The spot healing brush is one of the best healing tools in Photoshop that can be used to clone areas of an image and blend the sampled area to remove unwanted objects, blemishes or black spots. Using the Spot Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop is simple to use in that you drag with the tool to paint over larger areas you want to transform.
There are several modes to achieve your desired effect:
This option reads the pixel data around a blemish and will match it based on the proximity of the sample. Whether you’re using this feature to remove a pimple or random black spots, it’ll use the tones next to the affected areas as a reference without requiring any additional tweaking on the user’s behalf.
The Create Texture Feature will look at the surrounding pixels and create a texture map to approximate the colors to be used in repairing the affected area.
If you aren’t sure whether you should be using Proximity Match or the Create Texture feature, Photoshop can make that choice for you by taking colors from nearby pixels when using the Content-Aware Fill.
In my most recent photo work I had a great photo op when visiting Northern Michigan for great nature/landscape photography. Unfortunately a bit of dust crept into my camera, causing black spots and lines to appear in any photos that were shot with a high F-stop or long shutter speed.
I wasn’t sure how obtrusive these specks and lines would be until I imported them to Adobe Lightroom. After performing my color edits I decided to remove those blemishes in Adobe Photoshop. In the past I’ve used the clone tool to remove unwanted objects in the background of my photos, but it didn’t work well when attempting to remove those black specks in the horizon of the photos I shot.
After some pontification I did some research, finding that the Spot Healing Brush Tool would be my best bet in the spot healing I was trying to perform.
This was a minor edit and relied on the Content-Aware Fill to mirror the colors from nearby pixels to remove the blemishes completely. After boosting the radius of the tool, all I had to do was point and drag to get rid of the 12 black spots speckled all over my otherwise-beautiful photo.
Although I used the Spot Healing Brush Tool to remove black spots resulting from dust in my camera, there are other applications where the spot healing brush shines for photo manipulation.
Removing Lines: Like I mentioned earlier, using the Create Texture Feature is a great way to remove telephone lines in the background of your photos or even the lines in a person’s face (crow’s feet come to mind here).
Image Imperfections: Many model photographers will use the Spot Healing Brush Tool to produce smooth skin on the faces of their models. You can also use this tool to remove stray hairs for windy outdoor scenarios.
Blemishes: again, removing imperfections in a model’s skin or unwanted blemishes like beauty marks or pimples is a breeze when using the Spot Healing Brush Tool.
Along with your desired effect, you can change how your artwork looks with the following options in the Main Menu:
While you can transfer all edits used with the brush tool to affect all layers, the Blending Mode of the Layer will override any of the selections that you made in the Main Menu.
While both tools take a sample area, the Clone Stamp Tool will take the entire area and clone it, whereas the Healing Brush Tool factors in both the color and luminosity of the sample it’s drawing pixels from.
The Clone Tool is great for areas with more defined edges as the Healing Brush Tool will only blur the color and leave you with smudged and messy areas. The Healing Brush Tool also falters in areas with a sharp distinction between colors, making the sample area look unnatural when applying edits.
It’s important to make the distinction when using both tools, as it’s more of the technique you’re applying and the desired effect as opposed to the tool that you’re using to create that effect.
The Spot Healing Brush Tool is powerful in healing your photos rather than performing destructive photo editing techniques to achieve your desired effects. While it bares similarities to the Clone Stamp Tool, it’s better applied to color and luminosity edits compared to removing whole objects in the background depending on the contrast of colors.
While the Content-Aware Fill is the best option for photographers who don’t use the tool often, the Proximity Match and Content Fill Features can be used to achieve a similar effect depending on the situation.
I’ve found that the Spot Healing Brush Tool has been the most helpful when performing my desired photo edits, but despite being versatile it does have several weaknesses that don’t make it the best option in certain circumstances. The tool relies on Adobe Photoshop’s AI to determine what the sampled area should look like, which can result in jarring or smudged areas that detract from the overall visual of the image. It’s not the end-all-be-all, but it’s a fantastic tool that every photography should use in their photo manipulation arsenal.
I hope you found this post to be helpful in successfully applying the Spot Healing Brush Tool to remove unwanted spots, specks and blemishes from your photos! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my Rembrandt Lighting Photo Challenge where I go in depth on using the tool to manipulate the face and hair of my model.