advanced photoshop

Tool Focus: Healing and Clone Stamp tools

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Tips & Tutorials, by Anna-lisa Saywell

Rescue and repair undesirable areas of any image with Healing and Clone Stamp tools

The healing tools in combination with the Clone Stamp tool are the chief repair and rescue items in your Photoshop tool box. Unless of course you happen to be gifted with the time, skills and patience to paint over problem areas pixel by pixel, while at the same time maintaining total photographic realism. We didn’t think so, so count yourself lucky that these tools are so good at doing what they do!

There are three healing tools: the Spot Healing Brush, Healing Brush and the Patch, of which the first sees the most action, particularly since it was revved up with a Content Aware option in CS5. The healing tools are all furnished with complex algorithms that replace blemish areas with new information based on surrounding detail and tone. You can click a dimple on the with the Spot Healing Brush tool, for example, and it will be miraculously replaced with realistic-looking skin that blends seamlessly. In the rare times that the texture you want to replace a problem area with comes from somewhere else in the image (rather than adjacent), you can switch to the Healing Brush tool, which allows you to manually source texture using the Opt/Alt key. Last there’s the Patch tool, useful for replacing much larger blemish areas as it gives you the option to select a large area and drag it to an area of better texture that you’d rather have in place. It doesn’t get a lot of use for most types of imagery, but it can be a lifesaver in those occasions where gradual work with the Spot Healing brush is making more of a mess.

Tool Focus: Healing and Clone Stamp tools

Few models have completely blemish-free skin but with the application of the healing and Clone Stamp tools, you’ll never have to give away the real truth!

The Clone Stamp tool is separate from the healing tools but is usually taken out for similar repair jobs. It copies information exactly from a chosen source point; nothing is blended, it’s literally an exact replication. Prior to CS5, the Clone Stamp tool was whipped out as soon as you came across a blemish that was close to edge detail, perhaps the lips on a portrait. In these situations the healing brushes would usually drag in some of the lip information, causing an unsightly smudged effect. In CS5, by setting Spot Healing brush to Content Aware and sizing the brush to include a decent amount of the edge detail in conjunction with the blemish, it attempts to cancel the edge information out. It works five times out of ten, so be prepared to reach for the Clone Stamp tool in those times that it doesn’t do the business. Clone Stamp is also best for removing distractions from areas of pattern, such as a brick wall.


  • Remove sensor dust from digital captures or dust and scratches from scanned photographs with a single click of the Spot Healing brush.
  • Remove minor skin blemishes such as spots, moles and stray hairs with the Spot Healing brush and Clone Stamp tool combination.
  • Remove unwanted areas from edge detail using the Spot Healing brush and its Content Aware option new to CS5.
  • Rebuild areas of pattern interrupted by unwanted subjects or objects using the Clone Stamp tool, making use of its overlay feature.
  • Use the Patch tool to remove large problem areas that don’t respond to gradual work with a healing brush.