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Fun with Smudge Brushes

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

Maybe you've been playing around with Photoshop's smudge brushes already, but this was new to me until just recently. Photoshop has hundreds of brush offerings, most available free if you have one of Adobe's subscriptions and many are already loaded into your version of Photoshop.

The smudge brush does just what the name implies -- it smudges your photograph. With these brushes you can turn a photograph into a painting, get rid of annoying distractions or add some bokeh to the background. Here's a rough demonstration of what I did with a photo of a blue-footed booby.

The background on this photo is distracting and I hate that stick coming out of the bird's wing (wish I had thought of this before I entered it in the April salon). I added a layer and started painting.

My favorite smudge brush is Kyle's Impressionist Blender 1, part of the Wet Media Brushes folder in the brush drop-down list. I usually set the brush strength mode under 10%, sometimes as low as 1%, but experiment and have fun with it. Smudge as much or as little as you like and try a variety of brushes. The smudge brushes all have an icon of a hand with a finger sticking out of it.

As you smudge, you may experience what is called brush lag -- the smudging is unable to keep up with your brush strokes. So take it slow and be patient. Or you can Google the problem and there are suggestions on line on how to change the preferences to make the program more responsive.

You can see I smudged over the main subject as well as the background on this photo. Details are easily brought back with the use of a layer mask. Once I have smudged the photo to my liking, I experiment with the opacity slider until I like what I see. Then I add a layer mask to pull up elements I liked and got rid of a few I didn't.

Here's the finished project. A little bit of bokeh in the background but the bird's bill is still sharp and that annoying stick is blurred out. I could have spent more time masking the blue feet, but you get the idea.


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