There’s one word that Adobe has tried to minimize the profoundness of through the years. One word that used to be serious, but really isn’t nearly so anymore. That word is “whoops.” Back in the early part of this century, saying “whoops” meant a lot more than it does today. Back then, if you screwed something up, there was a good chance you’d have to re-do a heck of a lot of work. Because of all the non-destructive attributes of today’s Photoshop, screwing something up isn’t something to concern yourself with at all. Just go back a few steps and fix it. Believe me though, back in 2000, it was awful. Today is a breeze. The challenge now is to take advantage of what Photoshop has to offer. And that’s what I try to discuss in posts like these. Just how to do that.
In today’s post, I’d like to show you how to use one of Photoshop’s most popular tools, the Spot Healing Brush Tool. Besides the Crop Tool and the Move Tool, this is one of the very first areas of experimentation new editors visit inside of Photoshop. Every photographer who uses Photoshop surely knows about the Spot Healing Brush Tool. It’s rather effective at removing all sorts of things from a photograph, such as dust, small objects, clouds and strange artifacts. If you’re a photographer, you definitely want to familiarize yourself with this tool.
While the Spot Healing Brush Tool is very effective, it can also give you a world of hurt if you don’t execute it the proper way. It’s tempting to click on its icon in the toolbar to activate it, choose a brush size and hardness and have at it. If you follow this sequence of events, you can click to your heart’s content and make your photos look wonderful. The issues arise when you discover that you’ve made a mistake. Either you removed something you didn’t intend to remove or your removal smudged somewhat and doesn’t look good. Whatever the case, you’d like to re-do whatever it was that you did, but you can’t. The action may have occurred twenty steps ago and getting all the way back there means losing all the work you did after that step. Luckily, there’s a better method for taking advantage of this tool and that’s what I’ll explain to you below.
The Demo Photo
I wanted to use a picture that had lots of stuff to make disappear. I came to the conclusion that one with stars in it would work perfectly. In the photo I found, there are dozens of stars and their manipulation will be obvious once I get the ball rolling.
Setting Up the File
In this section, I’ll set up the file in question to best remove the stars in the photo. I’ll show you how to do this non-destructively, so if you ever wanted to show any of them at a later date, you could.
Since the photo is already opened up in Photoshop, I don’t need to do that. What I will do is use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+0 to enlarge the image so it fits perfectly inside of my workspace. Then, I’ll head over to the Layers panel and create a new layer that sits above the bottom image layer. I’ll do this by clicking on the New Layer icon at the bottom of this panel.
After the layer is created, I’ll see that I have a potential “shield” against any changes I make to the image. This empty layer is where the changes will be made, not the image itself.
The final step for the setup is to head over to the left vertical toolbar and to click on the Spot Healing Brush Tool.
Then, up in the options bar, I’ll choose the brush size and hardness that I’d like to use during this operation as well as press the Content-Aware button and make sure the Sample All Layers box is checked.
Without checking the Sample All Layers box, Photoshop won’t know that I intend to use the empty layer as a shield. When I select that layer and begin removing the stars with the tool, nothing will happen. By sampling all the available layers, the tool will travel right through the empty layer and remove the stars beneath it. The true benefit lies in the fact that the actual “removal” will happen on the empty layer, leaving the bottom image layer untouched.
Removing the Stars
At this point, I can begin removing the stars. Again, I’ll need to be sure the top, empty layer is selected before I begin clicking around. For this example, I’ll remove a good number of stars, just so you can see a change.
How’s that? Can you see that I removed some stars? I didn’t want to go crazy because I’d have to sit here all day to get rid of them all, but I think the change is apparent.
Bringing the Stars Back
Let’s pretend that someone walked over and told me that I was supposed to keep the center area of stars for some reason and that I had made a mistake by removing them. If I didn’t apply my changes to a new layer, I’d have to start the entire project over again. But, since I executed this project in a non-destructive manner, I’m safe and any correction is rather simple. Before I go any further, let me show you what the top layer now looks like, since I used the Spot Healing Brush Tool.
Do you see that? If I hide the top layer by clicking on the small eye icon to the left of it, all the stars will reappear. To bring back anything I removed is rather simple. All I need to do is use the Eraser Tool and erase a spot from the top layer that I’m interested in making reappear on the bottom layer.
I’ll activate the Eraser Tool in the left vertical toolbar and set the attributes in the options bar up above.
Then, I’ll make sure the top layer in the Layers panel is selected by clicking on it and I’ll erase whatever it is I want to show again.
And it’s that easy. Of course, it makes sense to hide the bottom image layer as you’re erasing because you’ll have a better view of what it is you’re doing, but once you’re finished, you can make that layer visible again to view your genius. Done!
Wow, that was an easy one, but very helpful indeed. I hope I clearly explained how to remove spots and objects in Adobe Photoshop using the Spot Healing Brush Tool in a non-destructive manner. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!