How to Super-Charge the Spot Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop

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The Spot Healing Brush Tool is often used in portrait photography to remove blemishes, wrinkles, and other distracting elements. By default, this tool works great, but sometimes you will need to add an extra level of control to get the results that you want.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to use the Spot Healing Brush Tool with Content-Aware to quickly remove blemishes and other imperfections from your photos.

Getting Started

First, create a new layer to work non-destructively (Shift + Ctrl/Command + N).

Then select the Spot Healing Brush from the Toolbar. Make sure that “Content-Aware” is the selected Type and that “Sample All Layers” is checked in the Options Bar.

How to Super-Charge the Spot Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop

Spot Healing Brush Tool – Normal Mode

With the Spot Healing Brush Tool active, just paint over any distraction to remove it. In most cases, the Spot Healing Brush Tool will do an excellent job in eliminating the problem.

02 spot healing comparison

However, there are times where the Spot Healing Brush Tool will destroy the original detail and texture found in the photo, giving you very unrealistic results.

In the example below, the Spot Healing Brush Tool removed the wrinkles under the eye by adding a skin texture that made the image and problem worse.

03 spot healing normal

Left before using the Spot Healing Brush. Right – after using it in Normal mode.

Using Modes to Enhance the Spot Healing Brush

For a more realistic result, you need to keep as much of the original detail as possible and only remove the distracting element.

To do so, first consider the blemish, wrinkle, or distraction you are trying to remove. Is it darker than the skin tone? Or is it brighter than the skin tone?

If the distraction is lighter, select Darken from the Mode in the Options bar. If the distraction is darker, select Lighten. In this case, the wrinkle is darker than the skin tone. That means that we want to lighten the wrinkles. So in the Options Bar, under Mode, select Lighten.

04 lighten

With the brush mode set to Lighten, Photoshop will only replace pixels that are darker than the good portion of the skin. Since the wrinkles and other skin distractions in this photo are darker than normal skin tone, only the distracting elements are removed, leaving more of the original texture surrounding it intact.

Notice that as you paint over a wrinkle, you don’t lose the original highlights and you keep a lot of detail. The example below shows the results between using Normal and Lighten to apply the same correction.

05 spot healing normal

Comparing results from different brush modes. Left: Spot Healing Brush in Normal Mode. Right: Spot Healing Brush in Lighten mode.

Additional Notes

To work faster, keep in mind that you can switch between Modes by holding the Shift key and pressing the + or – keys.

This technique also helps you remove blemishes in areas that contain detail that you would like to keep.

In the example, below you can see how by using the Lighten mode we were able to remove the skin blemishes while leaving the white hair strands intact.

06 spot healing forehead

This technique works in this case because the hair strands are lighter than the skin tone, and the blemishes are darker than the skin tone. The Lighten Mode makes the Spot Healing Brush target only darker pixels, so the fine white strands of hair are left intact.

This tutorial is part of my Content-Aware series on YouTube. There are more videos there if you would like to learn more about how content-aware works in Photoshop.

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Jesus Ramirez

is a digital graphics expert, speaker, and educator specializing in Adobe Photoshop. He is an Adobe Community Professional, and a content creator for the Adobe Creative Cloud Blog. Jesus is best known as the founder of the Photoshop Training Channel, one of the most popular Photoshop YouTube channels in the world. He has been a speaker at Adobe MAX, Adobe SUMMIT, Adobe MAKE IT, CreativeLive, CreativePro and many other conferences and industry events. You can check some more of his work on his website.

  • PA

    An article that not only lives up to the promises of its headline, but one that explains a concept simply enough to be put to use right away. Thanks!

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