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Basic Retouching: Tools & Techniques

  • Healing Brushes - be careful. These are not guaranteed to work perfectly. They look inside and outside the area you paint. The amount they look outside is undefined. If you get close to areas of different texture than you are trying to repair, sometimes the results will be somewhat off.
  • If this occurs, don't panic. Each time you paint the computer will calculate again, and it may change, so try three or four times. If it still does not work, go with the rubber stamp (clone) tool.
  • I suggest setting your cloning tool brush to a hardness of 50% or less, so that you have a softer edge to blend with the surrounding area. If the brush is hard edged, you will see clearly defined sharp edging - a giveaway.
  • You can use the Clone (rubber Stamp) tool at different opacities, so you can gradually paint away a problem. This is especially good for retouching skin.
  • BUT - be careful. At lower opacities you will also be smoothing the pixels, and the grain (noise) may no longer match the surrounding area. If this occurs select the area and add noise at maybe 1% or 2%. if the noise is a little harsh, use the BLUR filter to gently soften the grain to match.

Basic Retouching: Tools & Techniques

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Lesson Overview 0:07
  • The Basic Retouching Tools and How to Properly Use Them: Demonstration 1 2:39
    • Image Overview
    • Rubber Stamp Tool
    • Spot Healing Brush Tool
  • The Basic Retouching Tools and How to Properly Use Them: Demonstration 2 19:36
    • Healing Brush, Spot Healing Brush, and Rubber Stamp
    • Patch Tool
  • Lesson Summary 27:34

Transcription: Basic Retouching: Tools & Techniques

Hi everyone, Mike Brown here again, welcome back to's Adobe Photoshop CS6 course.0000

We've talked about selections, we've talked about corrections, we've talked about layers and non-destructive corrections, now we're going to talk about retouching.0007

If you remember my four basic categories of Photoshop; selections (most important) corrections (exposure and color) retouching, which is the physical alteration of the pixels and then manipulation which is composites and things of that sort.0018

Retouching is vitally important as well; it allows you to fix all sorts of distractions, mould and improve your images in the industry of fashion.0035

Retouching, you see it all the time on every magazine you see on the street corners, you see the covers of the fashion girls, all with their faces absolutely perfect.0047

Believe me, they don't look that way in real life, that's retouching--that's Photoshop.0057

They look skinny, the dresses look perfect, everything is absolutely perfect--nobody's perfect--that was manipulated with the retouching tools, so we're going to go into that pretty deeply here, but in this lesson we're just going to cover the basics.0062

And what we're going to look at are the basic retouching tools and how to properly use them, and there are really four of them; the Spot Healing Brush, the Healing Brush tool and the Patch tool--all three of those are under the little band aid, and they work in a similar fashion.0078

There's a fourth one called a Content Aware Move tool, which is new in CS6--I went over this under the Content Aware lesson, there's also Content Aware Scale and Content Aware Extend which are both wonderful.0096

The Content Aware Move...has a tendency to disturb pixels--we'll go into that as this lesson goes on, and the final tool which has been around since the beginning of Photoshop, the Clone Stamp tool they call it but we all call it the Rubber Stamp because of the icon.0113

What this tool does is literally clone--it takes something from one spot and reproduces it in another spot which allows you to do an infinite variety of things, but it's how well you use that technique that makes it flawless, and I'm going to have a demo here on these basic techniques--not just showing you how the tools work but how to make them work for you...0134

And some tips on flawless retouching, so let's get going.0157

I'm going to take this image to start with--this is a shot I took of a friend of mine, and it's a nice shot, we got a little flyaway here, up there, that could be taken care of in retouch.0162

If you'll notice in her sunglasses, we've got reflections of the flash that need to be removed--those are distracting, along the side here the dress has a blousing out which looks pretty hideous, so what we're going to do is we're going to reconstruct that down into this area, and then we have some distractions from the background--these are things you really need to look at, is your background.0173

If you're sitting there when you shoot this shot and you shoot it and it's wonderful, but then look closely--she has a branch that grows right into the dress, it blends with it--almost looks like the dress and the branch are one, very distracting element right there.0199

This large branch growing out of the side of the arm, over at the side of the image here we got some lens flare--you see that haziness?0215

And then down here we have another branch growing into the side, and just one little distracting piece up here at the top.0222

These are the things that catch the eye--you're looking here and all of a sudden you see this little brightness, so I'll show you how to fix those, and they can all be done with any of these three tools and or the Rubber Stamp tool.0230

Now let me demonstrate--I'm going to go to the fourth tool first; the classic Rubber Stamp tool and show you how it works.0243

It reproduces directly one item that you source into another area, and just for fun I'm going to show you how this works using her lips.0252

You have a brush size and you have opacity that you can deal with here.0263

You can also sample from the current layer or other layers, but in this case we always, 99% of the time just leave it on the current layer, and align sample--I'll show you what that is in a minute.0268

So we're going to leave this at 100% opacity, don't mess with the flow, always deal with opacity on this thing, I don't want to confuse you.0282

Alright, brush size--you get brush size and hardness, and hardness when you're doing retouching with the Clone tool is important.0291

If you have it at very hard, I'll show you what happens.0302

We have a kind of a soft background here...oh I was going to demonstrate first how the tool works, I'm sorry, I got carried away there.0306

So, the way you use this tool, is you source from one spot that you're going to take from, and you paint it elsewhere, in this case just for a demo I'm going to source from her lips and paint a pair of lips on her chest, just to show you how it works, I know.0315

Option on a Mac, Alt on a PC gives you your target, click where you want to source from while you're holding down the Option or Alt key, then release both the key and your mouse, touchpad or the pen, and you've now sourced that spot.0331

Now, you don't see anything of it and I'm moving my cursor around, I haven't touched it down, but wherever I touch it and start to paint, it will reproduce starting from that very center, watch.0350

Click--notice, it's reproducing--I'll just paint around, it's reproducing precisely her lips, so it sourced from here and it reproduced exactly down here and you go "well that was really good, what good is that?"0360

So just for the fun of it we can do that right up here--what you want to watch for, is to make sure that you're using similar texture, lighting, as you have in the area that you want to fix where you're sourcing it, like right here, it's kind of greenish with a little dark.0378

We can take it from right there, that looks pretty similar--Option or Alt, target, click, release, and then go over here and paint, and you will see that it removed it, but I want to show you something, we're going to zoom it up, look.0398

We had a purely hard edged brush and look what happened, we can see it worked...from a distance, but when you get up close it's real easy to see what happened because we had a hard edged brush.0415

I'm going to undo that, we're going to go back, we're going to take that brush again; Rubber Stamp tool, this time I'm going to reduce the opacity...I don't want to reduce it to zero because it won't show it this one because it's blurry, but when the brush is completely soft, if you're trying to reproduce something that has quite heavy detail in it, it's going to blur it down.0431

So the best way to use your Clone tool, Spot Healing Brush--all of the tools with the brushes that are Healing tools, just put your hardness roughly somewhere between 30 and 40% is what I use, because it gives you a soft edge to allow it to blend a little bit, but the detail in most of the brush is quite clear, so we'll do that here; Option or Alt click, and this time we'll paint right in that area.0458

And let's go up and take a can't see where the edges are--notice I'm going before and after?0490

You can see a little bit right here--we'll just paint a tad more right in that spot, and that got it, and notice...let's take both of those away--Clone Stamp...look at that, perfectly undetectable, you can't see a thing and the edges are meshing perfectly.0499

Alright, let's demo that just a little bit more down in this area right here, with the lens flare.0518

Now we see that that's fairly bright green, so I'm going to go ahead--you want to match your texture, so I'm looking at the tree and I'm going to take it right up here in this area and reproduce it down there.0529

Option or Alt click, and I'll start painting, and you notice that it's matching pretty well, and I come on down--now I'm not going to paint all of it, you want to be very careful when you're doing--let me go ahead and see what happens if I go all the way down here and take this whole thing out...perfect.0546

It looks good to start with, but I want to show you something--I've painted such a large area, that...I'm going to zoom it up once more, look right here, you see that little piece of leaf or something and this bright line looking thing?0569

There it is, down here.0588

That's called repetition, and you can even see right there this shadow spot and that shadow spot are the same, that's the same and that's the same.0591

What happened was that I painted too much area and dragged the brush down to where it started reproducing itself.0602

Now I can correct this very simply, S is the shortcut for the Rubber Stamp--Option or Alt click and just paint that over, and then we'll do it again from a different area, and come down and clean up those other two, and I see a little repetition right there--Option or Alt click and do it.0611

The better way to deal with this is to Option or Alt click and paint a little bit, then take a new source point and paint a little bit more, another new source point and paint a little bit more--keep shifting your source points as you move along--do a little bit, and then move the source points so that you don't get repetition.0630

That way it will never give away that you were retouching (zoom it down).0657

I'm going to just go ahead and take that out by going sourcing right there and paint around like that, Option up here, a little darkness greenery, and be very careful when I get close to the edge of her arm, don't like that little spot right there...0664

Notice I just keep changing the source point...and there...we went from there, and completely...and I'm going to zoom it up, you cannot even see any evidence of edges or of any reproduction.0680

OK, let's go ahead and move over right under the arm and do the same thing--now that was pretty easy because it was outside not touching her.0713

Now we've got a problem, we've got the arm and we've got the dress which is even very, very hard to see an edge--I can't see it here but I can just about make it out.0724

What we're going to do, is take the Pen tool--here's where the Pen tool comes in, click and drag and I'm going to kind of semi-create a shape for that dress.0734

I'm going to take that little bulge out there...just smooth it down just a little bit, that's good, and I'm going to come over here to the arm, and then we're just going to very smoothly click and drag, remember?0748

Click and drag, come right up the arm, now I can close it off, I'll go get my pas panel, dropdown menu, make a selection with a feather of one, and now I've isolated--there's Quick Mask--I've isolated this area so that I can't get inside on the dress or inside on the arm.0765

What I can do then, is get my Rubber Stamp tool, Option or Alt click, I'll start down here, and then paint--notice it's not going into the arm and I'll resource that--I'll move it over right in here and come right up on the arm--I want to, or on the dress and just get rid of that...0790

Little bit there--Command or Control+H and let's see how it looks, it looks perfect.0811

Let's do a...we started there and we got to there, see how nicely that all blends in and you see there's no edging because we're using about 42% of hardness on the brush, so now you see how much better that looks?0818

We've clearly defined the shape on the body, and removed a distracting detail.0834

We're going to do one more down here--I don't even need the Pen tool for this, I'll do the Lasso tool with a feather of one, we want just a little soft edge, and just come right up, just a little bit and around there to protect it, and we'll go...looks like over here on the right is a good place to source from.0840

We'll take the Rubber Stamp tool, Option, click and just paint a little, Option click again paint a little more, Option click from another spot, I don't like that there so we'll clean up the edge...0859

I see what happened, I accidentally de-selected, see what happened--I was getting into the dress, that's why we needed the selection--I'll back it up in the History panel...0873

Command or Control+H, start again, Option click, we'll start right along the dress line, Option click, Option click and paint a little bit, and fix a little bit more and a little bit more and I keep changing that source point, there we go.0883

So we went from there to there, and now if you'll see we're just using the Rubber Stamp tool, we completely fixed up that background from any distractions, so that shows you how the Rubber Stamp tool works.0900

Alright, let's go and take a look at the sunglasses.0914

Now the Spot Healing Brush is a very interesting tool--it is exactly for what it says it's for; healing spots, and it does it like magic.0919

All you have to do--again you have a brush size and you have a hardness, and again I like to leave that hardness somewhere just under 50%, just to keep a little soft edge so we always get a blend, but yet most of it is hard in the center of the brush so that you have detail.0931

What the Spot Healing Brush does, is as you paint, and I'm going to just paint right over this spot, and I'm going to stop, that black area--the computer's looking inside the area that you painted to see what most of it looks like and trying to figure out what's different.0949

And it also is looking an undetermined (and this is the hard part) an undetermined distance outside, so it's checking a larger area than where you painted to see what the area looks like and it's going to remove anything that looks different and try to make it look uniform, and I do say try, doesn't always work.0967

Look in that case, Command+Z, right there, Command+Z, we'll even zoom that thing up...right there, it's perfect, actually you can see a little bit of the spread, but it works perfectly.0986

Blemishes, it's absolutely magic--look at that...all you have to do is just basically touch the blemishes, and you can see the soft edge on the brush--it's blending just fabulous...fix, fix, fix, that's what you use for your Spotting tool.1001

Now let's just go over a couple more to show you...this is what you do in the retouching of people, we'll go over more of that in another lesson extensively, and there you have it, that's how the Spot Healing Brush works.1022

Now, we're going to go up and we're going to do the sunglasses.1037

Always make your brush size just at or slightly larger than the object you're removing, paint over that reflection, and it's gone because everything was nice and uniform.1042

This brush works best in areas of uniform texture.1054

If you're doing something where it has several different textures you begin to get problems, but for this it's wonderful--we'll just paint over that and there it is.1060

Drop the brush size down (left bracket key) just take out these little tiny ones--look at that, just brush them and they're gone.1070

Now, we're going to try this one over here right by the edge of the sunglasses (move it up so you can see it) again we'll just paint it, let's try to stay away from the actual edge, right there.1077

Now see the problem that occurred, even though we have Content Aware, we'll try it with Proximity Match.1091

See if it does any better--it's a different way of calculating...same exact result.1098

This is what happens when you try use this tool next to an edge--I'm going to paint over and I'll explain it.1105

The computer is looking around inside and outside the painted area--outside goes down into the skin so it's trying to blend that bright skin in with the dark sunglasses and it doesn't do a very good job, so that's where you get problems with the Spot Healing Brush.1113

Then you just go to your Rubber Stamp tool...Option or Alt source up in the black and paint it because it's not calculating, it's just reproducing, and there you have that.1133

So it shows you that sometimes the Spot Healing Brush works, if it doesn't try it a couple more times because it'll recalculate each time, if it still doesn't work the Rubber Stamp tool will solve the problem.1146

Now, the Healing Brush tool is similar to the Spot Healing Brush except it allows you to control the area where it's going to look--let me give you another image up here and try to make that clear.1160

Alright, here's a car...if I wanted to...let's do this right here, let me get my layers up, OK.1177

See all these little spots in here--the first thing we'll try is the Spot Healing Brush, and let's see what happens, if it's going to did not.1194

Let me show you, look right over here on the edge, see that?1204

It picked up the black because it was right along an edge, so we're going to try the Healing Brush tool.1208

Does the same thing with one exception--it works like the Rubber Stamp tool in that you get to source the area that you wanted to look at, and hopefully that will cure the problem, so we're going to just make the brush size a little smaller, Option or Alt just like the Rubber Stamp tool, we'll click it up in this red area--it looks to be about the same tonality...1216

Release, and so now we're going to paint in here with that area and see what didn't do it either, let's try it with a little brighter red, one more time.1239

Let's try that right in there...not bad, but you usually get similar results with either one of them, so once again there's another solution here, we'll go back, the Spot Healing Brush and make a tiny little brush size, and just take little tiny pieces at a time so that it doesn't confuse itself...1253

We'll just paint out the little specks one at a time, or Rubber Stamp tool, right down here looks fine, up there it doesn't--smaller brush, Option or Alt click, and just paint them away.1280

And just every time I'm painting a little bit and resourcing.1295

Now, if you have an area that's constant--let me go back a few steps here and show you this...OK.1299

You notice there's a line, if I uncheck that, what it will do is every time I brush and lift, it will now always source from the same point--instead of the source following at the same distance...let me demonstrate first of all the distance.1308

If I source here and I move over here, notice, look back at the center of the Mercedes logo--I can't point to it at the same time--right in the center of the hubcap, see that little cross?1329

Notice the little cross is always moving the exact same distance away from an angular and distance from what I'm painting.1342

If I move over here, look at the cross--it's now the same distance and angle away, it just moved off to the left.1356

In other words it maintains that distance exactly (let me just get that out of there) however, if we...1363

Underline it, option or Alt click right in the center of the Mercedes logo and now I'm going to paint over here a little I'm going to paint over here and now you would think that it would move to the left and start painting off to the left, but watch, look, that cross is still in the center.1374

Every time I paint it starts in the same place, this case of retouching these little dots, this is where I really want to source from or even right up in here, we'll take the Rubber Stamp underlined, unchecked (Option or Alt click) every time I paint, it's going to pick it up from the same exact starting point.1391

If I do it down here, which is a little darker, you can see the cross down there--it's always working in the same spot--you have to be careful about repetition, but for this particular case it worked great.1415

Usually I leave it aligned--it follows no matter where you source from, and you drop your paintbrush, the source point will always be that far away.1427

When it's unaligned, unchecked, it always sources from exactly the same point, but be very careful because it's always sourcing from exactly the same spot, if you keep painting around, you are painting the same thing and you might get repetition which gives away retouching.1440

Practice with these and you'll see how it works.1459

Now we go back here, obviously the Spot Healing Brush is wonderful for these little items here, OK?1462

Now we're going to show you the final one; the Patch tool.1470

We've got big spots of problems here, I could try it with the Spot Healing Brush but it may not grab it, this is where we use the Patch tool.1475

The Patch tool has a little patch for your icon, it's a selection tool; you select around the area that you want to retouch.1485

Make a loose selection--give yourself a little outside overlap, just go right around and I'll pick this spot right there, OK?1496

I haven't checked at source, means it's going to consider the source and I move the source to where I want to have it replace with.1504

In other words, notice all this area around here--this is pretty much this big area right here what I'd like this to look like, so I click inside it, notice that as I drag it follows, and shows you what I'm going over.1516

And look over there to the right, when I release, and look what it did, it used this as the source.1532

Now you still have your selection so you have to de-select it--Command or Control+D, we'll do this piece up here, same thing.1541

Move it over, Command+D--look how wonderfully that worked--right here, we'll move it to the right here, I think that's pretty much similar...look at that, just does a great job, now watch this.1548

We're going to take a huge area up here...and let's see if we can do this--I'm not even sure if this'll do it.1561

We're going to take this and let me see where would be a good area to grab from, it looks to me that the best we can do is down here at the bottom...and release, oh my, look at that.1571

Now there's little spotty areas there, there's before, after, Command+D, but now let's go back to the Spot Healing Brush.1585

Up the brush size, and we'll fix the little spots.1593

You know, in almost no time at all that would've been really time consuming to do with the clone tool, and we'll fix one more...1597

Patch tool, time savers, so all is what you have to consider--we'll come right down this edge, over into here, zoom out one, we're sourcing it.1608

Now we can do this the other way...let's go back over here and change to destination, it reverses the process.1618

We'll make a selection like this, and then drag it over the top of what we want to replace, and it does the same thing.1626

Let's try the source one more time on that edge...right up the edge, around here, drag it over, and look at that, a pretty decent job--we can come back with the Rubber Stamp tool or the Spot Healing Brush, and clean up the other details.1636

So there you interesting little treatise, if you will, on the Spot Healing Brush which is kind of the magical tool for taking out spots but be careful with your edges!1654

Let me pull up the've got to watch your edges on your edges...because that's where it has problems--when it reaches areas that are different, watch the edges.1671

The Healing Brush tool works similarly, and again you have to watch your edges.1689

The Patch tool is marvelous for doing large printing is terrible today...left handed upside down here...there we go.1695

So the Patch tool works great for large areas, and the Rubber Stamp tool is the big dog; it clones, literally.1712

And when you use these all in conjunction, it will enable you to retouch almost anything.1723

We're going to come back in the next lesson, expand on this and show you how to work on people and skin.1730

I'll see you in the next lesson.1735