On of the first struggles a beginner in Photoshop will run into is how to blend in Photoshop. Blending may seem overbearing at first but I can assure you it is not as hard as it may seem, especially when you have the right equipment and learn the proper tools to help you along your way. With that said, let's get started!


This is one of the major factors when it comes to digital painting and often the most overlooked for beginners. I have seen many people try to do digital painting with a mouse and after hours of fighting with the program and poor results they give up and wonder what is wrong. First step is to ditch the mouse and get a tablet, I highly recommend the Wacom Intuos series. 

I prefer to match my tablet as close to my screen aspect ratio as possible. For instance, I have a 27" iMac that currently runs the Wacom Intuos 3 - Extra Large and I also have a 15" MacBook Pro that I use a Wacom Intuos 4 - Small. If your tablet is too large you may feel that you have to move your arm too much and if the tablet is too small you will feel you don't have enough room to draw.


After you have chosen the tablet of your choice it's time to configure it, this part is fairly easy since you probably won't have to change very much at first. Even though you have matched the ratios in screen to tablet fairly close, they are usually still a bit off and we have to remedy that or your painting will still feel very unnatural. Let's open up your tablet settings.

Tablet Preference>Mapping>Screen Area> Monitor X (replace X with the screen you use. I use monitor 1) and force the proportions.

Wacom Tablet Settings

It's that easy. That is most likely going to turn of a sliver of the space on the bottom of your table but what it ends up doing is matching your tablet to your screen in equal ratios. Try it before and after and you should feel that it is a lot more natural when you have the screen area set correctly.


The brush isn't going to matter that much, most people get too caught up in these "magic Photoshop brushes." Let me tell you that the magic comes from your understanding of composition, color, value, and those fun aspects of art, not the brush. Like traditional mediums, the brush is a tool and the tool is nothing without the artist so for this we will stick with a soft round. I like to adjust my brush to be about a medium soft. You can accomplish this by simply selecting your paintbrush from the tools and then right clicking on your canvas to bring up your bushes and then adjusting the slider.

Brush Settings


First my brush is set to Pen Pressure and what this does is allows me to get a darker opacity the harder I push. In CS5 you will find this under the brush tools (F5 / Window>Brushes) under Transfer. I often turn off Shape Dynamics also because I have my pen buttons set to increase or decrease my brush size. Now I can select my first color and start painting, then choose my second color and start painting over top of that color and applying less pressure until I get my blend amount I like. Remember, it's easier to build up the values than try to hit it the first time.

Opacity Blend

As you can see in this example, my digital paint is starting to blend but it's not giving me the consistent blend that I would like and that moves us to my next section.


Color sampling is achieved when you press Option (Mac) / Alt (PC) while your brush is selected and the cursor will temporarily turn into the eye dropper (shortcut - i) but it will turn back into the brush (shortcut -b) when you let go. I have this bound to a key on my Wacom so I can simply press the key instead of pressing the keyboard. You will find by doing this you can quickly speed up your workflow.

Photoshop Sample Blend

Now by this new example you can see we are getting better control over our colors and we where able to build up the mix to where we wanted it to be instead of letting the program control us, getting us frustrated, and leading us to quit.

Please note, this was all achieved with my opacity set at 100% (because we are controlling opacity with a light touch from our pen pressure setting).

Well, say that even with the light touch we still aren't getting that fine result we want. You can also adjust your opacity settings down a bit to help. Try to keep your opacity setting between 70%-100% for the majority of the time dropping below 50% only for specific occasions.

Opacity Tools

The reason behind that is that if you work in the lower opacity for the majority of the painting you will find your colors looking muddy and dull. As you progress in your paintings you will learn when to turn them up and down so don't stress about that too much now.


Like every tool in Photoshop there is a time and a place for them and the smudge tool is no different. I don't use the smudge tool for my typical color blending, I will usually use the color sample for the majority of my work. However, there does come a time where you need to blend your colors a specific way, maybe it's softening up a faint edge or something more drastic as pulling a color into another.

Photoshop Smudge Tools

Either way, the smudge tool usually comes down to a purpose in which you feel it will benefit you but for the majority of color blending you will find much more control with sampling as you practice.


• You have been introduced to the importance of a tablet over a mouse and how much more control it gives you.

• You have been shown how to properly map your tablet to your screens aspect ratio.

• You have been introduced to changing your brush settings for opacity, size control, and softness.

• You have been shown how to blend with brush pressure and opacity.

• You have been introduced to color sampling to aid in more accurate blending.

• You have learned the effects of different opacity settings.

• You have been introduced to the smudge tool.