Just a few days ago, I wrote a post where I discussed the Spot Healing Brush Tool in Abode Photoshop. I love the Spot Healing Brush Tool and use it with almost every single photograph I edit. The thing is, the more I used this tool, the more I discover its shortcomings. And really, those shortcomings are primarily its unpredictability.
I have found that, at times, when I use the Spot Healing Brush Tool, I get the weirdest and most unexpected results. It’s like Photoshop didn’t take anything I wanted it to into account. I get strange blurs and different artifacts thrown into the area I’m attempting to repair. Because of this, I call this tool somewhat unpredictable. To remove a spot using using this tool, you’re putting almost all of your faith into an algorithm to get things right. Sometimes that algorithm does a terrible job. Don’t worry, I’ll show you an example of this below.
At times, I like to take back some of the control I lose with the Spot Healing Brush. The trade off with taking back control is a higher learning curve. The good part is, every tool available in Photoshop has a learning curve and none of those curves are very high at all, no matter how you use them.
In today’s post, I’d like to discuss the cousin to the tool I mentioned above. In this post, I’m going to cover the Healing Brush Tool. Just get rid of the “Spot” and there you have it. Both tools are similar in that they can remove objects you don’t want to see in a photo, but the latter allows the editor to choose a source area to replace the object with. Also, as you begin to take advantage of this new tool, you’ll discover that while you can choose the source, Photoshop actually blends the replacement area with the colors and textures of the surrounding area, giving you a much better blend. It’s a great tool to know how to use properly.
The Demo Photo
When writing posts like this, I have to look around for good photos to use as examples. Today, I found one that has tire tracks in a field that would be fun to try to remove. I felt that this photo was suitable because the tire tracks are in a textured area and they are on a horizon of sorts. Because of these attributes, the first tool I mentioned above won’t be able to do a good job while the second one will. Take a look at the picture.
If this photo looks familiar it’s because I have used it before on this site.
Messing Up With the Spot Healing Brush Tool
To learn about the Spot Healing Brush Tool, please read through the post I link to below. In this section, I’m merely going to give you an example of a poorly executed removal. This is what I was referring to above.
Now, I’ll go ahead and use this tool to try to remove the tire tracks in one fell swoop. Let’s see the result of this effort.
If you look inside the red circle, you’ll see that there are some odd swirls and replacement patches that don’t look good at all. The reason for this is that, when pulling from other areas to use as a replacement, Photoshop didn’t know exactly where to pull from. The result is a conglomeration of different pixels.
Activating the Healing Brush Tool
Since the Healing Brush Tool can be set to pull from a specific area, it’s better suited for edits like the one I’d like to undertake in this photo. I’ll go ahead and activate the tool now. I’ll head over to the left toolbar and click and drag the tool I just used out to the right, so the remaining choices are exposed.
I’ll click Healing Brush Tool and the moment I do that, I’ll notice the options bar up top change. There are a few options I want you to be aware of.
Mode: This drop-down menu offers a few different blending modes you can use while healing an area. Currently, the selection is limited and includes Normal, Replace, Multiply, Screen, Darken, Lighten, Color and Luminosity.
Source: With this tool, you can choose to repair an area by either taking a sample from another source in the photo, as I mentioned above, or you can fill the area to be repaired with a pattern. Choose one of these options to activate it. If you decide to go with the pattern, you have the ability to select that pattern from the Pattern panel.
Aligned: There are two methods for acquiring the sample to repair an area with. You can choose to take a sample and to continue using those specific sample coordinates for all repairs you make, whether or not you let go of the mouse button. You get this when the Aligned box is left unchecked. If you check the Aligned box, Photoshop will forget about that sampled area every time you let go of the mouse button. It will use a new area to repair specific coordinates.
Sample: When taking a sample, you can identify which layer you’d like to make your selection from. With the Healing Brush Tool, there are three choices. The first choice is the Current Layer. Then, there’s Current & Below and finally is All Layers. These three options are contained in a drop-down menu.
Diffusion: This setting controls what can be perceived as the edge of the repair area. For a more defined edge, lower this value and for a smoother edge, choose a higher value. You may want to keep this value low if you are healing areas with very defined patterns, such as a bush (twigs) or grass blades. If you’re in larger areas with less detail, such as a desert, you can raise the value.
Removing the Tire Tracks
Using this tool will take some practice, so I encourage you to do a lot of experimenting. After a few uses, you’ll be flying around like you’ve known how to do it forever.
To start off, I’ll size the healing brush so it is large enough to cover the tracks with one fell swoop. Then, to take my sample, I’ll hold down the Alt key on my keyboard. Then, after I see the mouse pointer change to something that looks like a bulls eye, I’ll click the left mouse button to take the actual sample. In the screenshot below, I’ll place a circle around the area I sampled from.
After I take the sample, the brush will be filled with a snapshot of that area. I’ll be able to move the brush around and click and drag to fill an area in. In my case today, I’ll click to the right of the tree, right under the horizon and drag to the right until the tire tracks are “healed.”
After I’m finished, I’ll let go of the mouse to see how things look.
I’d say that looks pretty good. Now, if I wanted to go one step further, I could perform this task in a non-destructive manner. To learn how to do that, I suggest you read through this previous post I just wrote a few days ago.
I hope I thoroughly explained how to use the Healing Brush Tool in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!