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Smudge Vs Mixer Brushes

Lesson 13 from: Advanced Techniques with Brushes in Photoshop CC

Lisa Carney

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Lesson Info

13. Smudge Vs Mixer Brushes

Next Lesson: Blender Brushes

Lesson Info

Smudge Vs Mixer Brushes

I know this kind of trips up some folks, we talked a little bit at the very beginning about what a mixer brush does and a smudge brush and it's not uber important, it's just, a smudge brush just takes what's there and moves it around, okay? And a mixer brush will put something down and take what's there and move it around. Hopefully we'll make it a little clearer. There are some data points on the tool bar that you're gonna wanna pay attention to. I think for today, it doesn't really matter overly, but you can refer to this later. There is one section down here at the bottom that makes zero sense to me no matter how many time I've read it. There's a function here on the mixer brush, do you see these icons, mixer brush? And it's dry versus light versus moist. I could not even begin to tell you. There's some definitions that don't mean anything for my artistic brain. Play with them as you will and all the stuff I read on the internet, other than from Adobe, said the exact same thing. The...

y said, "I don't know, give it a try." Some of that has to do with if you're painting over a tone or on white. So I do a lot of my samples on white because I wanna see what's going on. Well, guess what? When you change all that, it does nothing. If you put a gray scale file, like 50% gray under it, then you can start seeing them. So that's another thing to look for, okay? I love these brushes. I absolutely, 100% love this. These are brushes that start to let you become a painter when you are not a painter. So we're gonna talk about the blender smudge tool brushes and I'm gonna use the impressionist ones but it doesn't really matter now which ones. They all function similarly, they just have different tip heads. Now, you're gonna find that Kyle impressionist blenders in the impressionist brushes. So when you download his from the internet, you have to go into the impressionist folder to find these. And we're gonna talk about that later, I'm gonna just go through a demo real quick. I seriously, I'm in love. It's a love thing. Alright, impressionist brushes, how I love thee so. Now I wanna be really clear, when we started the demo before and I did that painting, I was literally painting color onto a background with a brush that was a paintbrush. I'm gonna use a blender brush and with a blender brush, as I said, it doesn't lay down color. A blender brush takes color. So if you notice on the demo that I'm starting, I'm gonna grab impressionist blender one, I'm not starting with that sunflower drawing. And the reason I'm not starting with the drawing of a sunflower is I have to start with something. It has to take from a picture. Do you understand? So the sunflower's just a black and white drawing of a sunflower and I was painting underneath it. This one, you actually have to start with an image and/or color because blender brushes only take what's there and do something to it. They do not put any color down. So, I'm gonna start with a new layer and, dang it, no I'm not. I'm gonna go to my brushes from right here, click on it. There you are sweetheart, I love you, hello. Close the half tone up. We're done with half tone, in fact, you can go away sweetie. Clean your brushes. Clean up your pallette. Can I say that, clean your pallette? Man brush. Alright, impressionist blender, let's use this one. Kyle one, go back to your layers. Command+shift+N, command+paste, and let's take a look. Now, before you start, well here's what you're gonna do, I know you're gonna do this 'cause it's how I did it. You're gonna pick your brush, you're gonna check what size it is, maybe, maybe not. And then you're gonna hit return, and you're start and you're gonna go, "Well, hello? Hello? Nothing's happening." And I don't know why this is because on his brushes, he can put the settings anywhere. Sample layers is turned off. Why is that? Because Kyle is an illustrator and illustrators are not afraid of a blank piece of paper. They're not afraid to get right on something. I'm gonna hit command+J and copy the base. They're not afraid to get right on something and go, "Woohoo, I'm ready to go." Alright, I'm not an illustrator, I'm afraid, I'm a re-toucher, everything's gotta be flexible. If someone else is making the decision, not me, I'm very uncomfortable doing that. I'm gonna delete that layer. I'm gonna click on my Kyle impressionist blender one and I'm gonna click on sample all layers. And now I can go in, I'm not option clicking anything. I feel like I have to hold my hand up here so you know I'm not cheating. I'm not cheating. I'm just going in and moving around and it is picking up whatever's underneath and starting to paint. Do you see that? It's so lovely. I think it's lovely, in my humble opinion. And you can make the brush bigger, so that's a bigger brush. You can make the brush smaller. So you can go in and you can block areas. So what I started to do is I started this crazy, 'cause I'm just crazy, I did these big blocked areas a little rough. Again, it's kind of like training wheels, a little bit. A little awkward. Okay, well that's, I'm not sure I want it this crazy rough. Why don't I turn that off. Why don't I make a new layer and call it gentle. Why don't I make the brush really small and go in and just do some small bits on top. Alright, and what's cool about that is it's all on separate layer, right? Now I can put that on top of my rough bits, if I want, and it still picked up what was underneath. And then I can pick it up at the same time. So can you all see how you can kinda go back and forth and decide what you wanna do? Now, ah, I'm on the blending mode. Do you see that clear, to be able to clear? You can't clear here. There's no clearing. So, if you wanna get rid of something, you're actually gonna have to either do a erase or mask and you can't erase or mask with a blender tool. Don't be afraid, it's okay. Because a blender tool doesn't put any color down. A blender tool only takes what's already there. So you cannot mask with a blender tool. Is it all becoming crystal clear? Maybe, a little bit. So let me just show you a little bit about what I did here. So I just painted, and again, I'm not here to in any way, shape, or form, claim that the quality of the painting that I have done is good at all. As I said, this is all brand new for me and I'm just trying it out. But, it's really exciting me to think about what is possible here and what you might be able to do in the future. And then I wanna show you something that I put on top. Again, I really, really, really wanna encourage you guys to experiment and to see what else you can do. So in that vein, I like to often add a little drawing on top, like a little pen artist. Kenna, you were for Halloween, you were Bob, what's Bob's-- Ross. Bob Ross, you were Bob Ross. (laughing) So Bob Ross is someone, she was a great Bob Ross. You can emulate someone else's style, you can also, I was watching, over the last few months, trying to figure out painting again, a lot of the illustrators I see or the painters, they do a line sketch and then they do watercolors over it. And I thought, "Oh, well that was kinda cool." well I know how I can do a little bit of a line sketch So I'm gonna show you another effect you can do with a adjustment layer, pardon me, a filter. And what that is called finding edges. So here I'm gonna open this file up, don't be afraid. And I've got a Smart Object and on that Smart Object I put a filter. I'm just gonna throw it away for a second so you can see. So all I have here, in this folder, is that white dahlia as a Smart Object and on that white dahlia Smart Object I went to stylize, find edges. And I just did this find edge filter. Now, you can't quite tell what I did because I forgot to turn the layer mode of the set back onto normal. So, let me do that again so you can actually see what I've done. I've got an image, it's a copy of the original photo that we just did the painting of. It's a Smart Object and I've gone to stylize, find edges. And what that does is it makes a little white and dark edging and then in that I put it at 50% opacity. Do you see how I keep everything flexible? Keep everything flexible so I can change my mind. I like to change my mind a lot. And then once you have a white and you put it on the mode called multiply, you guys know that you can see right through it. So then it becomes lines, right? Well instead of doing that to the actual layer, I'm gonna do it to the layer set and why I do that is I can add more to it. So what I did is I doubled this up because I wanted it to have a little more density, it was a little too faint for me. Does that make sense? And do you guys remember on the filter find edges, there were no controls for me? You find edge, you do it, and that's it, and Bob's your uncle. That's it, you don't get a choice. So I wanted to double it up so I doubled it up and I put the top layer on multiply. So there's one and two exactly the same, the top one on multiply. And then I put the layer set on multiply and then I just masked it in. And what that allows me to do is darken it and then I kinda change my mind and I'm like, "Can I make that 50%?" I like it at 50% better. And now, all I've done is add a little line work and what's nice is, do you guys ever do this? You make a decision and then you come back later and you think you were wrong and you should go back to 100%, or 80? Well, if you've merged it, you're kinda hosed. This way, as a layer set, you can keep adding to it. Now the other thing about any of this paper kinda painting thing is I really think it's nice to add texture on top. So I have this texture I have here and it's this Italian canvas. If you get any kind of texture from somebody else and it's not part of your library, all you have to do is click on this icon. Ah, it's part of my library preset already, I don't have to worry about it. But if you guys don't have it, you click on this icon right here. Right here in the patterns. This is on your paperwork. And it will show you that you can load your canvas, okay? And then that's just a little pattern overlay just like we did with the half tone, only we're using it in a different way and it puts a little texture right over the top. Cool, alright, so I'm gonna show you that in something other than a flower because I can. Again, what are we doing? We're doing blenders. Aww, come one. Come on, look how cute. So on this image here, and I'm not gonna walk through the whole how to, I'm just gonna put this in a layer set real quick and show you a before and after. Alright, so on this image here, here's my original. I mean, it's cute but clients, you know, they want something a little more special. I have used that photo effect action that I'm so proud of and I'm so in love with that I use. It's turned off. I have done a base, I've got a, let me go through, I've done the blurring. So that flower that I did, I did the exact same thing. I used the impressionist blender number one. Let's take a look at what I have here. Let's turn everything off. I have a picture. I did a layer on top and I did the impressionist blender just like the flower. It's the exact same thing as the flower, totally exact. And then, do you remember what that little girl, I did the blend, the blur? I took the layer, the original layer, and I just blurred it like 20. Let me show you real quick. I took the original layer and I just blurred it, let's say 20. If I was smart, I would have written the number down and/or I might have used surface blur. It looks like actually I used surface blur. Blur, surface blur. What surface blur will allow you do is it will allow you to keep your lights and darks a little better. Yeah, I used surface blur and then a regular blur. Surface blur, then a regular Gaussian blur. And why did I do that? I did that because I needed to fill in a bit. Have you guys noticed this paint technique? It's got a lot of holes, right? I just needed a little fill in. So, see that? There's the original, there's the blurred layer, there's the paint on top. And there's one thing that seems to be freaking most people out on any kind of painting that I personally do is eyes and noses. So on that note, I mask out the blurry noses, I don't paint the noses, and I put the original nose back in and the original eyes back in. So I copy the face, I've got a blur, and then I paint on top. That was, this thing here was 10 minutes of work. Now, it wasn't 10 minutes to figure it out. Let's call it what it is. It took me a while to figure out how to do this but now that I know how to do this, this is about 10 minutes worth of work. What's the formula? You blend on a layer on top, if you need it, you blur the original and put it in, and don't forget about, well, human nose you could probably get away with, but if it's a pet, you probably wanna put eyes and noses. And then do you remember that photo sketch I like to use? I used it on the daisy, I use it on everything. I will often put it on top and leave it on either soft light or multiply. And in this case I used it on soft light and I'm just gonna turn it off and on and you can decide if you like the effect. That's before, and that's after. I think it just adds a little contrast. It's just that, let's put it on normal here for you to see it. It's just that photo sketch only the way the action came out, it came out a little dark, so I just lightened a little bit, gave it some more contrast and put it on soft light, 30%. And there you go. Oh, what's that? I added a little bass, I got crazy. You ready for this? I just, a little gray, it's nothing, just a little paint in the background. And then I added Kyle's real watercolors, some edges, his super splat, ooh. Do you remember that stamp art we did at the beginning? Super splat. That's it. And then I did it again. I doubled it up to make it a little denser and there's your little baby. The kitty's not done so I can show you what the difference is. Not done cat, all that's done on the cat is that little bit right there, right there on the edge. So can you kinda see where you're going with it? Hopefully you'll be able to see how much fun you can have. Super easy and as I said, about an hour's worth of work. Cool.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Brushes Companion Handout
Adobe Stock Contributor

Ratings and Reviews


Knowledgeable Lisa is the best teacher. She makes learning Photoshop fun. Great course. Lisa has a great teaching style. She mixes in a great speech cadence, great voice up and down and pausing, jokes, and is extremely knowledgeable and fun to watch. Awesome course. Really helpful course for getting my feet wet with brushes.


This is a comprehensive overview of Ps CC Brushes, what they do, how they work and how to control, manage & modify them. I found it extremely useful to learn about the functionality/features that Ps CC brushes can provide even though I'm a photographer and not an illustrator or painter. I will never ever be able to employ everything Lisa explained & demo'd in the class - she covered a wide gamut of info. But she served the purpose, in this class, of being essentially what I'd call an 'idea sparker'. Once you see how she works with brushes and you find out how you can adapt (or create) brush tools to suit your personal artistic style the options for creativity are unlimited. I might re-title this class "Oh the Places Brushes Can Go" (apologies to Dr Seuss and his classic graduation gift book 'Oh, the Places You'll Go...'). Keep in mind a few things about this class (& back away from it and your credit card if you don't note a few key facts...): (1) It is called 'Advanced Techniques' - it is for intermediate to advanced Ps users, not newbies unless you're a child prodigy who picks things up really fast, (2) This is not a 'Paint with Lisa' class - we don't all paint a butterfly like a color by numbers together. Rather we learn about Ps brushes, how they work, what they look like and how to modify them and change their dynamics for different types of artistic/retouching/post-processing uses. Each person will have to experiment - there's no one 'this is it' formula that can be provided, (3) Lisa talks and thinks fast and has a pretty amusing patter too (she's clearly very intelligent!) - so be prepared to hit the Pause button. She repeatedly advises during the class, don't overload your brain with all there is to absorb with regard to Ps Brushes. Take breaks to try the info she shares & see what works for you before going on to a different section of the class. Don't buy this class thinking you'll whizz through it in 15 minutes & figure out how to complete a job you've committed to deliver in 2 hours, (4) There's a large packet of material that comes with a purchase of the class (descriptions, definitions, brush settings, drawing examples, etc.). Item #4 is the only thing I'd ding this class on. While the handout material contains lots of really really useful info it is - sadly - microscopic print. The text is exceedingly difficult for my poor old eyes to read. I value that there's plenty of white space on the pages to write notes as Lisa talks - I've done so prodigiously. But the print in that accompanying brushes class guide needs to be larger. I honestly wish I could enlarge the print in some way (unless it is a PDF that I can alter & I haven't figured it out). If there is a way to re-print with larger type font sizes someone please let me know! Bottom line: I highly recommend this class to more advanced Ps users who want a comprehensive overview of Brushes and working with them. It's definitely not a class for someone who wants a linear, step x step, "do this then do that" type of recipe class. As I've noted above, it's best as a way to learn about richly varied Ps tools you may have only had superficial exposure to previously; and get enough new knowledge to make you dangerous (and, dare I say it, boldly creative!).

Skye Taten

Lisa is the BEST teacher!!!!! Everyone should take this class!!!!!!! This class is utterly phenomenal!!!! Lisa is so knowledgable and so very talented. She is incredibly smart, super funny and so very helpful. This class contains so much valuable information, and at this price it's a complete steal. This class has forever changed my life!!! I'm so happy to have a new skill set. Thank you Lisa from the bottom of all of our hearts you are completely incredible and have touched all of our editing in photoshop lives forever!!!!! You are so very talented thank you so much for sharing your incredible skills and knowledge with us, you are a true beautiful talented soul. xoxo, Skye

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