Photoshop – Blending Brush

Today was a wonderful relaxing Friday, Tony had a new Photoshop exercise he wanted us to run through before the robot brief is resumed next week. We would look into digital painting, specifically the mixer brush and how it can create good looking results for relatively little effort.

Similar to the monochrome activity we did a while back, we began by picking a photo off the internet we wanted to reproduce. This time it had to be colour. In the back of my head I thought I’d better pick someone with a unique face if I wanted the end result to have a chance of looking like the original image. Therefore I chose Ron Perlman (I’d also been watching Pacific Rim the night before while working).


To begin we had to block in colour for the face, hairline etc similar to how we approached the black and white exercise. All of these block in shapes were at 100% opacity.


Ignore the background colour, I just wanted to put it against something with a lot of contrast to help me with the edges.

Using the original photo I eye-dropped certain colours out and roughed in the darker areas to show the jawline and spent some time roughing in detail for the hair. We had the freedom to go about this however we pleased, the hair still stands out even in the finished work just because it was the part I went messy and abstract on. The rest of the image would take a very different approach after being shown the mixer brush.


Time to introduce the mixer brush. I’ve spent years in Photoshop, not really for painting purposes which is why I likely skipped over this tool until now. It operates like an actual paint brush, picking up colours from the canvas and merging them together as it moves, theres even an option to ‘clean’ the brush.

The brush has an option to sample all layers, so would pick up all colours throughout the layer stack much like an actual brush would. Creating a new layer at the top of the stack, meant we could take advantage of this option and paint non destructively. Now I will never claim to be a great artist or willingly want to flaunt my work, however something just clicked today with this toolset and I was absolutely thrilled with the result.


I’d check the image, find a darker area, take a colour sample, block in some new colour on a new layer., create another layer above that and go in with the mixer brush to blend the colour into the base. Rinse and repeat until complete.

Throughout the whole process we all kept an original photo in the layer stack to use as reference, set to a low opacity so it could be turned on and off. In a way I guess this could be classed as nothing more than copying, but this was never about creating original art, it was about the ability to take a render or original art and bring it to life using colour and a simple tool set. Making concept art in reverse!

I absolutely need more of this for my portfolio submission, whether thats making time before the Xmas submission or the final summer one. It was relaxing, came naturally and I love the end result.


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