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Repairing Damage With Photoshop:Heal or Patch?

I find that most users quickly master the Clone Stamp tool. Unfortunately many become truly stumped by its two cousins, the Healing Brush tool and the Patch tool. Knowing when to turn from cloning to healing and patching is an important distinction.

The following tutorials are adapted from my new Photoshop books.

Understanding Adobe Photoshop combines video and book to teach users core features and advanced techniques with an emphasis on fast learning.

Photoshop for Video covers Adobe Photoshop for video editors, motion graphics artists, and DSLR filmmakers.

Healing Brush Tool

The Healing Brush (J) is a tool that is designed to correct imperfections in a photo. Similar in handling to the Clone Stamp, it successfully hides blemishes by taking cloned pixels and matching the texture, lighting, and shading of the sampled pixels to the original pixels. This can often generate results in which the repaired pixels blend seamlessly together. To get better results on an area with strong contrast, make a selection before using the Healing Brush tool. The selection should be bigger than the area to be healed and should follow the boundary of high-contrast pixels. For example, if healing a person’s face, make a selection over the problem area that excludes the adjacent sky or clothing. This way, when painting with the Healing Brush, the selection will prevent color bleed-in from outside areas.

1. Download our practice image here.

2. Select the Healing Brush tool by pressing J. (Be careful not to select the Spot Healing Brush tool.)

3. Select a brush from the options bar or Brush panel.

4. Choose a blending mode in the options bar. (This can be useful when retouching to avoid visible cloning.) The Replace option preserves noise and texture at the stroke’s edges.

5. Choose a source for repairing pixels in the options bar.

• The standard source is Sampled. Here pixels are taken from the area surrounding your sample point. As the brush moves, the sample point also moves accordingly to ensure variety in the sampled source.

• The Pattern option uses a pattern from the current pattern library (accessible from a pop-up list).

6. Specify the alignment.

• If Aligned is selected, the sample point and painting point move parallel as you move. If the user clicks and starts over, the sample point picks up where it last was at the same distance and angle from the brush.

• If Aligned is deselected, the initial sample point is used (even after you stop and resume cloning). The second method ensures that you’re always sampling from the same area. Use this method for this image.

7. If you’re using the Sampled mode, Option+click (Alt+click) a sample area. For this image, choose a clear area of the clouds.

8. Click and start to paint as if you were using a brush. Because the sampled pixels are drawn from before you click, you may need to release and start over occasionally to avoid cloning the problem area.

If you’re healing in a high-contrast area (such as where the roof meets the sky), try making a selection to isolate the Healing Brush. Use the Polygonal Lasso (or another selection tool) to narrow your stroke’s effect.

9. Release the mouse to merge the sampled pixels. The stroke will look strange until then.

10. Keep painting until the unwanted areas are removed. Try removing the metal object outside the first window.

Patch Tool

The Patch Tool uses similar technology as the Healing Brush, but Patch is better suited to fixing larger problems or empty areas. You can repair an area using pixels from another region or a pattern. To get best results, select a smaller area.

1. Download our practice image here.

2. Select the Patch tool by pressing J. (It’s in the same well as the Healing Brush tool.) The Patch tool can be used two different ways.

• You can make a selection in the area you want to repair, and then select Source in the options bar.

• You can make a selection in the area from which you want to sample, and then select Destination in the options bar. You can also make a selection first, and then activate the Patch tool.

3. Select the fallen windsurfer with the Patch tool.

You can modify a selection with the standard modifier keys.

• Hold down the Shift key, and you can add to the selection.

• Hold down the Option (Alt) key, and you can subtract from the selection.

• To create an intersected selection, Option+Shift+drag (Alt+Shift+drag) to make a new selection.

4. Place the cursor inside the selection, and then do one of the following:

• If Source is selected in the options bar, drag the selection border to the area you want to sample. When you release the mouse button, the original area will be patched with the sampled pixels.

• If Destination is selected in the options bar, drag the selection border to the area you want to patch. When you release the mouse button, the sampled area will be patched over the new area.

• With both options, you’ll get a useful real-time preview of the results. This makes it significantly easier to drag and get the expected results.

For more Photoshop training, be sure to check out Photoshop for Video or Understanding Adobe Photoshop CS5. Rich also has a weekly podcast called Understanding Adobe Photoshop on iTunes. To learn more about Richard Harrington visit www.RichardHarringtonBlog.com.

Tutorial copyright 2010 Richard Harrington, LLC

About Richard Harrington (43 Articles)
A certified instructor for Adobe and Apple, Rich is a practiced expert in motion graphic design and digital video. Rich is a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals Instructor Dream Team, and a popular speaker on the digital video circuit. Rich is an internationally published author. His book, Photoshop for Video, was the first of its kind to focus on Photoshop’s application in the world of video. He is also a contributing author for Apple’s Aperture, iLife ’09 and iWork ’09, Video Made on a Mac, and Producing Video Podcasts. If you want even more Photoshop training, check out his book Understanding Adobe Photoshop CS4. If you have an iPod touch or iPhone, you can get <a href="http://tinyurl.com/upapps">Rich’s Training in your Pocket</a>

4 Comments on Repairing Damage With Photoshop:Heal or Patch?

  1. Roseann Carcello // 29/08/2010 at 4:27 am //


    This has solved one probelem that came up just today. Great teaching style, thanks!


  2. Roseann Carcello // 29/08/2010 at 4:27 am //


    This has solved one probelem that came up just today. Great teaching style, thanks!


  3. Hi Roseann…. glad it helped

  4. Hi Roseann…. glad it helped

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