Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video The Healing Brush, part of Photoshop Image Cleanup Workshop.
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The Healing Brush tool takes the basic behavior of the Clone Stamp tool, copying pixels from one area of an image to another, in order to cover up blemishes, and adds an automatic blending that helps ensure better results in many situations. In this lesson, we'll take a look at the Healing Brush tool, starting with an overview of the basic operation of this tool. Here I have an image which is obviously not a photographic image, but rather simply an image that contains some colors and textures, and I'll use this image to help demonstrate the concepts behind the healing brush tool. And I'm not even going to work with the Healing Brush tool in the normal way.
I'll simply work directly on my background image layer. This makes it a destructive adjustment, but it'll be a little bit quicker for purposes of just understanding the basic concepts here. I'll go ahead and choose the Healing Brush tool, it's found beneath the Spot Healing Brush tool, on the toolbox. So I'll click and hold my mouse on the Spot Healing Brush tool button, and then choose Healing Brush tool from the fly out menu. I can select a source. I'll go ahead and increase my brush size here, pressing the right square bracket key. And then I will hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh, and click in the source area. In this case I'm going to sample an area from this textured area of the image. And then I can move over to, in this case, the red area, which is very smooth, there is no texture there at all, and I'll click and I'm going to hold the mouse down for just a moment.
And you can see that at first, the Healing Brush tool seems to be behaving exactly the way the clone stamp tool does, simply copying pixels from one area of the image to another. But as soon as I release the mouse, the Healing Brush tool will process this area and blend it in to its new surroundings. So you can see, I've copied the texture, but I've blended the result in terms of overall tonality and color. I'll repeat the same step down below. I'll sample another area of the texture. I'll click and hold. You see again, that we are copying pixels, at least initially.
And when I release the mouse, once again, the Healing Brush tool will blend that in to the surrounding. I'm going to go ahead and undo both of those steps and take the adjustment in the other direction. I'll sample from the clear, smooth, red area, for example, and I will paste that in to the textured area. And when I release the mouse it gets processed. But again, the overall color and tonality match the destination, but the texture has been brought over from that source area. And the same thing will hold true if I sample from the white area we get exactly the same result. So this gives you a sense of the general behavior, essentially what the Healing Brush is doing is copying texture from one area of the image to another, and then blending that area so that the source pixels, the texture from the source pixels, matches the overall color and tonality of the destination. Let's take a look at a little bit more realistic example, an actual photographic image.
And we'll also take a look at how I would actually recommend working with the Healing Brush tool, and that is non-destructively on a separate layer. So on the Layers panel, I'll click on the Add New Layer button, the blank sheet of paper icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. And I'll rename the layer by double-clicking on the name and typing a new name. I'll go ahead and call this Healing Brush, since I'm working with the Healing Brush tool. I'll make sure the Healing Brush tool is actually selected on the tool box, and then looking at the Options bar. In the case of the Healing Brush tool, I will actually work with a 100% hardness. That way I'm giving Photoshop a crisp edge, in terms of the source area, so that it can blend that in to the destination.
Remember, when we're working with the Healing Brush tool, the blending is happening automatically, so I don't need to use a soft edge brush in order to get a result. And in most cases, I'll actually get a more accurate result, with a little bit faster speed, by working with a brush set to 100% hardness. The blend mode should be set to Normal. The source will be sampled, because we're going to sample an area from the image, not paint with a specific pattern. And we can leave the Aligned check box turned off. The Aligned check box determines whether we're going to be returning to the same source repeatedly, or if we want to simply maintain the relationship, the alignment, between the source and destination areas. When using the Healing Brush tool, I'll very often sample the same area repeatedly, and so I tend to leave the Aligned check box turned off. Of course in most cases, it actually doesn't matter whether the Aligned check box is turned off or on, because I recommend choosing a source area every single time you paint with the Healing Brush tool. The Sample option should be set to All Layers.
This is what enables us to work efficiently with a separate layer as the destination of our pixels that we're copying, using the Healing Brush tool. But when we're working in this way it's very important that we turn on the option just to the right of the sample popup. With this option turned on, any adjustment layers will be ignored, ensuring that our final result matches up well. If this option were left off, then the pixels you paint on the Healing Brush layer would not necessarily match the background layer, and therefore you would end up with a bad blending of those pixels.
So, with all of our settings established, we're ready to apply some corrections to this image, and this is actually quite easy. I'm going to zoom in a little bit, and you can see for example I have a nail in the middle of one of the rungs of the ladder. And I'd like to get rid of that, so I'm going to sample a new area. I'll adjust my brush size so it's about the size of the area that I want to clean up. I'll then move over to the right of the nail. And I will hold the Alt key on Windows, or the Option key on Macintosh, and click to select a source of pixels. And then I will click over the top of the nail, and release, and I get a great blending.
But I actually don't need to sample quite as carefully. I'll go ahead and choose a source area, for example, in this sort of orangeish colored wood, and then I'll click and paint, and you can see initially, it looks like this is not a good match, but when I release the mouse, the area is blended in. The original source pixels, which in this case were a bit orange, are blended in to the destination, and they match very, very well. I can then continue in this manner, choosing a source and then painting on a destination to remove any blemishes I'd like, and I don't need to be especially careful about the source versus the destination because of that blending behavior.
As you can see, the Healing Brush tool provides the benefit of control, in terms of selecting a source area, with the power of automatic blending, to help insure the best clean up results possible.
- 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