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by Wendi Elizabeth Martha Scarth


 Mixer Brush Tool
Adobe Photoshop


Hand-paint Artistic Effects Using The Mixer Brush Tool
 Suitable for Adobe Photoshop CS, CS2, CS3, CS4, CS5, CS6 & CC
Skill Level - Intermediate

Mixer Brush Tool Adobe Photoshop
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This tutorial demonstrates how to utilise Photoshop’s Mixer Brush Tool to create a hand-painted photographic conversion.  To work along, you are welcome to download the Start Image I am working with HereUnzip the file and open the image onto Photoshop’s workspace.

Understand The Workspace And Palettes

Photographs are unique, and have different requirements, therefore, when you are working with your own, it’s important to experiment with different Brushes and Brush Settings to create a painterly conversion that is suitable for yours’ and your image’s needs. In addition, you will find this tutorial easier to follow if you utilise a simple start image, such as the daffodil I am working with: then, when you are familiar with this Tool, you can move onto hand-painting complicated images such as landscapes and portraits. 

Undo and Navigation Steps
Two ways of undoing steps are from the top menu, Edit then Step Backwards.
Alternatively, click a previous snapshot in the History Palette.

Navigate (zoom in and pan) your image using the Navigator Palette,

or the Zoom Tool.

Activate The Hand Tool by tapping the Spacebar, keeping the Spacebar pressed, pan your image in the usual way.

Open your Start Image onto Photoshop’s workspace. Then left-click the top-right Painting tab to activate the Painting Workspace.

Extend your image’s workspace by left-clicking and dragging out one of its corners.

Tip: Snap Your Image To The Top Menu’s Horizontal Bar
Another way of centralising an image is to snap it to the top (horizontal) menu-bar by dragging your image towards it: as soon as you see a blue horizontal bar, your image should automatically snap to it.

New Transparent Layer Tip
If you create a New Transparent Layer above the Background Layer, then apply your colour to the New Transparent Layer, you can alter the paint-strokes by lowering the New Transparent Layer’s Opacity, or by changing the New Transparent Layer’s
Blending Mode.To create a New Transparent Layer, left-click the following Create a new layer tab, located at the bottom of the Layers Palette. If you are working on a New Transparent Layer, it is important to mark the Mixer Brush Tool’s Sample All Layers tick box.

Now, from the left-side Tools Toolbar, activate the Mixer Brush Tool.

And set the following attributes into the Tool Options Bar.

When working with your own Start Image, experiment with different Brush Presets, until you discover one that works with your Start Image. For example, I have selected the Round Fan Stiff Thin Bristles Brush, and have set the Brush to Very Wet Light Mix.
In addition, experiment with different Wet, Load, Mix and Flow settings, or create your own Custom Brush - as demonstrated in my PDF Tutorials.

The Very Wet Light Mix setting works by mixing the Foreground colour with your photograph’s colours, as if the paint on your photograph was still wet.

Until you are familiar with this Tool, it’s better to apply the paint in short stokes, and release the left-mouse button frequently.

Transparent Layer Note
If you are working on a New Transparent Layer, remember to mark the following Sample All Layers tick box.

Set a different Brush Preset from 
the right-side Brush Well, 
if you prefer.

Painting With A Grass Preset Tip
If your image has grass in it, then select the following Dune Grass Brush Preset.

You can quickly resize the Brush Size by tapping your Keyboard’s Square Bracket Keys (with caps OFF).

Now you have set your Brush, you are ready for the next step.

Press down (and keep pressed) your Keyboard’s i Key. This activates the Eyedropper Tool.

Then hover your cursor over your image, and left-click to collect coloured pixels: for my example, I am collecting Yellow Pixels - as illustrated below.

Left-clicking sets the Foreground Swatch to the colour you left-clicked over. 
Alt/Option-clicking sets the Background Swatch to the colour you Alt/Option-clicked over: therefore, go ahead and Alt/Option click over the Green Stem to set the Background Swatch to Green.

Now you have loaded your Brush with your choice of colours, you are ready for the next

Zoom into your image (to enlarge it), using the Zoom Tool . (I Zoomed in twice).

Left-clicking Zooms into your image, and right-clicking, then selecting Zoom out, Zooms out of your image.

Now, reactivate the Mixer Brush Tool.

Then carefully apply your loaded Brush over your image to apply your choice of paint effect.

Brush Size Note
Setting a Brush Size of 10 Pixels paints with a Smooth Brush: However; if you enlarge the Brush to around 30 Pixels your paint application will be scratchy and textured. For personal results, experiment, and discover a look you prefer.

Painting with the Mixer Brush blends the Brush’s colour and texture with the photograph’s colours, and produces a painterly artistic distortion - as illustrated below.

Step Backwards Note
If you make a mistake with the application, you can return your image to a previous state by clicking an earlier snapshot in the History Palette: (Window then click a tick before History).

Now, adjusting the Brush Size as necessary, (and being careful not to distort neighbouring, non-yellow pixels), continue to paint over the yellow area: or the area you are working with. After you have completed this: hold down the i Key and this time left-click to collect Green Pixels. Alternatively, if you collected Green Colours earlier, tap the X Key to swap the Foreground and Background swatches. Then reduce the Brush Size to around 5 or 6 Pixels, and carefully paint over the Green Stem to distort the colours.

Paint Direction Tip
Whilst it’s important to apply the Brush Stokes in the same direction as your image’s natural strokes, the application doesn’t need to be perfect. Indeed, creating minor errors adds to the painterly illusion.

After you have painted over the Green Stem: hold down the i Key, then left-click to collect Blue Background Pixels: and being careful not to displace non-blue pixels, paint over (displace) the Blue Background.

After you have completed this, return your image to its original size by right-clicking with the Zoom Tool active, and make any final Mixer Brush Tool adjustments. 

Crosshatch Filter Tip
To intensify the brush strokes you have just hand-painted: from the top menu, choose Filter then choose Brush Strokes then choose Crosshatch. From the subsequent Crosshatch dialogue box, accept the default settings, (or experiment) then click OK.


Sharpen Tip
To create extra clarity, sharpen your completed work: from the top menu, choose Filter then choose Sharpen then again choose Sharpen. (Alternatively, select a Sharpening Filter of your choice).

Add Texture: Optional Tip
From the top menu, choose Filter then choose Texture then choose Texturiser. From the subsequent dialogue box, enter the following Canvas settings, or experiment, then click


Congratulations, your Painterly Mixer Brush Tool Conversion is complete,
and is ready to save.

Now you are familiar with this Tool, you can have lots of fun converting your favourite photographs into artistic hand-painted creations.

Wendi E. M. Scarth. 
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