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Sally Jane Photographic Art

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial


Adobe Photoshop Tools - Healing Tools

healing toolsThe healing tools consist of the Spot Healing Brush Tool, the Healing Brush Tool, the Patch Tool and Red Eye Removal Tool. They all live together in the tools pallet and if the tool you require is not available just click and hold on the one that is and the others will appear on a drop down list.

Spot Healing Brush Tool

When I was a kid and my father had his own photographic business it was one of my mother's jobs, as a photographic retoucher, to check over every print before it when out and remove any dust spots or flecks. This involved using a magnifying glass, a fine sable brush and some dyes that had to be individually mixed to the exact colour of the spots surroundings. It was a painstaking job that thankfully Photoshop has made very simple and quick.

There may be a number of reasons why an image is spotty. It could be sensor dirt, your subject might have a bad case of pimples, there could be some tiny out of focus birds flying across your sky or maybe there is just a distracting highlight that needs removing. whatever it is this tool can fix it.

For this tutorial we are going to look at a shot I took of my dog Brac. Being black any flecks of dust show up on his coat like dandruff especially in certain lighting conditions. Sometimes it's not even dust as his coat is so shiny tiny highlights can show up like dust and be distracting. This image has all sorts of distracting spots and flecks so I need to get to work on it. If you click on the image you can see a full size version and see the dust up close :-).

spotty image

OK, so maybe it's not that bad but I'm fussy. Select the Shot Healing Brush Tool from the tools pallet. Now look at the tools menu bar at the top of the page.

spot healing brush

spot healing brushHere you have the chance to set the brush size and how you want it to blend with it's surroundings. Make sure the Proximity Match radial button is checked. This will make sure the spot is covered in a colour and tone that matches it's surroundings, Photoshop's answer to mixing the dyes if you like. The mode should be Normal by default. The brush size needs to be just large enough to cover the spots and not much bigger. The smaller the brush the more accurate the repair will be. When you click on the brush size box you will not get the normal drop down menu you get with paint brushes. Instead there is a slider you can use to set the size and others to change the shape and fuzziness if need be.


spot healing brush

Here is a close-up of a particularly spotty area of my Brac photo. As you can see not all these spots are spots but some are indeed lines such as the bit of eye dirt in the bottom right. No matter, this tool will work for both.

spot healing brushThe tiny grey circle to the right and slightly below the main spot in this image is my brush. As you can see it is only slightly larger than the spot and this is perfect. All the other spots are smaller but I won't bother resizing as this is only set to size 10 anyway. By clicking on the spot with this brush the spot disappears! Having done that I then continue until all the spots are gone and I am left with this image below. OK so now just the eye dirt to clear away and that annoying little highlight above his eye and to the right.

spot healing brush

This time, instead of just clicking on it, I hold the mouse button down as I drag the brush over the line. Once again, it disappears and I am now left with this image below. Much better.

spot healing brush

And here is the final result. Once again, if you want to see the image full size just click on it.

de-spotted image


Healing Brush Tool

The healing brush works like a cross between the spot healing brush and the clone tool. Like the spot healing brush it will fix the same problems but it will add texture. Like the clone tool, before you can use it you have to specify a source point. So what would you use it for? To be honest I seldom use it but if you had some particularly large spots to remove that you for some reason couldn't use the patch tool for and there was a lot of texture surrounding the spot you might want to consider it. I am going to use the same image of Brac again to demonstrate how it works by using this tool to remove the eye dirt so you can see the difference.

healing brush

Once again you want a brush size that is not too big. I have use a brush that is larger than ideal just so you can see the effects better. The eye dirt stretches across some very distinct hairs the run virtually vertical. If you try to use the tool without specifying a source you will get a warning message to say 'No source specified'. To select the source hold down the Atl key and click on an area you think will match texture wise. Don't worry about matching colour as the toll will do that automatically. In this example I am going to set the source to an area where the hairs are running almost horizontal so clearly this is not a match. The top left red arrow shows you where I am setting my source. Looks what happens.

Healing Brush Tool

Having selected my source I drag the mouse over the line of eye dirt with the mouse button depressed as I did before. The eye dirt has been removed but the texture is running in the wrong direction so it doesn't match. It has read the texture from the source I selected and attempted to make it blend. Clearly I need to be more careful is selecting my source.

Healing Brush Tool

This time I am going to set my source to an area where the textures more of less match.

Healing Brush Tool

Now I have a much better result. The edit is barely noticeable.

Which of these two tools you use will be largely a matter of preference. I suggest you practice with them both until you find your favorite.


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