Join Chris Orwig for an in-depth discussion in this video Cleaning up with the Patch tool, part of Portrait Project: Fixing a Distracting Background.
- Sometimes you will encounter distracting elements in the background of a photograph that you'll wanna remove or get rid of. In other situations the distractions may be in the foreground, like with this photograph here. In this chapter we'll be working with this photograph and we'll look at how we can clean up the sand and remove the seaweed and rocks that we have in this part of the image. In order to do that, we'll be doing some retouching on a new layer and we'll start off by working with the patch tool. Let's go a head and create a new layer by clicking on the "New layer" icon, then double click this layer name and let's call this layer "Clean up." Next we will select the patch tool by clicking on the healing brush.
You can find it right here. Select the patch tool, then up top, in the options bar, we aren't gonna patch in a normal way, rather we'll use "Content aware." Content aware gives us really good results when it comes to blending things in. We'll talk a bit about how these controls work in just a second. For now, let's go ahead and leave the structure at a high value of seven, and the color at a high value of 10. Next, turn on "Sample all layers," which will allow us to retouch to the top layer right here. Now, in order to demonstrate how these settings work, I'm gonna zoom in on this picture.
It's a photograph of my buddy, John, holding a canoe right in front of the Pacific Ocean. What I'm gonna do is make a selection of the beach and what you often do is make a selection of the problem and then drag this to the area that you wanna use to retouch over the problem. Now, this obviously won't look good, but it will illustrate how our settings work. Notice how when I dragged over from the ocean to this area we can see the sparkles of the sea or the glistening water there, yet we don't see the color.
That's because a color value of 10. If I bring this color value down to zero, and then click off of that, you can see it's now bringing in the original color from the ocean. Another thing that we can change is structure. With a high value of structure, it's bringing in a lot of the texture of the ocean. But, let me drop this down and here you can see what it will look like when we have a low structure. Notice how there isn't hardly any water in this area at all. So, what this is showing us is that we can change these values to change the intensity and the blending of the retouching.
In other words, when it comes to structure, with a higher structure value, we're gonna see more of the original texture or underlying content that's there. With a high color value, what we're gonna see is less of the actual color and it's gonna blend those two colors together more effectively. Knowing how these controls work will help us when it comes to retouching the sand and that's why I'm highlighting them here. In this area of the beach, this doesn't look very good so I'm gonna press "Command-Z" to undo that.
That's "Control-Z" on Windows because that was really just more for demo purposes. All right, well now that we've seen how the patch tool works, let's get to work and start to retouch away a few little blemishes. We'll start here in the foreground. In the foreground we're just going to make a selection around something, a problem, drag to a good area which is similar, and let go. We wanna take a look at what we're seeing here in regards to the structure and the color. What I want is a higher structure value. I'm gonna leave it where it's at. It's seven for my structure, my color is at eight.
Because what that's gonna do for us is it's gonna make sure that we maintain some of the details that we have there in the sand. The trick with retouching something with this tool is that things can become kind of blurry and soft and not look very good or real if we go too far. That's why we wanna experiment with those settings there. As you're working on this area of the image and you're clicking and dragging around something, if you notice that one area doesn't look good, just go back and see what happens if you play with these sliders a little bit to change those values.
You also are noticing I'm going around smaller areas and what I'm looking to try to do is to clean up a small area, which we can then use in a bigger way. Let me just get through a few of these little areas. I started up here. Now I've cleaned up this big area. Once this big area is a little bit better, let me do this one more time to try to improve the color down there. I'm gonna go ahead and change my structure slider, bring that up. Color slider I'm gonna bring down a little bit. I'm just looking to have a little bit of a lighter look there.
That's why I'm changing these settings. Once I've done that, then I can go to some of these larger problem areas, and you'll see how it will really jumpstart or speed up the retouching, because we now have half of this area here in the foreground looking good. I can make a really big selection, come over here and try to retouch that away. If you make a mistake, you can always go back over an area. I forgot that little area there so I'm gonna go back over that, and go over this. And you can also drag to different areas in the picture to try to hide some of the patterns that you might be creating when you're using this tool.
Sometimes what can happen is you can create a repeating pattern that's a little bit too noticeable, so you can always click and drag and then sample from a different area. Also change the values that you have up here, too. Maybe you want a little bit less structure or maybe you want the color to blend in a different way. Just try changing your settings. That can lead to better retouching. All right, well at this point we've done some good initial retouching, at least here, of the foreground. Let's take a look at how we're doing. You can see that before and after.
Let me zoom out so you can see more of the image. Here we have our first step, stage one, before and then now after. I'm gonna go to "Select" and choose "Deselect" to deselect that active selection. What you wanna do when you're retouching is get to a point where you've accomplished something, like we've done here. Save the file, take a breathe and then keep going.