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Photoshop Blur Tool, Sharpen Tool and the Smudge Tool Tutorial

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Learn Photoshop CC With Pictures

“Photoshop Blur Tool, Sharpen Tool and the Smudge Tool Tutorial” is part of my Photoshop book “Learn Photoshop CC With Pictures”, which is more revised and covers more concepts than the online tutorials, feel free to check out the book by visiting my Learn Photoshop CC With Pictures Book Page.

In this tutorial. We are going to discuss 3 more tools, The Blue Tool Blur-Tool, The Sharpen Tool Sharpen-Tool and The Smudge Tool Smudge-Tool . The blur tool decrease the focus of part of the picture. The sharpen tool does the opposite, it increase the focus of a certain area, or sharpen it in other words. The smudge Tool smears the picture, similar to what you could to to paints with your finger. Which is why is has a finger icon

The Blur Tool Blur-Tool

The blur tool Blur-Tool decrease the focus of the part of the picture you paint on. This is useful to integrate a new object into the picture, or to remove very small blemishes from a someone’s face. Bigger blemishes should be removed by using tools like the Spot Healing Brush Tool Spot-Healing-Brush-Tool.

To illustrate how the Blur tool works, take a look at the line on the picture on the left, see how sharp it is. And compare it to the same line on the right. And see how blurred and unfocused it looks like. This is because I blurred it using the blur tool.


Using the Blur Tool is so straightforward, all you have to do is to select the tool. And then paint with it, just like we do with the brush tool.

I am going to show you two examples for the Blur Tool, one that works, and one that doesn’t work the best way.

Take a look at the following girl picture:-


If you looked carefully, you will see a little blemish on the girl face, this blemish can be removed easily with the Blur Tool.


To remove the blemish, do the following:-

  • Select the Blur Tool Blur-Tool from the Tools Panel
  • Adjust the brush size of the tool, mine looked like that:-


  • Now click and drag the mouse a little over the small blemish. Then lift you hand off the button. Do that about 10 times, and the blur tool will blend the area with the blemish with its surroundings. Causing the blemish to disappear


  • Now let’s work on the example that doesn’t exactly work. We will try to remove the bigger blemish in the middle of the girl’s face:-


  • Select the Blur Tool Blur-Tool from the Tools Panel. And do little strokes on the spot. No matter how much you stroke the area, the blemish won’t go. The reason for that isbeasue the Blur Tool is not made for making very strong blur like the one needed to remove the blemish. Making it unsuitable for the job. So if you want to remove that blemish, you will have to do one of the following:-
    • Using another tool, like the Spot Healing Brush Tool or the Patch Tool.
    • Use a more powerful blurring technique, like the Gaussian Blur Filter. Which we will talk about when we get to talk about filters very soon in the future.

Integrating a new object into a picture using the Blur Tool

Following is a girl I pasted onto the field picture:-


And for many reasons, the girl stands out in the picture, causing her to appear unnatural. And it is obvious that she didn’t belong to the picture in the first place. One of the few things that could be done to integrate her with the picture is to blur the edges or the girl using the Blur Tool. Because if you looked closely, you will see that the edges of the girls are so sharp. Which is what made her stand out in the first place:-


After going through the edges with the Blur Tool, the edges seems much smoother now:-


Here are the picture after I zoomed out. Notice how I applied more blur on her feet to makes them look like they sank into the grass


One of the things that you could do to integrate the girl more into the picture is to match her lighting with the picture. To do that, I painted some green over the girl using a soft brush on a different layer. Then I changed the Blending mode to Soft Light and decreased the layer flow/opacity until I was satisfied with the results. Here are the final image I got:-


The Sharpen Tool. Sharpen-Tool

The Sharpen Tool Sharpen-Tool does exactly the opposite of the Blur Tool Blur-Tool. It sharpen the edges of the parts of the picture you paints on. Which is a good way to make certain parts of the picture stand out. Or to remove some Blur that may exists in the picture.

To illustrate how the Sharpen Tool works, We are going to sharpen parts of the fur in the following Panda. To make these parts of the fur stands out more:-


To do that, Select the Sharpen Tool Sharpen-Tool from the Tools Panel, then start Painting with the tool. After painting a few times with the tool. The details of the Panda face starts to stand out more.


Don’t over do it

Using the Sharpen Tool Sharpen-Tool is certainly a pleasure to see the details of the picture appears in front of you. This is one of the reasons Photoshop Beginners tend to overdo using  the tool trying to get better results. Ending up destroying the photo. When editing pictures using Photoshop. You have to remember that sometimes less is more. So choosing to sharpen a little bit less is usually better than ending up with a distorted picture. Like the following Panda picture, which was sharpened to death:-


A great alternative for the Sharpen Tool is the Unsharp Mask filter. Which we will explain in the filters tutorial I am going to make soon

The strength option of the Blur Tool & The Sharpen Tool



The strength option. Which exists for both the Blur Tool & The Sharpen Tool. Allows you to adjust the power of the tool you are using. Sometimes, the effect of the tool is not enough, so you need to increase the the strength of the tool to suit your need. Likewise, sometimes the strength of the tool is a bit too much, where you need to decrease the power of the tool to get the exact amount of effect you want.

Take a look at the following Deer picture:-


I sharpened the back of the Deer so sharply by setting the strength of the Sharpen Tool to %100. It took me 3 strokes only to sharpen his back that way:-


Then I redid the sharpening again, but this time, the strength of the Sharpen tool is set to %25. So it took me 12 strokes to get the same amount of sharpening:-


Generally speaking, you could achieve everything you want by keeping the strength of the Blur Tool or Sharpen Tool so low, though that will require you to do much more clicking to achieve the same result. Which will lower your productivity too much.

The Smudge Tool Smudge-Tool

The Smudge Tool Smudge-Tool  is intended to use for painting, it aims at simulating smudging the colours with your finger. Similar to how painters do in traditional drawing. But the tool can still be used to do some minor editing here and there

I was able to make the Panda eyes bigger using the Smudge tool here. If you looked carefully, you will notice that the edges of the eyes became somewhat distorted. Which could be fixed to some degree by the sharpening it using the Sharpen Tool.


The Strength Of The Smudge Tool


Just like the Blur Tool & The Sharpen Tool. The Smudge Tool has a strength option that determines how powerful your strokes will affect the picture. The more powerful the strength, the more pixels will move by your strokes. Here is how this option works in general:-


Notice how the Smudge Tool at %100 strength moves all the pixels below the cursor.

Warning:- Be careful about using the Smudge Tool with huge brush tip. As doing so may cause Photoshop to do lengthly calculations. Rendering Photoshop useless until these operations end. Or until you fore quit the program

Finger painting


A nifty feature of the Smudge tool is the Finger Painting check box. When this option is checked, the smudge tool adds a little stroke to the picture, which is fairly useful in case you want to use the tool for painting and colour blending.

I added a few red strokes on the Panda head using the Finger Paint option.


And after working on it a little bit, I added up making the following hat:-


The finger Paint option of the Smudge tool is one of the nicest tools you could use if you plan on using Photoshop for digital painting.


Note:- The Liquify filter provides a much easier way to manipulate pictures than the Smudge Tool. I plan to dedicate a tutorial for that filter.


  • The Blur Tool smooth the pixels you paint one. Making them look misty or less focused
  • The Sharpen Tool does exactly the opposite of the Blur Tool. It increase the sharpness of the pixels by increasing the contrast between the pixels
  • Overusing the Blur Tool or the Sharpen Tool can lead to less than ideal results. So be careful about using them, and always remember that less is more when it come to these tools
  • The strength option of the Blur Tool & Sharpen Tool determines how much blurring or sharpening happens with each stroke of your mouse. This is useful way to apply the exact effect you want on pictures
  • The Smudge Tool simulates smudging & mixing colours with your finger. It is a very useful tool to use for digital painting
  • The strength option of the Smudge Tool determines how much and how far pixels are displaces with each stroke you make
  • Fingerprint option of the Smudge Tool apply a little colour alongside your stroke. Which is a good why to to mix multiple colours together


Blur the surroundings of an object

The Blur Tool can be used to blur the surrounding of the object you want to be the centre of focus. That way, the viewers of the picture will tend to focus on it when they look at it:-

  Blue-Focus-Example copy

Emphasizing the details of a picture

The Sharpen tool is a very good way to make the details of a picture easier to see. As I have done with the following dog picture


Creating a logo

The Smudge Tool, along with the fingerprint option, can be used to create a simple logo. Like the one I created for the fictional company “Fire”. Working on the logo a bit more can make it up to par with professional designs.


Would you like to learn Photoshop?

Check my Photoshop book Learn Photoshop CC With Pictures which contains a full course on how to use Photoshop in the simplest way possible.

See Also

I am an anime artist, and huge fan of digital art. I love drawing with pencils too. But I rarely do that anymore nowadays. Since some aspects of digital art can be tricky, I try my best to explain the concepts as easily as possible.

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