How to Use Photoshop’s Healing Brush to Clean Up Your Panoramic or HDR Photos

There’s a great tool in Adobe Photoshop that should be in both the HDR and panoramic photographer’s toolbox — the Healing Brush. Whether you’re cleaning up seams or removing ghosts from an HDR image, the Healing Brush (J) is designed to correct imperfections in a photo. Similar in handling to the Clone Stamp tool, it successfully hides blemishes by taking cloned pixels and matching the texture, lighting, and shading of the sampled to the original pixels.

The tool works very well and it can generally produce results in which the repaired pixels blend seamlessly together.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Select the Healing Brush Tool by pressing J.
  2. Select a brush from the Options bar or Brushes panel.
  3. Choose a blending mode. (This can be useful when retouching as to avoid visible cloning.) The Replace option preserves noise and texture at the stroke’s edges.
  4. Choose a source for repairing pixels in the Options bar. The standard source is sampled. Here pixels are taken from the area surrounding your sample point. As the brush moves, the sample point also moves accordingly to ensure variety in the sampled source. The Pattern option uses a pattern from the current pattern library (accessible from a pop-up list).
  5. Specify the tool alignment in the Options bar. If Aligned is selected, the sample point and painting point move parallel as you brush. If you click again and start over, the sample point picks up relative to the current brush position. If Aligned is deselected, the initial sample point is re-used. The second method ensures that you are always sampling from the same area but the first produces more visual variety if using a large textured area.
  6. If you are using the Sampling mode, Option+click (Alt+click) within the current document or another open document set to the same color mode.
  7. The tool functions similarly to the Clone Stamp tool. Paint brush strokes over the area you’d like to heal.

Performance Tips

  • Because the sampled pixels are drawn from before you click, it may be necessary to release and start over occasionally to avoid cloning the problem area.
  • Release the mouse to merge the sampled pixels. The stroke will look strange until then.
  • To get better results on an area with strong contrast, make a selection before using the Healing Brush Tool. The selection should be bigger than the area to be healed and should follow the boundary of high contrast pixels. For example, if healing a person’s face, make a selection over the problem area that excludes the adjacent sky or clothing. This way, when painting with the Healing Brush, the selection will prevent color bleed-in from outside areas.
  • You can clone from all visible layers by specifying Use All Layers. This is useful if you want to clone to an empty layer at the top of your document while sampling from the layers below.

This post sponsored by Adorama – More than a camera store

About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus as well as an author on Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.

Posted on June 24, 2011, in HDR, Panoramic, Tutorial and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on How to Use Photoshop’s Healing Brush to Clean Up Your Panoramic or HDR Photos.

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