photoshop creative

How to paint from a photo with the Smudge tool

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
November 4, 2013

Part 1 – Anyone can create a digital painting in Photoshop. Just grab a photo and locate your Smudge tool!


Open any image to begin. Separate the image into sections, for example, the sky, buildings, tress and grass, boats and water. To keep things as simple as possible we are using the Magic Wand. Things don’t have to be 100 per cent accurate as we can patch up areas later.


Set the Tolerance to 25 and then click in the Sky. Hold down Shift and click to add areas. If you seep into other parts, simply click Ctrl/Cmd and Z. Once selected, go to Edit>Copy and then Edit>Paste to make a new layer in the Layers palette. Double-click on this and type in Sky. Repeat this procedure for the church and buildings, trees, boats and the water, making a new layer for each.


Click on the eye icons next to all the layers except Sky. You should now only be able to see the sky. Ensure the Sky layer is activated and pick the Smudge tool from the Toolbar. Go to the Brush tool and open the Brush picker. Click the right arrow, select the Thick Media brushes and then Rough Round Bristle.


Go to the top Options bar and ensure Sample All Layers and Finger Painting are unticked and Strength is set to 100%. Make the brush size as large as you can, although it will lag if you go too large for your machine. Make circular strokes – the top part of the sky hasn’t got a huge amount of detail so it’s just about making some effect.


Work your way down to the clouds, adjusting the brush size as you go. Work the blue into the clouds and then use a small brush to pull the top of the clouds back over the blue. Use the square bracket keys on your keyboard to adjust the brush size as you go.


When you get to the clouds, follow the form of them. Swoop around and up, making them nice and fluffy. If you have some areas in the sky that have harsh edges, simply lower the Strength in the top Options bar and brush over the offending edges.


With the sky sorted, click the eye icon to turn its visibility off and turn the buildings layer on. The principle is the same as for the sky, except you need to work with a much smaller brush size. Zoom in, set the Strength to 100% and follow the forms of the buildings. You can be more fluid in the middle, but the edges need to be sharper.

Continue to part 2 of this tutorial…