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How to Use the Smudge Tool in Photoshop?

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  • Difficulty Level : Hard
  • Last Updated : 14 Jul, 2021
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Adobe Photoshop is a raster-based image editing software. It is developed by Adobe.Inc and available for both macOS and Windows operating systems. You can use Photoshop to create or edit images, posters, banners, logos, invitation cards, and various types of graphic designing work. It provides various tools for designing and editing and the smudge tool is one of them.

The word smudge means “a smeary state”. We all might have smudged with ink or colors in childhood as shown below:

The smudge tool has a similar function to the one shown above. The smudge helps to mix or blend contents in an area of the Photoshop document. The smudge tools make the blending of colors very similar to that of how we mix colors with our paintbrush to produce different color combinations. The smudge tool is used for various different purposes, like retouching photos, producing artistic color patterns and effects, and so on. The smudge tool is present in the section along with the blur and sharpens tools. The symbol of the smudge tool as it appears on the tool palette of Adobe Photoshop is shown below:

How to use the smudge tool?

Now let’s understand how to use the smudge tool in Photoshop:

Step 1: Open a new blank document in Photoshop.

Step 2: With the help of the brush tool paint one color(say green) at the upper part of the canvas and with another color (say yellow) at the lower part as shown below:

Step 3: Now choose the smudge tool from the Photoshop tool palette and at the boundary between the two colors(here yellow and green) just apply the brush like painting.

Step 4: You will see a messy smeared effect as shown below:

From the above image, it can be easily understood that using the smudge tool produces an effect like mixing the colors with the help of a wet paintbrush in real life.

Options of Smudge Tool

As we understood the basic way to use the smudge tool in Photoshop, now let’s understand the properties/options of the smudge tool. Whenever we use the smudge tool in Photoshop, we see a properties/options bar as shown below:

The properties/option bar of the smudge tool has the following options:

1. Brush Size

The left-most one in the properties bar. As we click on it, the dialog box showing the brush setting opens up. We can choose our own brush and change the size of the brush, the hardness of the brush.

2. Mode

The usual blending modes are present in every other tool, like brush tools. By default, the value of the mode is set to normal. There are a total of six modes in the smudge tool including the Normal mode. They are Darken, Lighten, Hue, Saturation, Color, Luminosity.

3. Strength

Strength gives the value of the blending and smudge effect. If the value of strength is more then, the smudging effect is also more. This option has a value in the range of 1-100%.

4. Sample data from all layers 

When this option is checked, the smudge tool samples all the layers and treats them as a single layer.

5. Finger painting

This option is like when we have taken a paint of any color in our fingers and we are smudging our fingers in a wet canvas. Now, when we enable finger painting, we smudge with the current foreground color on each stroke unlike the other cases when we are smudging with the current color underneath the pointer.

6. Pen pressure

This option is only useful or can be seen when you are using a graphics tablet. If this option is enabled, then the brush will set the pressure according to the pressure applied in the pen. If not, then the pressure will be applied as mentioned in the brush preset.

Thus, the smudge tool is also a very favorite tool of digital artists. They use it to create some very wonderful backgrounds with this tool. One such example is shown below. Smudge tools can also be used to create many customized patterns presets. It helps to retouch the edges of the painting with the background in digital artwork. Nevertheless, the importance of the Smudge tool has been greatly reduced because of the Mixer Brush tool.  

Here’s given below is the example of a background created by smudging color using the smudge tool:

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