Learn how to easily paint with the Mixer Brush in Photoshop

Paint with the Mixer Brush

The Mixer Brush simulates realistic painting techniques such as mixing colors on the canvas, combining colors on a brush, and varying paint wetness across a stroke.

The Mixer Brush has two paint wells, a reservoir and a pickup. The reservoir stores the final color deposited onto the canvas and has more paint capacity. The pickup well receives paint only from the canvas; its contents are continuously mixed with canvas colors.

  1. Select the Mixer Brush tool . (If necessary, click and hold the standard Brush tool to reveal the Mixer Brush.)

  2. To load paint into the reservoir, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the canvas. Or, choose a foreground color.


    When you load paint from the canvas, the brush tip reflects any color variation in the sampled area. If you prefer brush tips of uniform color, select Load Solid Colors Only from the Current Brush Load pop-up menu in the options bar.

  3. Choose a brush from the Brush Presets panel. See Select a preset brush.

  4. In the options bar, set tool options. For common options, see Paint tool options. For options unique to the Mixer Brush, see the following:

    Current Brush Load swatch

    From the pop-up panel, click Load Brush to fill the brush with the reservoir color, or Clean Brush to remove paint from the brush. To perform these tasks after each stroke, select the automatic Load  or Clean  options.

    Preset pop-up menu

    Applies popular combinations of Wet, Load, and Mix settings.


    Controls how much paint the brush picks up from the canvas. Higher settings produce longer paint streaks.

    Photoshop Increasing paint wetness
    Increasing paint wetness

    A. 0% B. 100% 


    Specifies the amount of paint loaded in the reservoir. At low load rates, paint strokes dry out more quickly.

    Photoshop Increasing load rates
    Increasing load rates

    A. 1% B. 100% 


    Controls the ratio of canvas paint to reservoir paint. At 100%, all paint is picked up from the canvas; at 0%, all paint comes from the reservoir. (The Wet setting, however, continues to determine how paints mix on the canvas.)

    Sample All Layers

    Picks up canvas color from all visible layers.

  5. Do one or more of the following:

    • Drag in the image to paint.

    • To draw a straight line, click a starting point in the image. Then hold down Shift, and click an ending point.

    • When using the Brush tool as an airbrush, hold down the mouse button without dragging to build up color.

Stroke smoothing

Photoshop performs intelligent smoothing on your brush strokes. Simply enter a value (0-100) for Smoothing in the Options bar when you're working with one of the following tools: Brush, Pencil, Mixer Brush, or Eraser. A value of 0 is the same as legacy smoothing in earlier versions of Photoshop. Higher values apply increasing amounts of intelligent smoothing to your strokes.

Stroke smoothing works in several modes. Clicking the gear icon () to enable one or more of the following modes:

Pulled String Mode

Paints only when the string is taut. Cursor movements within the smoothing radius leave no mark.


Stroke Catch Up

Allows the paint to continue catching up with your cursor while you've paused the stroke. Disabling this mode stops paint application as soon as the cursor movement stops.


Catch-Up On Stroke End

Completes the stroke from the last paint position to the point where you released the mouse/stylus control.


Adjust For Zoom

Prevents jittery strokes by adjusting smoothing. Decreases smoothing when you zoom in the document; increases smoothing when you zoom out.