For years, I wondered what in the heck the Patch Tool in Adobe Photoshop was. It wasn’t until pretty far into my photography and designing that I ever bothered to check it out. Back in the day when I was doing this stuff more professionally, I was so used to doing everything by hand that I glossed right over some of the better tools that would have saved me tons of time. I’m a glutton for punishment, I know.
One of the tools that can really help out a photo editor is the Patch Tool (keyboard shortcut J and Shift+J). It can be found over in the left vertical toolbar, if you click and drag out the Spot Healing Brush Tool. Basically, the Patch Tool can make things in a photo disappear like magic. It’s really awesome, especially if you would like to remove an object from a photo that doesn’t have a lot of clutter. The best part is, it’s an extremely simple tool to take advantage of. There’s not much of a learning curve involved.
In today’s post, I’d like to show you how this tool works. I’ll be using an example photo of an airplane and I’ll be making that airplane fly off somewhere else. When I’m finished, all I’ll be left with is a nice blue sky. You’ll have to use your imagination to conjure up different applications where this tool might assist you with your photos.
This is the photo I’ll be using for this post. As you can see, I’ve got some room around the plane, which is perfect. My goal is to keep just the sky and remove the airplane altogether.
For the sake of keeping things realistic, we’ll have to pretend that I want a nice sky photo for use in another project. Either that, or I just love pictures of clouds.
Activating the Patch Tool
Since I’ve already got the photo I’d like to work on open in Photoshop, I’ll size it to fit my work area by pressing Ctrl+0 (zero) on my keyboard and head straight for the Patch Tool over in the left vertical toolbar.
Now, if you’ve ever used the Lasso Tool, you’ll go about working with this tool with ease. It shares the same “lassoing” characteristics with the Lasso Tool.
Once the Patch Tool is selected, a new options bar at the top of Photoshop will appear. Basically, there are four values you want to concern yourself with. They are Patch, Structure, Color and Sample All Layers.
Next to Patch is a drop-down box. The two current options for this attribute are Normal and Content Aware. If you want Photoshop to patch over the object using its magical algorithm so everything blends together nicely, choose Content Aware.
The two options to the right of Patch are called Structure and Color. Both use sliders to determine their values. If you want the patch that will be placed over the object you want to remove to represent the area you’ll be using as a patch very closely, raise this value. If you want just a general “idea” of a replacement, lower this value. Since the photo I’m using has a fuzzy, cloudy background, I’ll use a low value, so things blend in as much as possible. I’ll use a value of 1.
As far as color goes, the lower the value, the less the blend. If you raise the value all the way to 10, you’ll be employing the maximum amount of color blending that Photoshop allows. Again, since the background of the image I’m using is soft, I’ll keep this value high. I’ll use a value of 10.
Since I’m working directly on the background layer, the Sample All Layers option isn’t available. If I were to create a new blank layer to work on, this option would become available and would allow me, if checked, to sample visible layers below the blank layer that’s currently selected. This is especially helpful if you’re trying to work in a non-destructive fashion.
Drawing Around the Object
Now that I’ve got everything set, I’ll simply draw around the airplane and the smoke trail behind it. Again, this is just like using the Lasso Tool at this point.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but when drawing, you should try to keep close to the outline of the object.
Once I let go of the Patch Tool, the line I just drew turned into marching ants, as if I were using a selection tool.
Moving the Object
From here, all I need to do is drag the outlined object somewhere else in the photo. Ideally, I would drag to an area that looks like something I’d like to replace the object with. With this in mind, I’ll drag the airplane directly below where it currently sits.
Once I find a nice spot, I can let go. Photoshop will take a few seconds to process the area that will replace the airplane.
Once the computation is finished, I’ll be left with a new outline of marching ants. I’ll just click anywhere in the work area to remove those marching ants and I’ll have my finished product.
Fine Tuning the Result
After following the instructions above, if you find strange looking outlines or anomalies, don’t worry. You can continue repeating these instructions by patching over those outlines and anomalies. Eventually, things will look the way you want them to.
I hope I helped you understand a bit of how the Patch Tool works in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!