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Adobe Photoshop Basics
Lesson 8b: Blur, Sharpen, and Smudge Tools

Blur Tool, Sharpen Tool, Smudge ToolWe'll start with the blur, sharpen and smudge tools. With these tools, the name pretty much says it all. They don't require that much explanation, but a few tips are always helpful! (Continued below...)


Adobe Photoshop Basics
Read This First!
Course Outline
Retouching Tools Intro
• Blur, Sharpen, Smudge
Dodge, Burn, Sponge
Clone Stamp, History Brushes
• Ex: 1&2 3 4&5 6&7 8 9 10

Interactive Classroom
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-Get Help with Lesson 8

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The keyboard shortcut is R and you can toggle between the three tools using Shift R.

  • Blur - blurs the area where you paint.
  • Sharpen - increases contrast in the areas where you paint.
  • Smudge - blends the pixels where you paint simulating the action of dragging a finger through wet paint.

Each of these tools has a mode option and a pressure setting. The pressure setting determines how strong the effect is applied. With the sharpen tool especially, you will want to keep the pressure setting very low. Too much sharpening can have some really disastrous results. If you need to see it to believe it, just crank that pressure up to 100 and make a couple swipes across any image.

I think you'll find you will not use the sharpen tool very often at all. The Unsharp Mask filter is much better at overall sharpening. The sharpen tool is useful primarily for popping out highlights on shiny objects, or maybe to give an important object a little extra "pop" after you've resampled an image. Remember to use it sparingly, though, and always create a snapshot first because it's so easy to overdo it.

The blur tool is useful for removing small facial blemishes and smoothing out wrinkles. It's easy to get a bit carried away with the blur tool when working on a face. Things will be looking great as you start, but if you overdo it, your image will begin to have an obvious retouched appearance if you're not careful. One way to avoid overdoing it is by using the lighten and darken blend modes with the blur tool. For instance, if you want to tone down freckles or diminish a pimple, you would use the blur tool in the lighten mode. In lighten mode, only darker pixels are blended and it will tone down freckles and blemishes without completely removing them. By the way, once you blur pixels with the blur tool, those pixels are permanently altered and you can't bring them back into focus again with the sharpen tool.

The smudge tool is grouped with the retouching tools, but it's actually used more often in painting. For retouching purposes is can be use to quickly rub out a minor blemish, touch up the shine on someone's lip stick, and so on. It can also be useful for blending out the jaggies that can sometimes occur when sizing up an image. This is another tool you want to be careful not to overdo and be sure to keep the pressure setting low. The smudge tool has a finger painting option that applies a dab of the foreground paint color each time you click.

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