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Photoshop Top 40
Illustration by John Hersey

22. The Healing Brush


Photoshop Top 40

with Deke McClelland

Video: 22. The Healing Brush

(Music playing) Deke's Photoshop? Deke's Photoshop? Top 40! Feature #22 is the Healing Brush and the Healing Brush allows you to clone from one section of an image onto a different section of that same image or a different image if you like and then Photoshop turns around and merges that information in order to create a seamless transition, which makes the Healing Brush so well-suited to retouching inside of Photoshop. Now before I show you how to use the Healing Brush, I want you to get a sense for the underlying technology, how it works.

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Photoshop Top 40
7h 13m Intermediate Dec 21, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

There's nothing people love more than lists, and Photoshop Top 40 offers a great one, highlighting the best features in Photoshop. Deke McClelland counts down to #1 with a new video each week, detailing one great feature after another in this popular digital imaging application. The videos cover tools, commands, and concepts, emphasizing what's really important in Photoshop.

This is an ongoing course that will be updated monthly.

For the newest updates please go to our blog entry for Deke's Photoshop Top 40.

Topics include:
  • Assembling multiple pieces of artwork with layer comps
  • Creating a black-and-white image from a color photograph
  • Merging multiple channels to create an alpha channel with calculations
  • Selecting images with the Pen tool
  • Masking images using the Brush tool
Design Photography
Deke McClelland

22. The Healing Brush

(Music playing) Deke's Photoshop? Deke's Photoshop? Top 40! Feature #22 is the Healing Brush and the Healing Brush allows you to clone from one section of an image onto a different section of that same image or a different image if you like and then Photoshop turns around and merges that information in order to create a seamless transition, which makes the Healing Brush so well-suited to retouching inside of Photoshop. Now before I show you how to use the Healing Brush, I want you to get a sense for the underlying technology, how it works.

And the best way to get a sense for how the Healing Brush works is to switch to a very close cousin of the Healing Brush, a tool I don't use nearly as often but it's a great demonstrational tool and that's the Patch tool. So I'm going to go ahead and select the Patch tool and I'm going to switch the Patch setting up here in the Options bar from Source to Destination. Now imagine that this little selection outline right here represents a brushstroke. This is the area that I'm going to clone and the area that you're cloning from is called the source information inside the file or just plain source.

So I'll grab this source and I'll move it to a new destination right here. So here's what's happening? Imagine again, imagine this is a brushstroke, the marching ants, which are still for the moment, imagine that they represent the boundary of the brushstroke. So what Photoshop does is it looks at the boundary information. It looks at the area around the brushstroke, that destination area and it uses that as a guideline for what it needs to match. This is Photoshop needing to match that information and needing to somehow modify the information inside the brushstroke, which is the source information, in order to match the destination and as soon as I released my mouse button, you'll see the match happen.

So I'll go ahead and release and that's the healing process demonstrated before you. I'm going to press Ctrl+H, Command+H on the Mac to hide that selection outline. Let's go ahead and zoom in on that merged detail right there. Now if you look closely, you'll see that we have some very tiny peach-fuzz whiskers on this side of the cheek here and they appeared a totally different angle or they're not quite there or something's different inside the brushstroke. What you want to do, when you're thinking about how the Healing Brush works is you want to remember the healing analogy. It's very important.

When you cut yourself and then you heal, you're going to have some residual scar tissue and that happens with the Healing Brush as well. So you may get little scar tissue going on. It tends to be the reason you want to work small. You want to work subtly. You want to paint over areas multiple times, oftentimes in order to get good results. So you can't expect the Healing Brush to just right out of the box deliver exactly the results you want. You're going to have to finesse it and I'm going to show you how to use the Healing Brush in this video and how to use it in concert with the CLONE SOURCE palette, really wicked good palette inside of Photoshop.

Anyway, I'm going to undo that healing because we don't need it. Press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac and then I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to deselect the image and now let's switch over to the Healing Brush tool. Now I recommend the Healing Brush tool over the Spot Healing Brush tool. The Spot Healing Brush tool makes source decisions automatically for you and it doesn't do a very good job of it. It's much better if you do that on your own, which is why we're going to use the Healing Brush, which is the much better tool. Now, by the way, I happened to be looking at a photograph from Simone van den Berg.

What you want to do when you're healing and let's say I want to heal this little thing that's right there on this kid's face. What you want to do is you have to set a source and you do that by pressing the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and clicking. And that defines your source inside the image and then I'm going to go ahead and zoom in so we can kind to see what we're doing here. Now notice that I'm choosing a source point that was read about there that's very close to my destination point which means that I'm going to have a good match. And if you can create a good match between your source and destination information then you're going to make things a lot easier for Photoshop and it's going to do a great job of healing up those transitions.

All right, so I Atl+clicked or Option+clicked to set the source. Now I'll click, I don't need to paint in this case. I'll just click in order to heal over the destination and we get that result right there. I can do the same thing over on this side if I want to. I could Alt+click or Option+click in this detail and then paint over this area right there in order to heal it other way. And you may have noticed, by the way, inside Photoshop CS4, this is not true in CS3. After you've set a source point by Alt+clicking or Option+clicking, you will see a preview of that source superimposed onto the destination, so you have a sense of how well your source and destination information match each other.

All right, I'm going to go and zoom out in order take in more of the image and another thing on this kid's face is very typical of kids. Obviously, we as older people have a lot more stuff that we can heal on our respective faces. Kids have smoother faces but they also tend to have food on their faces. So mine as well healed that away and I'm going to do that by Alt+clicking or Option+clicking again in a neighboring area right there and then I will go ahead and paint over this portion of the lip and we can see that it's not going to look exactly right.

I'll go ahead and release and let her rip and it looks pretty darn good actually, but we do have a little weirdness right there at that location that I might want to get rid of and incidentally, another great tool to work with any time that you are retouching inside of Photoshop. You want to make sure that you have the History Brush tool ready and waiting right there and what the History Brush tool allows you to do is paint back to the original version of your image by default. That's what it's going to paint back to anyway. So I'm painting back to the saved version in my case because I've just opened the flat file here and I'll just go ahead and paint that little iffy information right there away.

Now the other thing that's going on here you may notice and this is something that's important to know when you're working with the Healing Brush. You want to make sure that your texture information is matching up okay, so you're not painting in totally new texture. You also want to watch out that your transitional areas are matching up okay. So anytime where you're painting from a source that has luminance variations inside of it, like in this case, we're painting the source that start can becomes light, well that luminance variation is going to be imparted in the new zone as well, in the destination area.

So we're going from dark to light, which happens to work for this mouth just fine. The problem is we have repetition of detail. Can you see that? If I zoom in right there, you can see that -- I'll switch to my Marquee tool for a moment here so I can point to with the cross cursor. We've got this little sort of highlight right there and it's repeated right next door. Anyone who really knows Photoshop and takes a look at this image is going to know you were there. This just does not happen in real life or at least real-life digital photography. So we're going to have to paint over it once again.

I'll press the J key to switch back to the Healing Brush and I like to remember J because it's almost the letter in the word, surgery, not quite but the J sound is there. I tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to Alt+click here or Option+click there and paint over this detail. I also reduce the size of my brush by pressing the left bracket key a few times and we still have a little bit of repetition of detail right there. So why don't we clean that up by Alt+clicking at here or something like that, dragging over it. That looks better to me. Maybe clicking a few times.

All right, now we're ready to take on the biggest cosmetic problem inside of this image and that is this wicked scar on this kid's face. It's so tragic. How would we go about getting rid of the scar inside of this photograph? Well, we're not going to be able to just lift information from the face detail right here from the face and paint it over because we're not going to have a match of transitional details, I'll show you what I mean by that. I'll go ahead and increase the size of my brush. I already did that by pressing right bracket key a few times and then I'll Alt+click right here, let's say, or Option+click and then as soon as I move my cursor over to this location over to this location.

I'll make it a little bigger so we can see what I'm taking about. Notice the curvature of the face is different at this location than it was over here. So we're not going to get a match and if I start painting, I'm going to start incorporating the mustache and at a point, I'll get the nostril and so on. It's just too much going on over here in order to paint over an entire scar. So the results don't look alike. I'll go ahead and undo that modification by pressing Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. What I can do is I can Alt+click over here to set the source and then I can paint over here. Now you might think, Deke, you're out of your mind.

If this didn't work then that's not going to work. I mean that's the other side of the face and as soon as I paint over, sure enough, I'm painting in an earring which doesn't really look like it belongs here and there's a side of the image. Well, check this out. I'll press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. I'm going to the Window menu and I'm going to choose CLONE SOURCE. Now that brings up this palette, I've gone ahead and locked it in this location here, so I can keep it up on screen. A very complicated palette, all sorts of stuff going on, really designed for video work. So if you open a video inside of Photoshop Extended and you're modifying independent frames while you can go ahead and clone between those frames.

You can heal between the frames and that's why they came up with the CLONE SOURCE palette. But then a bunch of a us begged Adobe to go ahead and leave the CLONE SOURCE palette inside of regular Photoshop, the standard version, not the extended version, because we needed access to these three options right there, width, height, and rotation. So that using these two values, you can scale the source information and you can also rotate it. Terrific options. Now in my case, I need to flip the information. I need to perform a horizontal flip as I'm healing.

Notice there are no Flip options here. You can do that by changing the W value, which is Width, so horizontal, and I'm going to change it to negative and that's all you do. Now notice that my source information is flipped right there on the fly. Now I can paint and get something that's better. Now, it's not best, of course, because our angle is totally wrong and so we have a new fantastical gel sticking out of this kid's face. Let's go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. What we need to do is rotate. Now rotating involves some guesswork inside of CS3.

It does not involve guesswork inside of CS4 because you can see the source preview. So what you want to do is click inside that value. Then I'm going to move my cursor, so I can see what I'm doing there, and I'm going to press Shift+Down arrow and the Shift key allows me to change that rotate value. You can see that over there on the right-hand side of the screen. Change it in whole degree increments and as soon as I get a match, then I have a match, is basically what it comes down to. So I'll keep taking that value down. Let's say to about -20, it might work for us here. And then let me see if I can sort of match the details properly here and then I'll paint away that tragical scar and I might paint up the face a little bit and down the face, I've got a good match, look it out here. This looks good.

Now the only thing I'm concerned about, notice I'm painting in a little bit of earring, don't worry about that. I'll paint that away in just a moment. What I'm really concerned about is that the angle of the transitional detail right here, going from black to pale that that is matching. Now that is an alignment because that's what really is going to count here. This stuff up here where we have slow shading, that's going to resolve itself most likely. All right, I'll go ahead and release my mouse button and Photoshop performs the healing and notice, how well that scar went away and was replaced by wonderful pours that match beautifully.

Now we don't have a good match at the beginning and end of the brushstroke, which is why I'm going to go ahead and grab my History Brush once again and I'll make my History Brush bigger. Notice by the way, I should say something. When I'm using the Healing Brush, I have a hard edged brush. I've got the Hardness value set all the way down to 100% and that's the default setting, by the way. Leave it that way because you don't want to incorporate a lot of extra detail because Photoshop is looking around the edge of that brushstroke, if you start going for a soft brush then it's going to have to incorporate too much junk and you're going to get weird shading, weird highlights.

It doesn't tend to work as well. However, when you're working with the History Brush, this guy right there then you want a nice soft brush that's going to work better for you. All right, now with the History Brush tool, I'll go ahead and paint this way, I might come down here and paint like so and then paint into the jaw down here at the bottom, might actually paint some of these details back into place as well and we get what amounts to, in my opinion, a very nice transition around what was formerly a hideous and tragic scar.

Thanks to feature #22, the Healing Brush, here inside Photoshop.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photoshop Top 40.

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Q: Is there a way to batch convert an entire folder of photos from the RBG color mode to the CMYK color mode without having to open and convert each individual image?
A: In the Actions panel in Photoshop, create an action that converts an image from RGB to CMYK. Then link to that action from File > Automate > Batch inside Photoshop.
Next, in the Bridge, select a folder of images. Choose Tools > Photoshop > Batch. Select the action inside the ensuing dialog box.
Or, in Photoshop, select File > Automate > Batch, and select the action and the folder inside the dialog box.
See also: Photoshop CS2 Actions & Automation, Chapter 2 “Action Essentials.”
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