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- The ethics of cleanup
- Reviewing the image
- Nondestructive cleanup
- Cleanup tools and techniques
- Removing strong color casts
- Gradient adjustments
- Extending the frame
- Using multiple exposures to remove subjects from an image
Skill Level Beginner
Several of the tools that you'll use for image cleanup are actually brush tools which means we're using them to paint onto our image. Specifically in most cases to paint pixels in order to cover up a blemish. I want to share an issue related to brushes that might surprise you in terms of best approach to image cleanup. And that relates to the hardness of the brush that you're using. We'll start off with the Clone Stamp tool. I'm going to create a new layer, and I'll just call this layer Clone Stamp, since we're currently working with the Clone Stamp tool.
I'll choose the Clone Stamp from the toolbox. Now I don't want you to worry too much about exactly what I'm doing in the image. I just want you to contemplate this issue of brush hardness, and think about it when you're working with these tools later. I'll go ahead and zoom in on a portion of the image, and I've got some good texture here. So this'll make it reasonably easy for us to see the impact of what's going on. Now I'm going to start off with a hard edged brush for the Clone Stamp. Now you can probably already anticipate that this is not going to be an ideal solution.
I'll select a source of pixels in the image, and then I'll simply click and drag across the photo in order to paint. Now it may be a little bit difficult to see here since were looking so closely at the image, but I'll paint across some different textures. And you can probably tell reasonably easily that we have a somewhat crisp edge at the edge of everywhere that I'm painting. And that's because I'm using a hard edged brush. I'll turn off the background image layer and you can see that sure enough we're working with a rather crisp edge to that brush.
And so the transition between the area I'm cleaning up. The pixels that I'm using to cover up a different portion of the image and the rest of the image is rather abrupt. I'll go ahead and switch to a soft edge brush. I'll take the hardness all the way down to 0% for the brush and I will once again turn on my background image layer. And then I'll set a source of pixels and I'll just click and drag through the image. And you might assume that with the Clone Stamp tool. Because of what we just saw with the hard edge brush, that a soft edge brush will be a perfect solution. But in actual fact, a soft edge brush can also be problematic. I'll go ahead and zoom in a little more closely on this area, and we're looking at individual pixels.
So this might be a little bit tricky to see in this context, but we start to get a little bit of a transition. I'll turn off the background image layer. And you can see that we're transitioning from opaque pixels to an absence of pixels with some translucent pixels in between. And what that can cause is a little bit of ghosting in the texture in the image. And that can certainly be very, very problematic to exaggerate this just a little bit, I'm going to work with a very large brush. And I'll sample an area over here and then click and drag to paint that into another portion of the image. Now you'll notice that I'm painting the edge of the photo over here. But pay attention over on this area, where we get this, ghosted effect. Now because I'm working with such a large brush, that's really being exaggerated. And it's not exactly the type of effect that you'd normally run into. But envision this happening on a smaller scale, and it can still be problematic. So that's something that we want to try to avoid whenever possible. Well now I've sort of shown you that hard edge brush is bad, and a soft edge brush is bad.
So what's the right solution? Well the most important thing is to be aware of this issue, so that you can pay attention as you're cleaning up your image. And recognizing when these sorts of problems exist. Either too harsh a transition or too smooth a transition. Generally speaking I meet somewhere in the middle and so I'll work with a hardness of around 50%. So that it's not too hard, not too soft. And that usually works pretty well, but again I pay attention while I'm working to make sure that I'm getting a good result. Now, I want to show you a different tool with a different issue altogether, and that's the Spot Healing Brush tool. I'll go ahead and make a new layer.
I've turned off the Clone Stamp layer, and I'll rename this new layer. I'll just call it Spot Healing Brush. There we go. And now I will choose the Spot Healing Brush, and in this case I actually want to work with a 100% hardness. You saw on that with the Clone Stamp tool, a 100% hardness was probably the worst option. So you might expect that for the Spot Healing Brush tool, that's also the case. But the Spot Healing Brush tool, as well as the Healing Brush, for that matter, is a unique tool in that it's automatically blending pixels into the destination.
Now, I'll go ahead and just paint out an area that is not exactly a realistic clean-up task in this case. Just to show you that Photoshop can remove an area by replacing it with other pixels. Now, the transition that you see here, you'll see that there's a little bit of a blending of pixels of less than perfect result. But of course I was making a little bit of an unrealistic request of Photoshop in this case, a rather tricky scenario. That transition is not because of the hardness of the brush. That's just because of the way the Spot Healing Brush tool works. By using a hard edge brush, I'm helping to restrict the content that I'm copying. And I'm also providing, essentially, hard-edged data. So that the blending will be a little bit easier for Photoshop to process. So, with the Clone Stamp tool, I don't tend to use a hard-edged brush. But not a 0% hardness either, not a completely soft-edged brush rather somewhere in between.
But with the Spot Healing Brush tool or the Healing Brush tool I use a 100% hardness all the time. So keep in mind that brush hardness can be very, very important for your image cleanup work. And it will vary, sometimes in ways you don't expect, depending on which tool you're using for a particular clean up task.