How to Use the Smudge Tool in Photoshop

Found in the Focus area of your toolbox, the Smudge tool is one of Photoshop’s most powerful features for blending edges if it is used with the right touch. It’s also easy to overdo it, though, and that might leave your images with more distortion than you would like. That’s because the Smudge tool in Photoshop allows you to blend areas around like you are working with wet paint. The result can sometimes be a comical distortion that looks like running water hit the image while it was still drying, but it can also be used with a lighter touch to make edges softer, resulting in a look closer to a drawing or painting.


Need images for your project? Shutterstock’s flexible plans give you access to our entire library. Explore our plans today.
Smudge Tool Walkthrough
Since it is a tool that takes a delicate touch, it might take a couple of tries to get exactly the right effect. Here’s how to use the Smudge tool in Photoshop. Try these steps out a couple times until you see the look you are going for:
  1. Select the Smudge tool from the toolbar.
  2. Choose a brush tip and options from the menu bar. This is a crucial step because your brush selection will have a massive impact on the effect when you move pixels.
  3. If you want the tool to smudge all layers in the image together, select the option to use all layers. If you do not, you will only smudge the active layers.
  4. If you do not want the tool to use the color under the pointer on each stroke, select the Fingerpainting option to use the selected foreground color instead.
  5. Drag in the image to smudge the pixels. Remember, the further you drag in a single stroke, the more exaggerated the distortion will be.

Uses of the Smudge Tool
Like many of the options in the Focus area of the toolbox, the Smudge tool in Photoshop has many uses. It can allow you to create comical distortion, add effects that enhance the mood of your images, or even help you blend edges to enhance shadowing effects if it is used correctly. The key is to keep a light tough, zoom in on the areas where you are working to be precise, and be ready to experiment. As you work with the tool, you will gain insight into the ways different brushes and options will help you achieve different effects. Keep practicing with this tool to master it completely and add a unique effect to the edges of objects as you customize Shutterstock photos to fit your creative projects.

  • Was this article helpful?

Can’t find what you’re looking for?