Saturday, November 22, 2008


As I was creating the current episode of Trowbridge, it occurred to me that I make frequent use of the smudge tool in Photoshop. In the event that you rarely, or never use it, I thought I would call it to your attention. I should preface my comments by acknowledging that I am the last one to give instruction on Photoshop. I know it just enough to get by. But I have become quite familiar with the small part of Photoshop that I use. It has literally transformed all of my work.

For many years all of my illustration was done with "wet paint", watercolor, colored inks and Dr. Martin's Dyes. I never imagined myself painting digitally. But our digital wizard son, Eric, who now works for Disney in Los Angeles as a Flash master, had other ideas. He gently nudged me into the digital world. One of my regrets, however, is that I am a slow learner in all things digital. But I do catch on eventually.

Rather than do a literal step-by-step, I thought I would mention the areas in the painting where I used the smudge tool extensively, and how I used it. First to the Trowbridge page:

I used the smudge tool a lot in the rocks in the stream. I used it to sweep the rock color upstream and downstream from the rocks, to softly blend the rock and the water. Ditto with the texture of the trees in the background, the rock that Mrs. T is sitting on, and the foreground rocks that are cast in shadow, and the moss on the side of the stream.

Also, the smudge tool works well if you want to soften a hard edge, as I did with the rock that Mrs. T is sitting on. When I do rock, bark and moss textures I do tiny swirls with the smudge tool to blend colors together. If you experiment with it, as I did, you may find that it really enhances your work.

Sidebar: The "airbrush" brush came in handy (at 50%) to add a vapor effect at the base of the waterfall in the background.

I thought about the smudge tool as I was working on a full-sheet realistic floral watercolor early this morning for my Painting in Paradise. There were so many times when I felt like a smudge tool would come in handy for blending the leaf and petal colors. But that ain't gonna happen when you're working with traditional media.


Sherry Rogers said...

You know Bron I used it when I first learned Photoshop and since then I guess I forgot about it. I will start experimenting with it! Thanks!

I have missed Trowbdrige. . .it is nice to see you post again. I think it's fascinating to see how you use the photographs you use for illustration references. Pretty cool!

Ginger*:)* said...

I use a similar tool in Painter, Bron. It is called the Blender tool. There are variations that allow me to use it as a gentle blender, a stippled spreader, or even an oily blender. The effects are marvelous if used in moderation and it seems that I have used it at least once in every illustration. It is a wonderful tool for blending colors at their edges and creating highlights along outer edges of a subject.

Although I have used the smudge tool in Photoshop I don't seem to be able to control it as well as the similar tool in Painter.

The effect you created was lovely!