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How the use the Mixer Brush

In addition to the regular paintbrush, Photoshop has the mixer brush, which allows us to mix or blend colors together in our images.

so pick this image

I’ll tap the B key to select the brush too and then be sure that I’ve got the mixer brush selected. I’ll right-click on the brush in the Options bar and then just reset that, so we’ll all be starting at the same place. Now, there are three primary controls for the mixer brush. The load is the amount of paint that you have in your brush, the wet is the wetness of the canvas, and the mix determines how much paint gets mixed into the brush. So let’s start with the load. I’m going to decrease the load value down to, like, 10 and then I’ll take off the wet value for now by just setting it to zero and that automatically disables the mix. So with white as my foreground color, I’m just going to start painting and this is one continuous paint stroke, but you can see I ran out of paint rather quickly. If I increase the load maybe to 50 or so and then I start painting, well, I can paint for longer, but eventually, I will still run out of ink. All right, so let’s take a look at the wet value. Again, it’s the wetness of the canvas. So I’m going to increase this maybe to 10 and I’m going to make a change to my brush as well. I’ll click on the brush settings, and then I’m going to decrease the spacing amount, and then we can go ahead and collapse that. And one last thing, I don’t want this to mix, so I will set the mix down to zero. Get a little bit larger of a brush, tapping the right bracket key, and then click and drag in order to create my first stroke.

So you can see when the wet setting is set down to 10, I get very small streaks after each one of the swatches and my paint is stained white throughout almost the entire stroke. So now, I’m going to increase the wetness here to 100. Again, I still don’t have a mix, but I’m going to paint with white. And now, we can see I get much longer streaks with the paint stroke. All right, let’s set the wet back down to 50% and then I’m going to increase the mix to 50%. So now, Photoshop is going to pick up paint from the So as I paint across here, we can see that it’s actually picking up those darker swatches into the paint stroke. If I bring it all the way up to 100%, now, we’re not going to see the white of my foreground color at all when I drag my paint stroke. Okay, so let’s use a few other examples here. I’m just going to select a red as my foreground color, and I’ll decrease this mix down to 50%, and I’ll just paint in this black area. Then I’m going to switch to yellow, and just add a little bit more paint, and we can see how those colors are being mixed together. Now, there are two other icons that really impact how we’re using the mixer brush, and that’s the load and the clean icons. So they’re both on right now ’cause they’re dark gray. They’re light gray when they’re off. If we toggle the load button, it’s going to override the setting in the load area here. So right now, it’s loading yellow and every time I paint, it will paint with yellow. If I toggle that off, now, it’s not loading with anything. I can still mix colors together, but it’s not adding any paint. All right, I’ll toggle that back on and we can see that it would be loading with yellow. So the other icon here is the clean icon and it’s on by default, which means that every time you make a new paint stroke, it will clean itself. So every time I paint, no matter where I end up, I get yellow to load. If I toggle this off and now, I paint, we can see now that I ended up in sort of the blacker area of the image and so my paint is going to be dirty. When I pick it up, it’s not going to be that solid yellow. So depends on what you’re after as to whether or not you want to clean this. I’ll go ahead and toggle it on for now. Now,

let’s switch to the image of the pear which is this and I want to quickly turn this into a painting. But I actually only want to mix the colors that are already in the photograph. I don’t want to add any colors, so I’m going to turn off the load. Then we’re going to use our brushes here, and I’ve loaded all of the legacy brushes, and I did that by using the fly-out menu, and selecting Legacy Brushes. And so I’m going to navigate down through all of those legacy brushes until I get to the wet media brushes. Then I’m going to scroll down even further until I find this Rough Dry Brush and I’m going to select that. Then we can collapse that and make it smaller. And I’m going to increase the brush size by using the right bracket key. Now, I’m just going to start mixing some of the colors here in the background, kind of want that shadow to stay in alignment to where it is, but I’m just adding the texture of the brush here, just mixing together those colors. That might be a little bit difficult to see on the video, but I just want to blend them in before I start working with the pear. So now, I’m going to switch to a smaller brush by just using the left bracket and I’m just going to follow the shape of the pear here.

You can see I’m not introducing any additional colors. I’m simply mixing the colors that are already in the pear. I’ll get a little bit bigger of a brush just so we can do this a little bit more quickly, making sure that I pull some of those shadows into the bottom of the pear. And sometimes it’s easier for me to make paint strokes in one direction and not the other, so we can use spring-loaded cursors. You just hold down the R key and you’ll get this compass here, so now, I can rotate the canvas or actually it’s the preview of the canvas. It’s like I’m painting on the canvas. I’m just rotating the canvas, but I’m not rotating the contents of that canvas. But that sometimes makes it easier for me to make paint strokes in different directions. When I let go of that R key, because I was using the spring-loaded cursors, it automatically just switched me back to the mixer brush. Now, I’ll tap the R key and that actually takes me to the rotate view tool, in which case, I can choose to reset the view. All right, let’s get a little bit smaller of a brush.

I’ll tap the B key again, and then the left bracket to get a smaller brush, and just paint really quickly here over the stem and the top. Now, I’ve kind of taken away a lot of the highlight while I’ve been painting. So I might want to choose to load it, so I will click in order to load the brush and then let’s just pick white here from the color picker. I’m going to add just a few strokes here of white, and then tell the mixer brush to stop loading the paint, and then just kind of mix those in a bit more. All right, one little tip just before I finish up. You should know that if you go to Edit and then your keyboard shortcuts, if you set them to Tools and we scroll down, there are some additional options here for the mixer brush. So for example, if you wanted to assign a keyboard shortcut to load or clean the mixer brush, or toggle the mixer brush auto-load or auto-clean options, or toggle the mixer brush to sample all the layers, those are all here. You just click to the right there in order to enter in your own custom keyboard shortcut like the K key. If it’s already in use, it will remove it from something else.

So it’s up to you. I’m actually going to tap Escape from there and cancel out, but I just wanted to let you know that those options are there. So there you go, a creative way to blend colors in an image, whether you’re painting from scratch or turning a photograph into a painting in Photoshop.

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