There is something about the Smudge Tool that creates a love-hate relationship for me. Sometimes I use it all the time and sometimes I wonder why would I use it with the fabulous Mixer Tools available. This week it was used on the two images to bring out the fur details. So what is going on with the selected Smudge Tool – it helps to look at the settings to know how to use it correctly. It has been very “eye opening” to me!
Basic Smudge Tool Characteristics
A lot of PS writers feel that the Smudge Tool only smears the paint around creating an awful effect or gives an unnatural flatness when used. I guess that is why I have never used it a lot – but I am finding with the right brush tip, it is very useful. My favorite Leopard from the Jacksonville Zoo had just the right amount of hair to see what I could do to get some furry edges on his body. I will go into the brushes used on him below. First, here is what I have learned about the Smudge Tool itself.
Thanks once again to the old gold standard PS book called The Photoshop Wow Book for CS3 and CS4 by Linnea Dayton and Cristen Gillespie (this is still one of the best references every written on PS) for the tips below.
- If Finger Painting is turned on in the Options Bar – the smear will start by using the Foreground Color when first stroked
- If Finger Painting is turned off – each stroke starts by sampling the color under the cursor
- If the brush tip is big enough to pick up more than one color, the Smudge Tool applies streaks from each color
- The higher the Strength setting in the Options Bar, the farther the Smudge Tool will smear each new color it encounters
- At 100% Strength – it applies only the first color(s) it samples (and makes longer strokes)
- At a lower Strength the first color fades out and new ones under the cursor are picked up and smeared as the cursor goes over them
- Keep your strokes short to sample color frequently (which happens automatically if the Strength is low)
Tips from John Paul Caponigro (one of the best PS gurus ever) from his older Adobe Photoshop Masterclass book with a bit more info on the Smudge Tool:
- Pull the brush through a line and both sides of it will be distorted
- Place brush in center of a line and pull the brush out – will distort one side of a line more than the other
- Wiggle brush down the line and it becomes wavy
- Twirl brush stroke in circles and get a Twirl Filter effect
- Long strokes create more distortion than short strokes
- Stroking an area multiple times creates more distortion than a single stroke.
That is probably the best I can do on this info without exploring some of the great digital painters that only do Smudge Tool painting.
Some of my observations:
- If you do not see any change in your image after making a stroke, make sure Sample All Layers is on. Many free Smudge Tools brushes do not have this box checked including the Adobe Smudge Tool brushes provided by Kyle Webster.
- Lots of the brushes have the Strength at less than 100% – I see that Aaron Blaise (the great Disney drawer) likes to use 79% for his Smudge brushes. So adjust this amount to see what really works with the image you are painting.
- Currently some professionals will use the Mixer brushes to add in color when painting, but use the Smudge Brush to do the blending instead of the Mixer Blender brushes. Might want to try this when working on your images. See last section for how I did this.
For the Leopard image the Smudge Brush was chosen first and then a a soft Round brush (set to 4 pixels, 25% Spacing and Scattering at 181%, set in Options Bar the Strength to 15%) was selected in the Brush Panel – changed the settings in the Brush Settings Panel. Paint over the sharp edges of a line with very short strokes and a very soft edge will be created showing the blended colors. Painting on a New Layer with the Sample All Layers on will create nice blended edges into a background. May need to increase the Strength a little if it is not showing up well due to a higher resolution image. You will notice it can also give a nice painterly effect. By looking at the tips above, “at a lower Strength the first color fades out and new ones are picked and smeared” applies and keeping the strokes small adds this detail.
How to Make a Smudge Tool Brush
For the White Crowned Hornbill Bird image taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm below, Kyle’s Real Oil Sargent2 Smudge Tool was used to paint over the bodies and at a small size to do their eyes but larger size for the larger feather areas. At 10 pixels I was able to get a pretty nice fine line for the beaks. Definitely have to experiment with this to get the strokes needed. I tried to find this Smudge Brush in all of Kyle’s brushes for PS but could not find it (it was from an older set by Kyle). But I was able to recreate the brush and thought you might like to try this.
- In the Megapak, go to the Real Oils folder and highlight the Sargent Fat 2017 regular brush (see next section on how to download these brushes). Create a New Brush by clicking on the plus sign at the bottom of the Brushes (or Brush Settings) Panel for New Brush dialog – but do not check Include Tool Settings – Say OK.
- Now select the Smudge Tool in the Toolbar and highlight the new brush.
- In the Brush Panel Settings, add these settings: Brush Tip Shape: Size 50 pixels, Angle 0 degrees, and Spacing 10%; Shape Dynamics: Size Jitter Control: Pen Pressure and Angle Jitter 100%; Scattering: Check Both Axes, Scattering 219%, Count Jitter 100% and Control Pen Pressure; and check Smoothing.
- On the Options Bar, set the Strength to 58% and Sample All Layer checked.
- Now go back and press the Plus icon at the bottom of the Brushes Settings Panel and check Include Tool Settings and name it. Say OK and you now have a Smudge Tool from a Regular Brush.
This brush looks and acts very similar to Kyles Real Oil Sargent2 Smudge Tool used in the bird picture. You can follow these same steps to create a Smudge Tool using any regular brushes and Mixers. It is a lot of fun to find some new tip shapes for these.
I always Export the new brushes for ones I am using at regular intervals so that I can reuse them later if I accidentally delete one. Highlight your brushes and go to the flyout on top right of the Brush Settings Panel and select Export Selected Brushes – name the set and save.
Adding Soft Fur Edges for Animal Subjects Technique
On the Leopard image, a Smudge Tool from Aaron Blaise was used to create some very subtle fur edges. Normally I would not mention the brush, but right now he has all his brush sets on sale for a $1.00 and that includes his Foliage Brush set that contains 58 brushes and are really fun in their own right. He likes to use one of his foliage brushes converted to a Smudge Tool for his animal drawings so that is what I used. Since his brushes are designated to be used with any tool, just select the Smudge Tool and then find Sampled Brush 48 3 in the Brush Panel. In the Brush Settings Panel, these are the settings I used to get some really nice smudge hairs: Brush Tip Shape: Size 90 pixels (but for the leopard used 45 pixels), Angle 90 degrees, and Spacing 48%; Shape Dynamics: Size Jitter 37% with Control: Pen Pressure, Angle 3% and Control: Direction, and check Flip X Jitter; Scattering: Scatter – Check Both Axes and set to 89%; Count 1, and Count Jitter 72%; and Smoothing on. In the Options Bar set the Strength to 98%, Angle 90 degrees (same as in Brush Tip Shape brush section), and check Sample All Layers. (Aaron originally had the Size set to 60 px, the Strength to 45% – it did not work well for me with these settings but you can try them and see if they are better for you.)
The bird image used the above brush and a slightly different type of brush to create the fur strokes. Just need to create a brush using several tiny black dots (approximately 15 or so) in a rough circle (similar to what is used to add hair to people). Once you create this simple brush by going to Edit -> Define Brush Preset, select the Smudge Tool and then select the new brush at the bottom of the Brush Panel. Just set a pixel size of 70 and a Spacing of 10% and it creates a great Fur Brush – I used a Strength of 79% and checked Sample All Layers. Very simple but great little Smudge Tool.
This same brush can be used to create very small soft hair edges as shown on their heads and chest areas. Also, a regular soft round brush was selected and the feather color was sampled to add in some detail onto the big bird’s chest – used the Aaron Blaise brush to make it look like feathers and reduced the layer opacity to 51% so it all blended in nicely. White was added to the top hairs and the same brush was used to blend it back in. It gave a very realistic effect to the feathers. By experimenting, these brushes can paint really nice strokes.
How to Download and Save the Smudge Tool Brushes from Adobe
- Kyle Webster has lots of brushes available in his Megapack (to load them, the Brushes Panel must be open by clicking in the Options Bar the 4th icon, which shows a folder with a brush on it (or by just pressing F5), and clicking the upper right flyout icon – select Find More Brushes. Must be signed into your Adobe account to download them. To load them, double click on the .abr file name and the folder will appear at the bottom of the brush folders. Here is a Megapack PDF link that shows all the brushes in the set – look on page 7 for the Smudge Tool brushes which are located in several of the different sections.
- I like to keep my Smudge Tools saved as Tool Presets so I can find them quickly. I do not save my regular brushes as Tool Presets anymore, but I for my Erasers and Smudge Tools since only a few are used. To save as a Tool Preset, just open the Smudge brush from the Brushes Panel and press the Options Bar 2nd icon drop down (which is a tiny arrow) – select the plus icon on right that says Create a New Preset from this Brush. Next time you select the Smudge Tool, press the Tool Preset icon and it will be in the list of those loaded.
For more info, check out How to Use the Smudge Tool blog from a while back which also included my Tidbits blog called Which Tool to Use – the Smudge Tool or the Mixer Brush Tool? What I had discovered was “It seemed it was easier to blend colors with the Mixer Brush and then smooth edges and shape color using the Smudge Tool.”
Guess this blog got a little wordy, but there is a lot going on with these Smudge Tool brushes and it easy to use and create them. Hope everyone understands them a little more – I know I do. Not sure I will paint with just the Smudge Tool brushes since I really like the Mixers, but I am finding them a lot more useful than I thought I would. Have a great week!….. Digital Lady Syd
This week I am including one of my previous Tidbits blogs on the Smudge Tool that I ran a couple years ago. Since I have recently started experimenting again with the Smudge Tool, it seemed appropriate to share that info along with some new tips. And yes, there is still a lot of confusion regarding the Smudge Tool and the newer Mixer Brush Tool.
Smudge Tool Tips
The image above is a good example of using a combination of the Smudge Tool on edges, a Regular Brush Tool for the texture, and Topaz (for website see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Simplify 4 to overall soften the image. I rarely use just one tool in Photoshop to get results. In this case, the Smudge Tool was set to the Rough Smear Brush – this is apparently a legacy brush from CS2. (To create in Brush Panel start with the Spatter 59 brush and set spacing to 2%, in Scattering section set Scatter to 30% and Count to 1, and check the Transfer and Smoothing sections. In options bar set Mode to Normal and Strength to 80%. Check Sample All Layers if needed.) This brush provided great results for softening up the harsh edges of the flowers and lines where floor and wall met. Many people use a Stipple, Chalk or Pastel brush to start with and create their own Smudge Tool brushes. The image looked really nice just doing a bit of clean up with the Smudge Tool. This is one of the strengths of this often overlooked tool – does a fabulous job of smoothing edges and to me it seems a little faster than going into the Mixer Brushes, which also does this. Try using a short dabbing stroke to get this soft effect. (Other steps: A New Layer was created above and using my favorite Chalk 60 pix brush with Angle Jitter set to 19% in Shape Dynamics, a texture was applied using the brush at a very large size at 20% brush opacity. The last step involved adding a Topaz Simplify effect to just give the whole image a brighter color. You can also add another New Layer and do more Smudging to get the final look you like. This was so easy and pretty simple to do.) These flowers are from Michael’s Arts and Crafts Store – a nosegay in the bridal flowers section placed in a little tin vintage style bucket. Check out the next Section’s image description to get a few more Smudge Tool use tips and what the Strength field in the Options Bar does.
The Photoshop CC Manual offers a couple tips: (1) Select Sample All Layers in the options bar to smudge using color data from all visible layers. If this is deselected, the Smudge tool uses colors from only the active layer. (2) Select Finger Painting in the options bar to smudge using the foreground color at the beginning of each stroke. If this is deselected, the Smudge tool uses the color under the pointer at the beginning of each stroke. (3) Drag in the image to smudge the pixels. Press Alt as you drag with the Smudge tool to use the Finger Painting option. My basic understanding is the the Finger Painting option is not very useful and not used often.
The Smudge Tool can also be very useful on a layer mask to make subtle changes by nudging the edges using a Strength of 50%, Hardness of 0% and Mode of Normal. Try setting the Mode to Darken to push edges inward or Lighten to push edges outward.
Which Tool to Use – the Smudge Tool or the Mixer Brush Tool?
The next section is the content of my previous blog that helps explain a few more things about these tools.
I ran across an old tutorial that was in the very first Photoshop Creative magazine back in 2006. It was on how to create a digital painting by using the Smudge Tool. Well that was something I had to try out – couldn’t believe I had not tried this before! I really like the Mixer Brushes, which is what I usually use (see my blog Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Mixer Brushes). Once I started playing around with the Smudge Tool using different brushes and sizes and opacities, it was actually fun. My curiosity got the best of me and now I needed to know what IS the difference between the two tools – they create very similar results? I was able to find a reasonable answer on the Internet at Model Mayhem.com. Here is what they said:
“The Smudge Tool simulates the effect you see when you drag a finger through wet paint. The tool picks up color where the stroke begins and pushes it in the direction you drag……The Mixer Brush simulates realistic painting techniques such as mixing colors on the canvas, combining colors on a brush, and varying paint wetness across a stroke.”
I think this is a nice short explanation of what is happening. [Added in new: One of the other big differences is that the Smudge Tool cannot apply color while the Mixer Brush Tool can. The Regular Brush Tool must be used to add color on a layer and the Smudge Tool will then blend the colors with those below.] For my Peach Dahlia I found it was nice to use both tools. It seemed it was easier to blend colors with the Mixer Brush and then smooth edges and shape color using the Smudge Tool. The Photoshop Wow Book for CS3 and CS4 (still my favorite Photoshop book) had a nice section on painting with the Smudge Tool. They recommended using the Natural Brushes that come with Photoshop and start by using short strokes, which samples the color underneath more frequently. Then use a small brush size for detail.
To create this image, first a blank layer was placed on top. Then these two brushes were used to paint: Mixer Brush – created Tool Preset brush with these settings: Stipple Dense 26 pixels from Natural Brushes set (Options Bar: No Current Brush Load, Load the Brush After Each Stroke, Wet 100%, Load 1%, Mix 91%, Flow 100%, Check Sample All Layers). Smudge Brush Tool Preset created using Stipple 54 pixels from Natural Brushes preset with Options Bar set to Mode Normal, Strength 78%, and Checked Sample All Layers. Be sure to save these brushes as Tool Presets so the Options Bar settings are retained – if just saved as brushes, the settings might not be correct. Also, note that if the Finger Painting box is checked in the Smudge Tool options bar, the smear stroke will start with the Foreground color. If turned off, the color under the cursor is sampled first. At 100% Strength, only the first color sampled is applied – at lower settings it fades out the first color and picks up the new one. Then I just alternated mixing and smudging until I liked what I saw. The last step involved adding three textures to the image to give a real painting look: the first one is a light gray canvas texture (I created it by taking a picture of a portion of the canvas on a large oil painting in my dining room – try this – you might really like the results) set to Soft Light at 53% opacity; next ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo 2 set to Overlay at 100% opacity – it provides the interesting edging on the image; and Flypaper Textures Aquaflora taster set to Overlay at 80% opacity. I painted out a little bit of the texture on the top two textures just to direct the eye to the center of the flower. A Curves Adjustment layer was added on top to give just a small contrast boost.
Art History Tool and Smudge Tool Image Frame
This image is an example of how an image border can be created using the Art History Brush and the Smudge Tool together to get a pretty effect. Basically the technique involves increasing the size of your image by 2 inches all around and creating a Layer Snapshot from the Current Layer in the History Panel. Now just start painting the inside and/or outside edges to get a nice effect. Then use the Smudge Tool – selecting a stipple brush in this case – to smooth the edges. I painted a texture by creating a New Layer and painting with a grunge brush in purple to add some interest to the frame. It is also a good example of how the Smudge Tool can be used to smooth edges. For more info on how to do this, check out the book Beyond Digital Photography by Cher Thereinen-Pendarvis and Donal Jolley – an excellent reference book. Also, these flowers were white daisies that I shot in the grocery with my phone and turned into colorful flowers using 6 Color Fill Layers and Topaz ReStyle plug-in set to Wedgewood Blue and Tan preset.
I am finding I like the Smudge Tool and learning something about it! It is really quite versatile and can give some beautiful painterly results…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Smudging Those Petals!
This is a follow-up from last week’s How to Create Unique Watercolor Background Texture blog and more Photo Art examples. Below are listed several ways to create interesting backgrounds using brushes and other Photoshop tools. The above is an example of what can be done using very traditional textures to make your image look a little different. Some clean up and a Curves Adjustment Layer were added to emphasize the sketch lines of the flowers more. Next Lost and Taken’s Remixed Chalk Pastel 03 texture was added and set to Pin Light at 100% opacity. To get the grungy look, a New Layer was created using the Amazing Texture Brush 2 by Nakatoni (apparently these are no long available but any grunge brush you like will work to add some splotchy purple color) – the layer was set to 52% opacity. A little color clean up was done on another New Layer. Next one of my favorite canned textures by Gavin Hoey’s grunge border 2 was added and set to Overlay blend mode. To get the flowers to appear, a white layer mask was added and the flowers were painted back in using black in the mask. This texture was set to Overlay blend mode. Next a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created and a black 3 pixel stroke layer style was added as a small border line. Next my Cat Painting canvas texture was added using Soft Light at 100% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer, Levels Adjustment Layer, and Gradient Map Adjustment Layer (using a bright yellow to green gradient and layer set to Saturation blend mode at 46% opacity). Two more layers were created using different grunge brushes set to 20% opacity in purples and blues were the last steps. The reason I went over all this is to show what a few layers on top of rather traditional textures can give a very different look and be very targeted to get an interesting final result. Below is the Layer Panel workflow as basically listed above.
This background was created in an interesting way. A New Document was created using the Photoshop Paint Brush Maple Leaves set to 369 pixels with pink and yellow set as foreground and background colors – the whole layer was covered with leaves. Next the Smudge Tool was selected and I dabbed and smoothed the colors together to give this nice blended look using Fay Sirkis’s Watercolor Liquid Mask I Photoshop Brush with the Smudge Brush Tool. If you do not have access to her wonderful brushes, try Alex Dukai Artist Set 01 using the Impressionist brushes which give a very similar result. (Note: the Smudge Brush Tool takes a lot of Ram to run so use a small sized brush like 150 pixels max to do do this.) Once this is created, save the background down as a JPG so it can be used over as an image texture. I used this background and added my sketched layer from the first image. A New Layer using Obsidian Dawn’s Random Swirls 2 Glitter Brush in light pink was added to add texture to the flowers. Nagel rough pastel brushes 3 and 4 were used in the different colors to fill in blanks spots and add some color to the petals – these are really nice smoothing brushes. My Double Edge Frame layer style was added as a last step. See my blog Digital Lady Syd’s Free Layer Style Frames. Here is just a different way you can create a unique texture for you images. You can download my Smudge Texture – see below how to change the effect and colors in this same texture.
This original image was first taken into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and three filters stacked: Midnight using Neutral color set, Reflector Efex using Method Gold. and Bi-Color Filters using Color Set Violet/Pink 3. The background came out as black so a layer was placed above and olive green grunge was added on the layer using another one of Fay Sirkis’ textures pastel brush (see last week’s blog for more on Fay). Again a good grunge brush would be fine. A second layer was added and a light pink grunge was painted – the layer was set to 19% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to darken the whole image down a bit. Next, the Smudge Texture created in the image above was placed in the image on top and set to Color blend mode at 80% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture (ALT+Click between the layers) to adjust the hue (+14) and saturation (-71) of the texture itself – the adjustment layer was set to 49% opacity. Finally a composite layer was put on top and my Double Edge Frame layer style was added to finish up the image. I believe all these steps created once again a very unique background for these flowers.
This image used a pattern applied with the Pattern Stamp Tool. This tool can create some really interesting backgrounds. The original image was loaded. Next a New Layer was added on top and the Pattern Stamp Tool (sits with the Clone Stamp Tool) was selected. Now to make this interesting you have to load some interesting patterns. This is one from Princess of Shadow Victorian Dreams Texture 6 but any pattern that has colors you like can be used. I wanted some blues and reds so that is why this particular pattern was chosen. Note you can use any of your textures and turn them into patterns by opening texture, going to Edit -> Define Pattern and it will be in your group of selected patterns. To make this work you need to go to the Options Bar and in the little box where the pattern is showing, click on the little down arrow and load your pattern. A layer mask was added to remove the color from the flowers. The Pattern Stamp layer was set to Color Burn blend mode at 77% opacity. This layer was duplicated which added in the blue and red tones in the texture once the layer was set to Hard Light at 64% opacity. The flowers were painted over using Mixer Brush blenders. Once again I have to thank Fay Sirkis for her great Signature Schlepp n Smear Blender brush and one by Dave Cross – his close up mixer brush. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added where the RGB, Red and Blue curves were adjusted. Finally I a used my Double Edge Frame layer style, this time adding a Layer Stroke effect and setting the size to 18 and Fill Type to Pattern. I selected the same pattern and set the scale to make it look right.
I thought I would finish up with a couple real quick ways to add an interesting background. Kelby TV’s Ask Dave’s blog has a short video on How Did You Get That Cool Background? that was used to create the background above. This is a really easy technique. Basically Dave Cross (one of the NAPP Photoshop Guys and Hall of Famer at Photoshop World) used the Single Row or Column Marquee tool and apply a couple filters – I did this in a separate PSD file so I could use the texture over again. This time the flowers were cropped and set to Dissolve blend mode. An image that had yellows and reds was selected to create the background and a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer added for the purple/blue tones. A snow texture that Florabella Collections had given away at Christmas was placed under the flowers but above the adjustment layer – any snow texture is fine (it would be easy to create by painting with a spatter brush on a black background on a layer) and set the layer to Color Dodge at 35% opacity. A New Layer was created using Frostbo’s Snow Drops brush with purple tones – this is my favorite snow brush. My Thin Double Edge Frame was used as a last step sampling color from image.
Hope you are not getting tired of my flowers but they were easy to use as an example. This last image first used a Randomized Gradient – it was originally in bright reds and oranges.
See my Tidbits Blog I Didn’t Know That! Randomizing Gradients which uses four steps to create. This gradient had Noise set to just 50%. The randomize button was pushed several times until I got a gradient I liked. In this case I used a Radial Gradient which was pulled out from one corner of the image. A Curves and a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer were added to change the colors to browns and pinks. The flowers were placed above the gradient layer. (See left image.) A New Layer was added under the flowers but above the adjustment layers and a Mixer Brush was used to smear the color behind the flowers to get this effect. (I personally like John Derry’s Mixer Brushes – this used his Flat Fan High Bristle Count brush.) I was really surprised how this turned out. Try out different mixer brush settings to see which one does not pick up the flower colors but just those underneath. Now just a little clean up and frame. The Mixer Brushes can create some really interesting backgrounds.
I hope you have learned a few new ways to create some interesting background textures for your images, especially flowers. In the meantime, try some of these techniques and see if you get some good results!…..Digital Lady Syd
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Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
Adding a Texture for Flair!
Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes
Cold Dolphin Fountain in Florida