The Spot Removal tool in Adobe Camera Raw is rather awesome. It has flexible power that allows you to work, in a non-destructive manner, to fix blemishes and modify photographs like no other tool will. I’ve been using Photoshop for this type of thing for years, but I’m switching over. I’d much rather accomplish these types of tasks with Camera Raw and throughout the post below, you’ll see exactly why.
In this post, I’m going to cover what the Spot Removal tool in Camera Raw can do. I’ll also talk about the tool’s two modes – Heal and Clone. They seem similar on the surface, but are very different in application. Finally, I’ll touch on a few of the controls and features of the tools in question.
The Spot Removal Tool
Let’s first take a quick look at how to locate the Spot Removal tool and the panel that controls it. Inside the toolbar that runs along the top of Camera Raw, you’ll see a button that has a paintbrush with a few specks. This is the Spot Removal tool.
If you click the button, you’ll notice a panel appear in the right column. This is the Spot Removal tool panel.
What is the Spot Removal Tool?
In Camera Raw, the spot Removal tool is a tool that allows you to select an area of a photo. After an area is selected, you can either heal it with the essence of another area in the photo or outright replace it with another area. The two modes, heal and clone, are what control each of these outcomes. I’ll show examples of both the heal and clone modes below, but for now, just know that heal replaces the selected area with another area, but modifies the replacement with colors and tones that are similar to the initially selected area. When you clone an area, you make a selection and choose another area of the photo to replace it with. There’s no modification. If you select a white area and choose to replace it with black, that’s what will happen. It’s all very interesting. Continue reading below for some graphics that will help explain.
Heal & Clone Controls
For both of these modes, there are three tools that help control what happens. These controls are Size, Feather and Opacity and are sliders located in the Spot Removal panel. Although these controls are most likely self-explanatory, I’ll quickly go over what they do.
The size control adjusts the size of the area selected. The initial size of the selected area is tethered to the heal or clone area. If you adjust the size of one, you adjust the size of the other. Again, it’ll all become very clear down below.
The feather control manages how the edge of the replacement area overlays the original selected area. If you choose a hard edge, you’ll most likely see a line around the area in question. If you choose to soften, or feather, the edge, the outline will become less noticeable.
The opacity control manages the opacity of the replacement area. You can choose to only lightly heal or clone something or you can alter the original area so you no longer see it at all.
Using Heal Mode
Heal mode is extremely fun to use. Again, this mode takes the original selected area and replaces it with a color and tone modified version of another area. Let’s take a look at how this works.
First, I’ll head up to the top toolbar and select the Spot Removal tool. Next, I’ll make sure that heal mode is selected in the Spot Removal panel and that my size, feather and opacity are set the way I’d like them to be. After that, I’ll click on an area in the photo. For this example, I’m going to remove one of the residential lights that’s on the shoreline of the lake. For demonstration purposes, I’ll set the opacity to zero so you can see the light that I’m going to heal.
Now, I’ll increase the opacity to 100% by moving the slider all the way to the right.
The light is gone. The originally selected area in red has been replaced with the area in green.
Now, in order to replace the area in red with another area, all I need to do is click inside of the green circle and drag it to another area of the photo. To demonstrate a few things, I’ll click and drag it so it covers half sky and half mountain.
Do you see what happened there? Even though the area that is supposed to be overlaying the originally selected area is cloud white and mountain green, the replaced colors are light and dark green. This is what heal mode does. It’ll correct as much as it can so it matches the original area.
Using Clone Mode
This is going to be a fast section because all I’m going to change is one thing. The drop-down box in the Spot Removal panel has two choices; heal and clone. I’ve been working in heal. Now, I’ll choose clone. By doing this, my selected areas and circles will remain as-is on the photo, but the replaced area will look different.
As I mentioned above, the Spot Removal clone made made a direct, unaltered copy, of one area of the photo and replaced the originally selected area with it. It’s that simple.
So far, I’ve covered the differences between heal and clone, how to move the selected areas and have given some examples of what different results look like. Now, I’ll cover how to resize the chosen areas.
Adjusting the Size of the Spot Removal Tool
To adjust the size of either circle for both the heal and clone modes of the Spot Removal tool, all that needs to be done is for you to roll your mouse pointer over an edge of either circle on the screen, wait for the pointer to turn to a double arrowed pointer and then drag in, towards the center of the circle or out, away from the center. Below is the result of me dragging out and away.
Selecting a Longer Area
The area that’s selected doesn’t need to be a perfect circle. Let’s say I wanted to replace a wider area of the shoreline with an area next to it. To accomplish this, I’d do the same as above, but instead of clicking once and letting go of the mouse, I’d click and drag. Take a look at the photo below.
Of course, I could go in any direction and all the previous rules apply. I can move either area and choose a different mode. It’s up to me.
Clearing My Changes
During this post, I’ve been making a whole bunch of selections and healing and cloning like crazy. To reset everything and bring my photo back to its original state, all I need to do is click on the Clear button that’s located at the bottom of the Spot Removal panel. This will clear all selections and erase any changes I made with the Spot Removal tool.
Also, to undo any of my spot removals, all I need to do is click inside either circle and hit Delete on my keyboard. That will remove any change for that one instance.
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