There's no need to break out the pimple cream when you have Photoshop to work with. Several tools in Photoshop actually "heal" an area of the image, based on the surrounding content. There's some magic involved, but also some skill. Different blemishes—whether they be flaws in skin, rips in photos, thumbprints on camera lenses, or nosy passersby—can best be healed using different tools or approaches.
First, you want to consider the size of the blemish. Small spots may be improved with a quick click of the Spot Healing Brush tool. Larger areas are better candidates for the Healing Brush, Patch, or Clone Stamp tools. Where the background is fairly consistent, content-aware fill is an impressive and efficient solution.
The Spot Healing Brush, Healing Brush, and Patch tools are all grouped together in the Tools panel.
Spot Healing Brush tool
Appropriately enough, the Spot Healing Brush tool looks like a bandage with a spot behind it.
To use the Spot Healing Brush tool:
- Select the Spot Healing Brush tool in the Tools panel.
- Set up the brush size and attributes in the options bar. Select a brush size that covers the area you want to repair, but isn't much larger than it.
- Select Proximity Match, Create Texture, or Content-Aware in the options bar. Use Proximity Match when the surrounding area is consistent; Content-Aware is a better choice if you're repairing areas in a pattern.
- Click on the blemish, or click and drag to repair a larger area.
The Spot Healing Brush tool replaces the pixels you paint with pixels that are similar to the surrounding area. If you're repairing a blemish on a stripe or obvious pattern, select Content-Aware in the options bar to avoid distracting pattern shifts. The Proximity Match option is ideal where the surrounding area is similar, such as when you want to cover the smudge on a wall. It can be useful as well on small and complex patterns, where shifts in the pattern won't be noticed.
Figure 4.8 Before, there was a white streak near the column.
Figure 4.9 As you drag the Spot Healing Brush tool, the area you cover appears dark.
Figure 4.10 The white streak is healed to blend with the blue sky.
There is no content-aware fill tool, but filling a selection with the Content-Aware setting is a powerful way to remove unwanted objects or repair blemishes.
Need to remove a car from an otherwise empty road? Or remove a time stamp from a photo? Content-aware fill is the ticket, especially when the area surrounding the object or blemish you're removing changes. Note, however, that you may not get the best results if the surrounding area includes obvious patterns or stripes.
To apply content-aware fill:
- Select the area you want to replace.
- Choose Edit > Fill.
- In the Fill dialog box, choose Content-Aware from the Use menu.
- Select a blending mode and opacity if you want to moderate the effect.
- Click OK.
Figure 4.11 Select the area you want to replace.
Figure 4.12 Choose Content-Aware in the Fill dialog box.
Healing Brush tool
The Healing Brush tool is represented by a bandage. It works similarly to the Spot Healing Brush tool in that it replaces the selected pixels with an approximation of the surrounding area. It also matches the texture, lighting, transparency, and shading of the sampled area to the area you're retouching, so the healed area blends into the area around it. Unlike the Spot Healing Brush tool, however, you identify the area to sample. (You can also choose to fill the area with a pattern, but that's really only useful for most images if you've already created a custom pattern.) The Healing Brush tool is a good tool to use if you need to retouch a larger area or need more control over the repair.
To use the Healing Brush tool:
- Select the Healing Brush tool in the Tools panel.
- Select a brush size and attributes in the options bar.
- Select Sampled in the options bar.
- Select Aligned if you want to continue sampling from the place you left off each time you release the mouse and click again. Deselect Aligned if you want to start over from the sample point each time you release the mouse.
- Choose which layers to sample from, if your image has multiple layers.
- Set the sampling point: with the pointer over the area you want to sample, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS).
- Paint over the area you want to retouch.
Figure 4.13 The lens was smudged, leaving an unattractive area in the middle of these flowers.
Figure 4.14 Photoshop blends the sampled area with the edges of the area you paint, so the smudge is gone.
One of the things that makes the Healing Brush tool so versatile is that you can sample from one image and use the sample pixels to heal another. You can get creative with this and use it as a background replacement method, or use it the more traditional way: to repair a texture in one photo with the similar, unblemished area of another.
The trickiest part of this tool is understanding the Aligned option, which works the same way for the Clone Stamp tool.
Say you've clicked a sampling point at the very upper-left corner of the image. When you start painting with the Healing Brush, it starts painting with the pixels in that corner, and moves out from the corner as you paint, continuing to pick up pixels in relation to the original sampling point. That part is true regardless of whether Aligned is selected. Then you release the mouse.
Now, what happens when you start painting again depends on whether Aligned is selected: If it is not selected, wherever you start painting again starts over with the sampling point. If Aligned is selected, wherever you start painting again begins in relation to where you were painting before, as if you'd never released your mouse. This can make a huge difference, especially if you're painting over something such as a brick wall, where you want to align the bricks carefully.
The Patch tool copies pixels from one area to another, using a selection, and then uses those pixels as the basis for healing the area. You can either select the pixels you want to use or the pixels you want to replace: select Source in the options bar to select the pixels you want to replace or select Destination in the options bar to select the pixels you want to use.
To use the Patch tool:
- Select the Patch tool.
- Select Source or Destination in the options bar.
- If you selected Source, drag the tool to select the pixels you want to replace; if you selected Destination, select the pixels you want to use in the repair.
- Drag the selection either onto the pixels you want to use for the repair (Source) or onto the pixels you want to patch (Destination).
Figure 4.15 Select the area with the Patch tool.
Figure 4.16 Drag the election to the area you want to use as a patch.
Figure 4.17 Photoshop makes the repair.
Clone Stamp tool
You can also clone any part of an image, exactly copying the pixels to replace others. Not only can you repair blemishes this way, but it's a great way to duplicate areas of the image. For example, you can add a window to a house or turn one mailbox into two using the Clone Stamp tool .
Like the Healing Brush tool, the Clone Stamp tool requires that you set a sampling point from which to start copying the pixels. Select Aligned to continue painting from your original starting point; deselect it to start over with the sampling point every time you begin a new stroke.
To use the Clone Stamp tool:
- Select the Clone Stamp tool in the Tools panel.
- Set the brush size and attributes, and select the blending mode and opacity levels in the options bar.
- Select or deselect Aligned, and choose which layers you want to sample from.
- Alt-click or Option-click the area you want to use as source pixels to create a sampling point.
- Paint over the area you want to replace with the cloned pixels.
The Clone Source panel
The Clone Source panel gives you a little more control over efforts with the Clone Stamp or Healing Brush tools. The most useful aspect of the Clone Source panel is the ability to view an overlay of the sample source so you can preview the pixels before you apply them. The Preview option is selected by default, so you can benefit from it even without ever opening the Clone Source panel.
Figure 4.18 With Photoshop, cloning people is legal.
One cool feature of the Clone Source panel is that you can scale or rotate the sample source to match the size and orientation of the area you want to replace. You can also set up to five different sample sources and select the one you want without having to resample each time.
To open the Clone Source panel, choose Window > Clone Source.
Figure 4.19 Use the Clone Source panel to customize the way you sample pixels for cloning or healing areas.