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The Patch Tool

The counterpart to the Healing Brush tool is the Patch tool. It uses the same techniques as the Healing Brush, but is designed to help remove large patches of trouble, such as specs and dust on a photo. It's a much simpler tool to use, and that fact is reflected in the options available for the tool.

To use the Patch tool, begin by selecting an area in your image. By default, the tool is set for you to encircle the blemish and then click-and-drag over an area that has the texture you want to use as replacement (see Figure 10). When you let go, the area you're repairing will be replaced by the texture of the pixels onto which you dropped the patch.

Figure 10Figure 10 Patch tool in use. By selecting the damaged area and dragging it onto a clean area, you can use the Patch tool to fix blemishes quickly.

Patch Tool Options

There are only two sets of options available with the Patch tool. The first determines the overall behavior of the tool. Source sets the tool to act as described previously. Destination reverses the behavior of (and the way you will use) the tool. With Destination selected, you encircle an area of the image to use as the repair. Once it's encircled, grab it and drop it onto the damaged area. The effect is the same, so it's up to you which method you use.

The Pattern option enables you use a pattern to fill an area. Because the pattern's texture takes on the tone and hue of the area you're repairing, you can fix areas that have no similar areas available. It works best in cases where the flaws are in an area that has random detail.

Working with the Patch Selection

Remember that you can treat the selection like any other selection you can make. Some specific tricks:

  • Hide the selection. The marquee makes it difficult to see the effect—especially at the edges (which is where you're most likely to see trouble). A simple method for dealing with this problem is to use the Extras function from the View menu. Command or Alt+H will toggle the visibility of the selection on or off. The area remains selected; it's just hidden, which makes it easier to see the area in the context of its surroundings.

  • Shift+select. As with any other selection tool, holding down the Shift key while selecting with the Patch tool adds to the selection area. If you have several small blemishes in an area, you can Shift+select them to get them all in one shot.

  • Option-select (Mac) or Alt+select (Windows). This technique allows you to carve hunks off the selection. Sometimes you may grab too much of an image with the Patch tool. Simply hold down Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) while clicking and dragging with the Patch tool. This will deselect areas of the image that are currently selected.

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