the Gradient Editor

As shown below more pointers have been added to the gradient. In this figure, the center Color Pointer is active and white is being selected from the Swatches pop-up. Next, the Alpha for this pointer will be reduced to 30 percent by entering this number into the numeric entry field of the Alpha value of the Mixer Panel.

Changing the gradient type and adding more complexity to the gradient.

Changing the gradient type and adding more complexity to the gradient.

Below shows our final radial gradient, which is opaque at the center and proceeds through variations of transparency and color as it radiates to the outer edge. The procedure for making a radial gradient is similar to those for creating a linear gradient. The only real difference is that the Gradient Editor bar when used in conjunction with radial gradients must be considered as a radius, or slice from the center out to the edge, of the circular gradient. Color Pointers at the left end of the Gradient Editor bar represent the center or inside of the radial gradient, while Color Pointers at the right end represent the outside.

The final radial gradient applied to an object in Flash 5.

The final radial gradient applied to an object in Flash 5.


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