In this post, let’s not get caught up in the definition of “blemish.” For the sake of learning about Adobe Camera Raw and its Spot Removal Tool, we’ll consider a blemish to be acne, a single zit, a freckle, a shadow, a spot on the wall – basically anything you’d like to remove, whether it be good or bad. I never really enjoyed reading posts while looking at photos strictly of those with something wrong with their skin, especially when we can use the tool I’ll discuss below in so many ways.
I chose this particular photo to work on today specifically because there appears to be sand or dirt on the individual’s face. This can happen in a photo. Whether it be a piece of dust on a camera sensor, a fly in the air or really, truly a blemish, it makes no matter. Whatever it is, it needs to be removed, which is exactly what I’ll cover below. The ins and outs of removing skin imperfections and dirt, that is.
The Spot Removal Tool
I’ll begin by opening the demo photo into Adobe Camera Raw. From there, I’ll click the Spot Removal Tool icon that’s in the top toolbar.
When I do that, a new Spot Removal panel will appear over to the right.
Luckily for us, this tool is very well built by Adobe and extremely intuitive. With only a few clicks, we can remove almost any blemish that exists.
To retouch blemishes in skin, the most appropriate version of this tool is Heal. This can be found in the drop-down menu of the Spot Removal panel.
You may be asking why I chose Heal for this task. Well, that’s because there is a difference between the two choices we have. Let’s take a look.
Heal – This tool fills in the selected area with a blend of the texture, lighting and shading of the sample area in the image.
Clone – This tool simply takes whatever is inside the target area and places is directly in the selected area.
I know these two choices sound similar, but if you read through this post I wrote a while ago, things will become very clear for you. I discuss the Heal and Clone tools in more depth there and even give some nice examples of what happens when using them.
For faces though, we want to use Heal. That means Camera Raw will take an average of what’s found inside the target area and apply it to the selected area. Don’t worry, I’ll explain more below.
If you look below the drop-down box in the Spot Removal panel, you’ll see three sliders. They control Size, Feather and Opacity. These are fairly straightforward. The Size slider controls the size of the tool, the Feather slider controls the softness of the edges and the Opacity slider controls how visible the correction will be. For example, if we lower the opacity to only 10%, any correction we make to a blemish will be barely visible. For the sake of simplicity, it’s common to use a variable size that’s controlled by the [ and ] (bracket) keys on your keyboard. It’s also common to set the feather somewhere in the middle point of the slider (around 50) and the opacity to 100. Unless you’ve got a specific goal in mind, these settings will work fine for most cases.
Retouching a Blemish
Now that the panel is familiar, I’m going to go ahead and zoom in a bit to see a blemish more closely. To do this, I’ll press the Ctrl++ keys on my keyboard. Also, since I’ve currently got a tool selected, I can hold down the Space bar on my keyboard to temporarily turn my mouse pointer back into the Hand Tool. While in this mode, I can move the image around.
In the above screenshot, I circled the blemish I’ll be working on for this project. As you can see, I’ve increased the size to 12, kept the feathering at 50 and the opacity at 100. Since I’m ready to go, I’ll click on the blemish with the tool.
Now, if you remember back when I discussed what Heal and Clone were, I talked about the “selection” and the “target.” This is where both of those come into play.
If you look at the above screenshot, you’ll see two dashed circles. Both of these circles are tethered together by a dashed line. The red circle is the selection (where the blemish was) and the green circle is the target (the area where the blended data will fill in the selection). In the most basic sense, I clicked on the blemish. That created a red circle. Then, Camera Raw looked around for an area that’s similar to that area. It found one, circled it in green, took an average of the data found inside the green circle and applied it to the red circle. It’s that simple.
Moving the Target
While this is all fine and good, there’s a small problem here. Sometimes, Camera Raw gets it wrong and doesn’t apply the area we’d like to apply to the blemish. In cases like this, it’s very simple to move the target circle by clicking inside it and dragging it around with the mouse pointer.
Moving the Selection
We can do the exact same thing with the selection circle. Click inside of it and drag it around until you’re happy with where it is.
Resizing Both Circles
After making a selection, it’s common to discover that it’s either too small or too large. To resize either circle (the sizes are locked together), just roll over an edge and when your single arrow mouse pointer turns into a double arrow pointer, go ahead and drag.
Hiding the Circles
After fixing a bunch of blemishes, it becomes difficult to clearly see the remaining photo. To quickly hide and unhide all the selection circles, you can click the H key on your keyboard. H to hide and H to unhide.
I actually use this feature quite a bit. It’s perfect for large areas that have spots or specks that aren’t readily visible by giving things a quick glance, but that annoy you a whole lot after you’re finished editing a photo and notice them. It basically turns the photo black and white and accentuates any spots in it.
If I click the Visualize Spots check box that’s found at the bottom of the Spot Removal panel, The photo will turn black and white. The slider controls just how black and how white. In general, for a busy photo like the one I’m working on, it’s best to push the slider all the way to the left to reduce as much noise as possible. Even after I do that with this photo, it’s still quite noisy.
If you look at the screenshot above, you can see how some areas that may be under consideration for spot removal. Especially in the area that I initially chose to correct (I undid that) and the area around the mouth. By looking at the image with this view, it’s possible to find areas you otherwise would have missed.
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