Monday, January 1, 2007

Remove unwanted people from your photos with the Healing Brush in Photoshop Elements


By Mike McHugh and Wayne Rankin

Can you define a perfect picture? Every photographer has his or her own ideas of what components make up a perfect picture. However, most will agree that an unwanted object, in an otherwise perfect shot, can drive many photographers crazy.

This problem can very easily be resolved using the Photoshop Elements Healing Brush. Much like the Photoshop Healing Brush in the more expensive program, the Elements Healing Brush can remove an unwanted object, such as a stranger in your family vacation shot or scratches, wrinkles and skin imperfections, with the click of the mouse.

The Healing Brush works similarly to the cloning tool, removing unwanted or imperfect objects from an image. The difference: the Healing Brush analyzes both spots and blends the character of the source spot with the area to be removed. The cloning tool would leave a stamp pattern, which is not always an optimal look.

When you examine a photo that needs an item removed, look for good areas around the unwanted object to clone. Keep in mind that if there is a complex background behind the object, the Healing Brush may not be the best method.

You may be asking yourself, "If I am cloning pixels, why not use the Cloning Tool, instead of the Healing Brush?" The reason the Healing Brush is usually a better tool is because it utilizes better information in regard to the image's texture and color, ultimately creating an overall better, non-repetitive look.

In this example shown in Figure A, the first thing we will do is remove the swimmer in the middle. Next, we will remove his reflection.


You just can't have too many old men in swimsuits! (click for larger image)

To begin, first create a duplicate layer. This way, you can work on the newly created layer and compare back to original. It is always a good idea to keep a copy of the original layer, just in case you decide that you do not like the changes you have made.

Next, select the Healing Brush tool (it looks like a bandaid) and choose a large setting. To keep the proper grain going with the brush, pick the Aligned option in the Healing Brush tool bar, found at the top of Figure B.


Have too many gray-haired old men in your life? Heal them away with the healing brush! (click for larger image)

Pick the source point where the tool will pick up the color and texture sampling to replace the unwanted object. To do this on a PC, simply hold down the Alt key and click. On a Mac, Option click.