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Lesson 4. Retouching and Repairing > Using the Healing Brush and Patch tools

Using the Healing Brush and Patch tools

The Healing Brush and Patch tools go one step beyond the capabilities of the Clone Stamp and Spot Healing Brush tools. Using their ability to simultaneously apply and blend pixels from area to area, they open the door to natural-looking touchups in areas that are not uniform in color or texture.

In this project, you’ll touch up the stone wall, removing some graffiti and bolt holes left over from obsolete climbing techniques. Because the rock has variations in its colors, textures, and lighting, it would be challenging to successfully use the Clone Stamp tool to touch up the damaged areas. Fortunately, the Healing Brush and Patch tools make this process easy.

If you want to review the “before” and “after” versions of this image, use Adobe Bridge as described in “Getting started” on page 111.

Using the Healing Brush to remove flaws

Your first goal for this image is to remove the initials that mar the natural beauty of the rock wall.

1.
Click the Go to Bridge button () on the tool options bar, and in Bridge, double-click the 04B_Start.psd file to open it in Photoshop.

2.
In Photoshop, select the Zoom tool () and click the initials “DJ” that have been scratched into the lower left area of the rock so that you see that area of the image at about 200%.

3.
In the toolbox, select the Healing Brush tool (), hidden under the Spot Healing Brush tool.

4.
On the tool options bar, open the Brush pop-up control palette, and change the Diameter value to 10 pixels. Then, close the pop-up palette and make sure that the other settings on the tool options bar are set to the default values: Normal in the Mode option, Sampled in the Source option, and the Aligned check box deselected.

5.
Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) and click just above the scratched-in graffiti in the image to sample that part of the rock. Then release the Alt/Option key.

6.
Starting above the graffiti “D,” paint straight down over the top part of the letter, using a short stroke.

Notice that as you paint, the area the brush covers temporarily looks as if it isn’t making a good color match with the underlying image. However, when you release the mouse button, the brush stroke blends in nicely with the rest of the rock surface.

7.
Continue using short strokes to paint over the graffiti, starting at the top and moving down until you can no longer detect the graffiti letters.

When you finish removing the graffiti, look closely at the surface of the rock, and notice that even the subtle striations in the stone appear to be fully restored and natural-looking in the image.

8.
Zoom out to 100%, and choose File > Save.

About snapshots and History palette states

When you do retouching work, it can be easy to over-edit images until they no longer look realistic. One of the safeguards you can take to save intermediate stages of your work is to take Photoshop snapshots of the image at various points in your progress.

The History palette automatically records the actions you perform in a Photoshop file. You can use the History palette states like a multiple Undo command to restore the image to previous stages in your work. For example, to undo the most recent six actions, simply click the sixth item above the current state in the History palette. To return to the latest state, scroll back down the History palette and select the state in the lowest position on the list.

The number of items saved in the History palette is determined by a Preferences setting. The default specifies that only the 20 most recent actions are recorded. As you makemore changes to the image file, the earliest states are lost as the latest ones are added to the History palette.

When you select an earlier state in the History palette, the image window reverts to the condition it had at that phase. All the subsequent actions are still listed below it in the palette. However, if you select an earlier state in your work and then make a new change, all the states that appeared after the selected state are lost, replaced by the new state.

Note

The following technique is not recommended when you work with large or complex images, such as images with many layers, because this can slow down performance. Saving many previous states and snapshots is RAM-intensive. If you work frequently with complicated images that require maximum RAM, consider reducing the number of history states saved by changing that setting in your Photoshop preferences.


Snapshots give you an opportunity to try out different techniques and then choose among them. Typically, you might take a snapshot at a stage of the work that you are confident you want to keep, at least as a base point. Then, you could try out various techniques until you reach a possible completed phase. If you take another snapshot at that phase, it will be saved for the duration of the current work session on that file. Then, you can revert to the first snapshot and try out different techniques and ideas for finishing the image. When that is finalized, you could take a third snapshot, revert to the first snapshot, and try again.

When you finish experimenting, you can scroll to the top of the History palette to where the snapshots are listed. Then, you can select each of the final snapshots in turn and compare the results.

Once you identify the one you like best, you can select it, save your file, and close it. At that time, your snapshots and History palette listings would be permanently lost.

Note

You can keep an Edit History Log on a Photoshop file. The Edit History Log is a textual history of what has been done to the image file. For more information, see Photoshop Help.


Taking a snapshot

Because you are satisfied with the results of your healing the graffiti marks, now is a good time to take a snapshot. This will serve as a baseline for any futureexperimentation during this work session. (Remember that snapshots and history listings are discarded when you close a file.)

1.
Close the Navigator, Color, and Layer palette groups—you won’t use them in this lesson—and use the space to expand the History palette so that you can see as many items as possible. If necessary, scroll to the bottom of the History palette so that you can see the last change you made to the image.

2.
With the most recent state in the History palette selected, click the New Snapshot button () at the bottom of the History palette to create a snapshot of the current state.

3.
Scroll to the top of the History palette. A new snapshot, Snapshot 1, appears at the top of the palette.

4.
Double-click the words Snapshot 1, type Post-graffiti, and press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS) to rename the snapshot.

Note

You can also take snapshots of earlier phases of your current work session. To do this, scroll to that item in the History palette, select it, and click the New Snapshot button at the bottom of the palette. After you rename the snapshot, reselect the state at which you want to continue working.

5.
Make sure that either the Post-graffiti snapshot or the last state in the history list is selected in the History palette. Then, choose File > Save.

Using the Patch tool

The Patch tool combines the selection behavior of the Lasso tool with the color-blending properties of the Healing Brush tool. With the Patch tool, you can select an area that you want to use as the source (area to be fixed) or destination (area used to do the fixing). Then, you drag the Patch tool marquee to another part of the image. When you release the mouse button, the Patch tool does its job. The marquee remains active over the mended area, ready to be dragged again, either to another area that needs patching (if the Destination option is selected) or to another sampling site (if the Source option is selected).

It may be helpful to zoom in before you begin so that you can easily see the details of the image.

1.
In the toolbox, select the Patch tool (), hidden under the Healing Brush tool ().

2.
On the tool options bar, make sure that Source is selected.

3.
Drag the Patch tool cursor around a few of the bolt holes to the right of the climber, as if you were using the Lasso tool, and then release the mouse.

4.
Drag the selection to an unblemished area of the rock, preferably—but not necessarily—one that is similar in color to the rock around the bolt holes.

As you drag, the original selected area shows the same pixels as the lassoed selection you are dragging. When you release the mouse, the color—but not the texture—readjust back to the original color scheme of the selection.

5.
Drag a new selection around some of the other bolt holes and then drag to an unblemished area of the image. Continue to patch the image until all the scars are repaired to your satisfaction. (Be sure to patch the holes on the left side of the image.)

6.
Choose Select > Deselect.

7.
Choose File > Save.

Using the History Brush tool to selectively reedit

Even with the best tools, retouching photographs so that they look completely natural is an art and requires some practice. Examine your rock-climber image critically to see if any areas of your work with the Healing Brush or Patch tools are now too uniform or smooth, so the area no longer looks realistic. If so, you can correct that now with another tool.

The History Brush tool is similar to the Clone Stamp tool. The difference is that instead of using a defined area of the image as the source (as the Clone Stamp tool does), the History Brush tool uses a previous History palette state as the source.

The advantage of the History Brush tool is that you can restore limited areas of the image. As a result, you can keep the successful retouching effects you’ve made to some areas of the image and restore other, less successfully retouched areas to their previous state so that you can make a second attempt.

1.
In the toolbox, select the History Brush tool ().

2.
Scroll to the top of the History palette and click the empty box next to the Post-graffiti snapshot to set the source state that the History Brush tool will use to paint.

3.
Drag the History Brush tool over the area where the bolt holes appeared before you edited them, to start restoring that part of the image to its previous condition. The bolt holes reappear as you paint.

4.
Using the tool options bar, experiment with the different settings for the History Brush tool, such as Opacity and Mode. Notice how these affect the appearance of the rock as you paint.

If you don’t like the results of an experiment, choose Edit > Undo, or click an earlier action at the bottom of the History palette to revert to that state.

5.
Continue working with the History Brush and Patch tools until you are satisfied with the final appearance of your image.

6.
Choose File > Save, and then choose File > Close.

You’ve finished your work on this image.

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