How to Use the Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop Elements 11

The Healing Brush tool in Photoshop Elements 11 lets you clone pixels from one area and apply them to another area. The problem with the Clone Stamp tool is that it doesn’t take the tonality of the flawed area — the shadows, midtones, and highlights — into consideration.

So, if the pixels you’re sampling from aren’t shaded and lit exactly like the ones you’re covering, you have a mismatch in color, which makes seamless and indecipherable repairs hard to achieve.

That’s where the Healing Brush tool comes in. This very intelligent tool clones by using the texture from the sampled area (the source) and then using the colors around the brush stroke when you paint over the flawed area (the destination). The highlights, midtones, and shadows remain intact, and the result of the repair is more realistic and natural — not blotchy, miscolored, and screaming “retouched.”

Follow these steps to heal your favorite, but imperfect, photo:

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

    The guy shown looks like he could stand to get some “work done,” as they say in Hollywood. Note that you can also heal between two images. Just make sure that they have the same color mode — for example, both RGB (red, green, blue).

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/twohumans Image #1426264]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/twohumans Image #1426264
  2. In the Tool Options, specify a size for the Healing Brush tool.

    Click the Brush settings button to select your desired diameter and hardness, as well as spacing, angle, and roundness if you want, for your brush tip. You’ll most likely specify your brush settings several times while retouching your image. Using the appropriate brush size for the flaw you’re repairing is important.

  3. Choose your desired Blend mode.

    You can change your Blend mode, if necessary. The Replace mode preserves textures, such as noise or film grain, around the edges of your strokes when you’re using a soft brush. For most simple retouching jobs, such as this one, you can leave it at Normal.

  4. Choose one of these Source options:

    You have a choice between Sampled and Pattern:

    • Sampled: Uses the pixels from the image. You’ll probably use this option 99.9 percent of the time.

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

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

    For most retouching tasks, you probably should leave Aligned selected. Here are the details on each option:

    • With Aligned selected: When you click or drag with the Healing Brush, Elements displays a crosshair along with the Healing Brush cursor. The crosshair represents the sampling point, also known as the source. When you move the Healing Brush tool, the crosshair also moves, providing a constant reference to the area you’re sampling.

    • With Aligned deselected: Elements applies the source pixels from your initial sampling point, no matter how many times you stop and start dragging.

  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. You can then adjust opacity, Blend modes, and make other tweaks to the “healed” pixels.

  7. Optionally, click the Clone Overlay button.

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

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

    In the example, the smooth area on the cheek and portions of the forehead were clicked.

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

    Pay attention to where the crosshair is located because that’s the area you’re healing from. Brush over the wrinkles under and around the eyes and on the forehead. This guy never looked so good, and he experienced absolutely no recovery time.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/twohumans Image #1426264]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/twohumans Image #1426264
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