There’s likely been a time when you wanted to cover up some unwanted flaws or blemishes in an otherwise awesome photograph. Or, perhaps a cherished, old photograph has been damaged and you would like to restore its condition to new. Today we’ll learn just how easy it is to attain a photographer’s airbrush finish in Photoshop. This is a quick and easy tutorial in which we’ll smooth away (or heal) blemishes on a photograph. The method can be used as a softer alternative to the clone stamp tool, since healing pulls texture from a defined point and subtly merges it with the color of the imperfection.
To Fix Blemishes on Skin
Step One: To get started, open the image you wish to edit in Photoshop (click file, then open). In our first example, the subject has a few blemishes and discolorations on the face which we will airbrush away using the healing brush.
Step Two: Make a copy of the background/original by right clicking on the image and selecting duplicate layer from the menu. Although optional, this is a good habit to get into as it ensures an original copy is left intact before we go crazy editing. Now, create a new empty layer to work on (the icon resembling a post-it note in the layers panel).
Step Three: With the copied layer active, select the healing brush tool from the left side panel (short cut by hitting the j key). Although you can use spot healing, the healing brush is often more versatile and preferred by most professionals.
Notice the brush presets in the top menu, which are also accessible by right-clicking on the photo. For our purposes, the normal blend mode should suffice but change the sample setting to current & below.
Step Four: Adjust the brush point size and hardness. Select a size that is just about the size of the blemish to cover (wrinkle or spot). Typically for skin, hardness can be set very low and spacing to about 10-25%. Feel free to play around with the settings, you can always go back in the history to undo the change or just start over. A healing brush too small (or spaced too wide) won’t cover/fix the blemish enough and creates an unnatural, pixelated look while a brush too large samples too much from the surrounding area and tinges the area with unwanted coloration. The healing brush is a finicky, touch-and-feel tool which gets easier to work with the more it is utilized.
Step Five: You can undo steps (i.e. go back to previous versions) in the history panel. Zoom in and check for mistakes or missing areas. Use the shortcuts ctrl + to zoom in, and ctrl – to zoom back out (command + & – on a Mac). Add more detail using the brush or use the eraser tool can to clean up edges.
Step Six: A final edit you may want to make is to adjust the opacity of this working layer (lower opacity means less healing cover).
To Fix Spots and Imperfections on Photographs
Another way to use the healing tool in Photoshop is to patch unwanted features like damage to an old photo. We’ll use the patch healing method to fix an ugly overlay print and restore this damaged photograph.
Step 1: After opening the image, create a copy layer to work on. Select the healing Patch Tool from the left tool panel.
Step 2: In the top menu, select the
type as content-aware. Now, simply use the patch tool to lasso /enclose a portion of the photograph that you would like to disappear. After it is enclosed, drag the patch to an area with no marking/flaw and notice how the selected area changes colors. Once released, the patched area will heal itself using the new dropped destination for reference. For best results, use small and specific areas.
Step 3: Repeat step 2 for all unwanted markings, using nearby locations for destination reference. Utilize the history panel to undo changes that are not up to par.
That’s it! Photoshop’s healing tools are efficient ways of achieving that airbrushed quality and/or for restoring old photos to their original state. Although it may take a bit of practice to familiarize oneself with the tool, perfect photos will be well worth your patience and effort.