Fixing Flaws with the Healing Brush Tools in Photoshop Elements 9

4 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Correcting Photos in Photoshop Elements 9

Photoshop Elements provides several handy tools to fix flaws and correct minor imperfections in your photos. Use the Healing Brush or Spot Healing Brush tools to retouch blemishes or flaws.

Retouching photos with the Healing Brush

The Healing Brush clones by using the texture from the sampled area (the source) and then using the colors around the brush stroke while you paint over the flawed area (the destination). The highlights, midtones, and shadow areas remain intact, giving you a realistic and natural repair that isn’t as blotchy or miscolored as the repair you get with the Clone Stamp tool.

Here are the steps to heal a photo:

  1. Open an image in need of a makeover and select the Healing Brush tool from the Tools panel in Edit Full mode.

    You can also heal between two images, but be sure that they have the same color mode: for example, both RGB (red, green, blue).

  2. Specify a diameter and hardness for your brush tip from the Brush Picker drop-down panel on the Options bar.

    Healing Brush tool settings on the Options bar.
    Healing Brush tool settings on the Options bar.

    Be sure to adjust the size of your brush, as needed. Using the appropriate brush size for the flaw you’re retouching is critical to creating a realistic effect.

  3. Choose your desired blend mode.

    For most retouching jobs, you probably should leave the mode as Normal. Replace mode preserves textures, such as noise or film grain, around the edges of your strokes.

  4. Choose one of these Source options:

    • Sampled: Uses the pixels from the image. You use this option for the majority of your repairs.

    • Pattern: Uses pixels from a pattern chosen from the Pattern Picker drop-down panel.

  5. Select or deselect the Aligned option on the Options bar.

    For most retouching tasks, you probably should leave Aligned selected.

  6. Select the Sample All Layers option to heal an image by using all visible layers.

    If this option is deselected, you heal from only the active layer.

    To ensure maximum editing flexibility later, select the Sample All Layers option and add a new, blank layer above the image you want to heal. When you heal the image, the pixels appear on the new layer and not on the image itself; so, you can adjust opacity and blend modes and make other adjustments to the healed layer.

  7. Establish the sampling point by Alt-clicking (Option-clicking on the Mac).

    Make sure to click the area of your image that you want to clone from.

  8. Release the Alt (Option on the Mac) key and click or drag over a flawed area of your image.

    Keep an eye on the crosshair because that’s the area you’re healing from.

    Wipe out ten years in two minutes with the Healing Brush tool. [Credit: PhotoSpin]
    Credit: PhotoSpin
    Wipe out ten years in two minutes with the Healing Brush tool.

Zeroing in with the Spot Healing Brush

Whereas the Healing Brush is designed to fix larger flawed areas, the Spot Healing Brush is often preferable for fixing smaller imperfections. The Spot Healing Brush doesn’t require you to specify a sampling source. It automatically takes a sample from around the area to be retouched. It’s quick, easy, and often effective.

Here’s how to quickly fix flaws with the Spot Healing Brush tool:

  1. Open your image and grab the Spot Healing Brush tool in Edit Full mode.

  2. On the Options bar, click the Brush Preset Picker and select a desired diameter and hardness for your brush tip from the drop-down panel.

    Spot Healing Brush tool settings on the Options bar.
    Spot Healing Brush tool settings on the Options bar.

    Select a brush that’s a little larger than the flawed area you’re fixing.

  3. Choose a blend mode from the Options bar.

    As with the Healing Brush, the most likely mode is Normal.

  4. Choose a Type from the Options bar:

    • Proximity Match: Samples the pixels around the edge of the selection to fix the flawed area.

    • Create Texture: Uses all the pixels in the selection to create a texture to fix the flaw.

    • Content-Aware: If you want to eliminate something larger than a mole or freckle, this is the option of choice where actual content from the image is used as a kind of patch for the flawed area. Note that you may have to paint over the offending object a couple times to get your desired result. Also, a touch up with the Clone Stamp or other healing tools may be needed.

      Eliminate cannonballers and other offending objects with the content-aware option. [Credit: Istockp
      Credit: Istockphoto.com
      Eliminate cannonballers and other offending objects with the content-aware option.

    Try Proximity Match first, and if it doesn’t work, undo it and try Create Texture or Content-Aware.

  5. Choose Sample All Layers to heal an image by using all visible layers.

    If you leave this check box deselected, you heal from only the active layer.

  6. Click, drag or “paint” over the area you want to fix.

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The Essentials of Correcting Photos in Photoshop Elements 9

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