Pushing Pixels Around with the Smudge Tool in Photoshop Elements 9

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

In Photoshop Elements, the Smudge tool pushes your pixels around using the color that’s under the cursor when you start to drag. Think of it as dragging a brush through wet paint. You can use this tool to create a variety of effects. When it’s used to the extreme, you can create a warped effect. When it’s used more subtly, you can soften the edges of objects.

1Choose the Smudge tool from the Tools panel in Edit Full mode.

Press Shift+R to cycle through the Smudge, Blur, and Sharpen tools.


2Select a brush from the Brushes Preset Picker drop-down panel.

Use a small brush for smudging tiny areas, such as edges. Larger brushes produce more extreme effects.

3Select a blending mode from the Mode pop-up menu.

You have several choices, including Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity.

4Choose the strength of the smudging effect with the Strength slider or text box.

The lower the value, the lighter the effect.

5If your image has multiple layers, select Sample All Layers to make Elements use pixels from all the visible layers when it produces the effect.

The smudge still appears on only the active layer, but the look is a bit different, depending on the colors of the underlying layers.

6Use the Finger Painting option to begin the smudge by using the foreground color.

Rather than use the color under your cursor, this option smears your foreground color at the start of each stroke. You can quickly switch into Finger Painting mode by pressing the Alt key while you drag. Release Alt to go back to Normal mode.


7Paint over the areas you want to smudge.

If you don’t like the results, press Ctrl+Z (cmd+Z on the Mac) to undo the changes and then lower the Strength percentage.