64x64 icon dark hosting
Choose a hosting plan here and get a free year's subscription to Tuts+ (worth $180).

How to Use Brushes and Gradients in Pixelmator


Start a hosting plan from $3.92/mo and get a free year on Tuts+ (normally $180)

This post is part of a series called Introduction to Pixelmator.
Working With Vectors in Pixelmator
How to Use Pixelmator as an External Editor

Pixelmator is an easy-to-use, fast, and powerful image editing app for the Mac. In this tutorial, I will show you how to use both Brushes and Gradients in Pixelmator. Let's get started!


The Brushes Tool let's us paint on our canvas in a variety of ways.

Step 1

Create a new image (File > New…) of 800 X 600 pixels and select the Brush Tool from the Tools Palette. If you don't see the Brushes Palette, make it visible by clicking on the Show or Hide the Brushes Palette button on the Tool Options Bar.


Step 2

The brushes in the Brushes Palette are categorised in collections. Browse through the collections by clicking on the Gear Icon. Then choose one of the round brushes from the Default Brushes Collection.


Step 3

When we hold the mouse over the document window we see the outline of the brush displayed. Painting with the brush is done by clicking and dragging with the mouse. You can force the brush to paint in straight lines by holding the Shift-key after the initial mouse-click and then start dragging with the mouse. Depending on the brush chosen from the Brushes Palette you end up with a brush stroke as shown in the figure below.


Step 4

The two main settings for a brush are the Diameter and Hardness. These can be quickly adjusted by Control + clicking on the document window. A settings-window will show. Adjust the Diameter and Hardness and create a new brushstroke to see the difference.


Step 5

Double click on the currently active brush in the Brushes Palette to access more settings. When we click on the little button with the triangle at the right side of the Diameter setting we get more options for adjusting the diameter dynamically. These options are very useful when you paint with brushes using a drawing tablet with a pressure sensitive pen. The Pressure setting Let's us vary the diameter by pressing less hard or harder on the pen. The Speed setting adjusts the diameter of the brush according to the speed we draw with. Increase the Speed setting by dragging the slider all the way to the right. Now paint a new brushstroke and increase the speed of the mouse or pen while drawing to see the result. In the example below you see that when we increase the speed the diameter of the brush gets smaller.


Step 6

Pixelmator ships with a variety of brushes. Open the Nature Brushes Collection and choose the Butterfly Brush. Let's take a look at the settings for this brush. The Spacing is very large meaning that the butterflies will have some distance between each other. The Scatter is also high. This means that in stead of following the mouse cursor precisely, the butterflies will be scattered around the mouse cursor while painting. The Shape Jitter Section lets us tell Pixelmator how much variation we want in Size, Stroke, Angle and Opacitiy while painting. The Color Jitter section determines the variety of color we want to have while painting.

Set the Hue to 100% to create a wider variety of colors and paint with the brush in the document window to see the result.


2. Gradients

Step 1

Open an image from your collection, preferably an image with a city-scape. But you can also create a new image with a white background. Add a new blank layer to it and select the Gradient Tool. The Gradient Tool can be found in the Tools Palette. The Gradient Tool Let's us fill an entire layer or a selection with multiple colors that are gradually blended.

The Gradient Tool gets accompanied by the Gradients Palette where we find a selection of predefined gradients. If the gradients palette isn't visible we can either click on the Show or Hide the Gradients Palette button on the Tool Options Bar or we can choose Show Gradients from the view menu.


Step 2

Choose the gradient with the rainbow colours from the Gradients Palette. Let's take a look at the settings for this gradient. The settings are displayed at the top of the Gradients Palette. The bottom row of sliders or color stops, distribute the various colors along the gradient. Changing the color of these color stops can be done by clicking on them. The OS X color picker will get visible and we can change the color from there. The top row of sliders distribute the color between two color stops. We also see that there are three gradient types. Linear, Radial and Angle. For this gradient the Angle type is selected.

Applying a gradient is done by clicking in the document window, there we want are gradient to begin and dragging the mouse to where we want our gradient to end. Apply the rainbow gradient onto the blank layer and try to apply this gradient using the different gradient types.


Step 3

It is easy to edit gradients. Let's create a transparent to red gradient. For this we need only two color stops. We can remove color stops by clicking on them and dragging them away from the gradients palette. Release the mouse button when a cloud appears near the mouse cursor. Continue removing gradients until there are only two color stops left.


Step 4

Move one color stop all the way to the right and the other one all the way to the left. Click on the color stop on the far right and change it's color to red. Change the color stop on the far left to red too, but decrease the opacity to 0% to make it transparent.


Step 5

Make sure the type of the gradient is set to Linear and select the transparent layer from the layers palette. Set its Blending Mode to Color. Paint the gradient from the top of the image down to the bottom of the image. In the example below I started my gradient right above the tallest building and drew the gradient all the way to the bottom of the image.


Step 6

If you want to save the gradient we've just created for later use, then we can add it to the Gradients Palette, by Control-Clicking on the Gradients Palette and choosing Add Gradient from the menu that appears.



You should now know everything you need to know about getting started with the Brush and Gradient Tools in Pixelmator. With a bit of practice, you should be able to apply what you have learned to any project that you may be working on. Stay tuned for our next Pixelmator tutorial. In it, we will explain how to use Pixelmator with external editors, such as iPhoto.


By adding a layer with a custom made gradient we've created this beautiful atmospheric city-scape, and we've taken a closer look at the different gradient settings. We've also used the brushes tool and the brushes palette and applied brushes with different settings.