Pixelmator Tools: Learn the Smudge Tool

Tools: Using the New Smudge Tool in Pixelmator

smudge tool intro

The Basics

Today we'll work with the Smudge Tool. Open a canvas any size and add a colorful gradient. Before we start go ahead and duplicate your gradient layer about 7 or 8 times so you can try a bunch of different styles. Then from your tools palette choose the hand with the pointed finger, this is our Smudge tool.

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Look at the top left of your canvas and you'll see the new tool options bar in Pixelmator 2. The options change depending on the tool you are using. We have two options here, a button to open the brushes palette and a slider to adjust the strength of the Smudge Tool. Adjust the strength to 100% and open the brushes palette.

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Custom Options

To reveal the custom options drop down panel, choose a round brush and double click on it. Don't be intimidated by all of the options here, let's go thru them together.

Diameter - Pretty self explanatory although it's worth mentioning, the smudge tool is not "applying color", it's pushing it around like wet paint, so the bigger the diameter, the more paint/color we can grab and smear.

Flow - You can leave this set to 100% for now as it will do the same thing as the strength slider we set at the top.

Stroke - Leave this guy alone when using the Smudge tool, it will cause Pixelmator to come to a screeching halt and crash almost every time! Don't worry it isn't needed when using the Smudge Tool.

Spacing - This will change the brush from a solid line to spaced dots. It doesn't have a big effect on it's own.

Everything under Color Jitter - Hue, Saturation and Lightness you won't need when using the Smudge Tool.

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Hardness - This will feather the edges or keep them sharp as you smear.

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Scatter - This will redistribute the pixels/spots that make up a brush stroke within the brush diameter. Changing the diameter will also dramatically change the Scatter effect.

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Size - The name is slightly deceptive, but this option randomizes the size of the different "spots" that make up a brush stroke, changing it's uniformity. This is more apparent when you set the spacing out as well. View the preview at the bottom to get an idea of what it looks like.

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Opacity - This allows the color to show thru as you smear over it.

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Various Examples

Well there is no better way to learn about all of these custom brush options than to start playing in the paint! For the first brush, adjust the setting as shown and this will create a puffy cloud-like effect when mixing the colors.

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This was created with a brush to which I downloaded and installed. I added some spacing to create a judder effect in the paint.

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This grunge brush is another one I downloaded and it produced a whole different effect, very much like oil painting.

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Another type of texture brushed example using lots of size, scatter and spacing.

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This one was a butterfly brush and the wings made a nice dabbing effect. I set some spacing, scatter and size to achieve this. I lowered the diameter to a smaller size keeping the same brush setting for those little strokes.

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This last example with gradients I used some specific colors in a gradient and then smeared them to mimic a fire on a gas stove.

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I created this using a big diameter round brush with lots of scatter, some spacing and 100% hardness. I'm using a pen and tablet so as I change the pressure I get different size strokes.

smudge scatter1

Use on Photos

Ok, at this point your probably thinking, "Hey I'm not an artist, I use Pixelmator for touching up my photos", well I didn't leave you out. When it comes to photos though, you want to use this Smudge Tool in more subtle ways. So how would you use the smudge tool on this photo?

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To give the duck some punk rock hair of course!

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So the Smudge Tool can create really an unlimited number of effects with the custom settings and the thousands of brushes out there waiting for you to download and try them out. Hopefully you are less intimidated by the Brush options and will now venture past just changing the diameter and hardness. The Smudge Tool does suffer from hogging your systems resources in a big way, so if this happens, restart Pixelmator and slow down or pause between strokes. Feel free to give us a link to what you create, ask questions, or even give us feedback in the comments! Thanks guys.


  • The last picture with all the colors is really nice, but that’s a combination with Smudge and Shapes, right?

    • Gamrcobe says:

      No shapes used, I just used a very large diameter, hard round brush, turned up the scatter a lot and some spacing to get the result. I am using a pen and tablet so i can randomize the sizes you see by add more or less pressure. You may not get this with a mouse. And the only other brush I used was a vertical line brush to create the rain look. Play around and see what you get!

  • Kimti G says:


  • DM says:

    What is the method for downloading brushes/where do we find them/where do they go on my mac and how do you place them in PM?
    Your tuts are great,for tools,very well explained for beginners. AWSOME. Thanks