Anything Photoshop or Photography


Painted image of an underwater sceneThis week I got totally into being creative with some new Photoshop brushes recently purchased. By trying out a unique Mixer Brush technique, I ended up with this Underwater Party Scene and learning how to create a Color Palette to use for sampling with the Mixer Brush Tool. I will now try to share what I have learned.

Started this image with an 8″ X 8″ at 240 ppi new document. Initially I was just practicing a technique learned from a short You Tube video called Cool Mixer Brush Techniques for Photoshop Painting by Deviant Rahll. After taking a few notes I started playing with my new brushes and their settings, and ended up getting some pretty nice strokes from the Mixer Brush Tool. This technique created the nice background layers  needed to add my objects onto.

Regular Brush Tool Layer and Mixer Brush Tool Layer

So what is the technique? The concept was to lay down some colored strokes on a layer and then sample parts of it to paint on a New Layer above using the Mixer Brush. The colors and patterns in the sampled layer below will be reproduced in the Mixer Brush strokes above. This is different from just sampling a solid color – by sampling blended colors and/or several colors at once, it creates a bit of a clone effect within the Mixer Brush and gives a very different result.

You can see this effect in the side-by-side layers below. They were placed on a blue background so you can see that the layers are transparent except for where the paint strokes are applied. The left layer shows the strokes that were just painted down using the Regular Brush Tool with several different Regular brushes using different sizes and colors. Next, by switching to the Mixer Brush Tool and sampling (ALT+click) in the painted stroke of this layer, and then adding a New Layer above and painting, some very interesting color variations within each brush stroke occur. Each time you lift your pen or mouse, the same color pattern repeats in the next mixer stroke until you sample again in the bottom regular strokes layer. As you can see, the weed Mixer brush strokes on the right side layer picked up the colors from the left side Regular brush stroke layer. By selecting a very different brush, in this case a weed brush from Aaron Blaise, to use as a Mixer Brush was used for painting, the beautiful and color effect can be achieved in your strokes. In this case, several different areas on the left were sampled to get different color combinations in the weed brush.

Layers as they looked using the Mixer Brush

Steps to do this:

1. Paint on a New Layer with the Regular Brush (or you could use a Mixer Brush or Smudge Tool) something with the colors and blends you want to use – it already looks like a painter’s color palette once you do this

2. Then switch to the Mixer Brush Tool.

3. Create a New Layer above. In the Options Bar use these settings:

a) Turn on the icons for Load Paint After Every Stroke and Clean the Brush After Every Stroke

b) Set the Drop Down to Dry, Light Load. If any Wet is used, you get much more of a blender brush effect and either little or no color being added.

c) Set Flow to 100% to start. This is a sticky field so no matter what Brush or Tool Preset is chosen, this amount will stay the same. With some brushes if it gets too low, no strokes will show up. Do adjust the Flow some if you want a little lighter opacity to the stroke.

d) Check Sample All Layers to turn on.

4.  Go to the Brush Picker and select a brush to use as your Mixer Brush and paint on the new layer. Note that each time you lift your brush, the color and design pattern starts over until you sample in a different area. Since Sample All Layers is on, you do not need to highlight the regular layer when sampling. If turned off (because the Mixer brush is slowing down your computer), then you must switch to the regular layer to sample.

You do not have to keep the Regular Brush layer after you have used it for sampling, if it is not needed for the image – in fact you can be sampling from another document as in Example 3 below. In my image above, the Regular Brush layer was used to form the bottom of the ocean. Select a Mixer Brush – it can be any of your Regular or Mixer Brushes that are listed in the Brush Presets Panel or Mixer Tool Preset.

Example 2 below shows the same thing as Example 1 above, but this time you are seeing the two layers stacked as it would appear in Photoshop:
Another Example of the Mixer Brush useThe two layers are the original watercolors painted on the first layer (the strokes shown in lower left behind the smaller fish), and then on the next layer the fish and a shoreline were all painted in as Mixer Brushes using sampled colors from the Regular Brush layer below. It can create some really nice effects. You can see how the fish picked up the different colors in the areas sampled.

This is a pretty cool technique. I think it will be useful to me from a creative aspect. Definitely need to experiment with different types of brushes in both layers, and change their settings in the Brush Panel, to see some new results. If you watch the video linked above, you will get a better idea of this. These are the brushes were in the top image and examples: Grut NM Brash Mass brush (this was a free download-each week he offers different ones) and Aaron Blaise’s Foliage SB46-4 (size 502) was used to create the left layer in Example 1. They were selected to get some interesting edges to use for sampling. In Example 2 the watercolor area used for sampling was created with Kyle’s Real Watercolor-Big Rough Wash Small Grain, Soft Irregular Wash 150, and Soft Edge Brush were used. Mindful Pixels Watercolor Fancy Fish set was used (the fish were from a free download from years ago, but I could not find a recent link – they would not be hard to create), and for the shoreline Aaron Blaise Wet Media brush SB47-19 was used (liked how the green showed up in the upper part of the stroke). All brushes are very inexpensive but wonderful Photoshop brushes. A set of free brushes from Brusheezy called Fishing created by Hawkmont is where the hook and several of the creature strokes were found – there are some really nice free brushes for watercolor textures and all kinds of things at this site.

Remember that using a Mixer Brush at a large size can really slow down your system! I usually try to stay under 45 pixels, but try larger if you are just using it on a few strokes. If you must, try unchecking Sample All Layers to paint – that means you must highlight the layer with your sampling colors on it and then highlight the Mixer Layer to paint with the colors. As a last resort, try resizing your document in half – this will really speed up the Mixer Brush.

If you want to use a Regular or Mixer Brush located in the Tool Presets area and it is not in your list of brushes in the Brush Preset Panel, you will need to save it as a brush by clicking the Create New Brush icon at bottom of the Brush Panel or Brush Preset Panel. The brush will be listed at the bottom of your brush list. For example, I had to do this with the  Grut NM Brash Mass brush and Kyle’s Watercolor Brushes as both are downloaded as Tool Presets for the Regular Brush Tool. Since you need to paint with the Mixer Brush Tool to pick up the color and patterns, the Tool Preset Regular Brushes need to be saved as brushes in the Brush Preset so they can be converted to a Mixer Tool.

How the Rest of the Image was Put Together

Once I had the two layers above in place, the rest was easy. Kyle’s Big Rough Wash Small Grain watercolor brush was used in a light beige-orange color on a layer just above the Background to add some painter effect behind the stroke layers. This is a really wonderful set of inexpensive watercolor brushes that I have been having a lot of fun using in different way. On several different layer Mindful Pixels Fish brushes were used – in fact all 5 of the watercolor brushes provided in this set are in this image. To get the texture in the objects and plants, different settings in the Photoshop Layer Styles were applied. Even the bubbles has a little bevel and emboss on them. To get the pretty texture in the fish, the Pattern Overlay effect was used in its Layer Style of each fisher layer and watercolor patterns from Design Cuts were used. (If you have a watercolor texture that you like, open it up in Photoshop and go to Edit -> Define Pattern – it will show up at the bottom of your patterns list and can be used in the Pattern Overlay or the Bevel & Emboss Texture section in the Layer Style. Try the different blend modes and change the Scale for different effects. You can drag the pattern around to fit the layer if it is larger than the object to get fine tune the texture location. (I will blog on how to use Layer Styles very soon.)

Mixer Brush Color Palette

Screenshot of Color Palette for Mixer Brushes

Here is an example of a Color Palette I created by just using a Watercolor Brush and painting color at 100% brush opacity and 50% brush opacity and then using some color variations on top. The file was saved as a PNG document and it can be used over for use on other images. These are not pure colors, just some that resemble the basic colors. A small heart brush was created with these settings in the Brush Panel: Brush Tip Shape -Size 200 pixels and Spacing 25%: Shape Dynamics Size Jitter 93% with Control set to Pen Pressure and Angle Jitter 12%; Scattering Scatter Both Axes at 1000%, Control Pen Tilt, and Count; Color Dynamics check Apply Per Tip, Foreground/Background Jitter 8%, Hue Jitter 7%, Saturation 2%, Brightness Jitter 7%, and Purity -36%; and Transfer Opacity Jitter 20% and Flower Jitter 32%. Select this brush as a Mixer Brush using the default Dry, Heavy Load – you can see the Options Bar in the image. By going to Windows -> Tile Vertically, it is easy to go between the Color Palette file and sample the colors by ALT+clicking and going to the Heart file and painting on a layer above the the Background layer. You can see very clearly that the colors stay in the same portion of the heart strokes, even though the strokes vary in size and rotation. Pretty cool effect!

I hope you get a chance to try out this technique. It is really not that hard to do once you try it. I can see all kinds of creative possibilities – I think sampling from your favorite images to use as the Regular Brush layer might be a good way to experiment with this technique. Will be back soon!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How To Paint An Image Using Regular and Mixer Brushes in Photoshop
Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brushes
What Does the Flow Slider in the Options Bar Do?


4 responses

  1. My iPhone wouldn’t post my comment. I just had to say, this is bodacious, Syd. The colors, the textures, it’s all wonderful. I’m going to reblog it.

    04/04/2015 at 7:21 pm

  2. Reblogged this on Kerry C. Mitchell's Adventures and commented:
    This is a fantastic piece done by my friend, Syd. It is painted in Photoshop rather than Painter that I use. I like Syd’s blogs so much because she shares the details of her process. It is very generous of her to do this. Many people sit on this information like it is some kind of state secret.

    I find that when artists are given the same information, they always put their own unique artistic touch to what they do.

    Go check out Syd’s blog. It is full of wonderful photos and art.

    04/04/2015 at 7:24 pm

    • Thanks for the kind words and reblog Kerry.

      04/05/2015 at 12:08 pm

  3. Pingback: HOW TO USE THE BRUSH MODES AND SMUDGE BRUSH ON OBJECTS | Digital Lady Syd's Fun Photoshop Blog

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