Cloning, Patching and Content-Aware for Beginners


Lesson Info


When the healing brushes came out, this was an interesting addition, because before, the clone stamp tool was basically it. That was the retouching tool, and it was fine most of the time, except for one problem, and that was if you had a photo that had lots of different shades, it was almost impossible sometimes to pick the right cloning area 'cause it never really matched in with the background. So, the healing tools have the advantage where they look at surrounding pixels and try to make intelligent choices about blending in, so that if the color or the area you're using as that kind of idea of cloning isn't exactly right, it will still attempt to make some changes and help you. So, for me, I gotta be honest and say I use the healing tools a lot more now than I use the clone stamp. I still use the clone stamp on some occasions where it just makes sense, but I'm almost always starting with the healing tools, in part because they happen automatically. One of them, you don't have to do ...

anything, you just have to use it. So, I'm still gonna use a blank layer. So, there's a couple of different healing brushes. There's the spot healing brush, which is completely automatic, and then the healing brush, and the difference between them is the spot healing brush, all you really do is pick the size of the brush, up here in the options bar where it gives us choices, I make sure that, under the type, it says content aware, and honestly, I can't even think of a reason to ever change that. As we'll learn, content aware is a very important phrase in Photoshop that means "awesome," in one way or another. And sample all layers is also turned on. So, with the case of the spot healing brush, if I see any areas, like this crack, I just paint along it, and then it takes a second and says, let me just try and use surrounding pixels to cover it up. I'm still doing it on a separate layer, so that if parts of it aren't quite right, I can still edit it because it's on its own layer. But if I hide the background, like you'll see, that's what it created just randomly. So, the random nature of content aware and the healing means that, if you try it one time and it doesn't really look the way you want, undo it and try it again, because it is random enough that by doing it two or three times, you might go, "Ooh, that was better," because it just picks different areas. Sometimes it gets worse because it goes, okay, why did you just pick his face for that? I don't get it, because there's no real intelligence that says, let me analyze this photograph. It's picking what it think is nearby areas, okay? So, the spot healing brush, that's its advantage is just literally you just paint. So, this is great for, say, retouching someone's face where there's a bunch of little tiny blemishes. You can quite literally just go really quickly and cover up all of those spots, knowing, once again, that you're gonna end up with that on a separate layer. Now, we will talk about one of the few disadvantages to doing this kind of healing, et cetera, on its own layer later on, so you can see where you have to debate about the pros and cons of doing these things. So, the spot healing brush, this is what it does. Generally, it works best if you're trying to cover something up that you do, if you're able to surround the whole thing. For example, if I was gonna try to cover up this red bar and I went this far, you can see that it did an okay job, but then it still didn't quite go as far as I had painted, whereas if I did the whole thing, generally, it's going to do a better job, because now it doesn't have the red box to reference as a place to cover up the red box. Because it's looking at nearby areas, if you can, sometimes it takes a lot of painting, it's usually better to cover up whatever the whole area, which does mean, it sort of contradicts what I said before about don't do too much painting, 'cause then you have to undo the whole thing, but in this case, that's kinda the reality, is to get a really good job, you pretty much have to cover the whole thing or be prepared for when you do half, say paint half way down with the healing brush, then you're gonna have to cover up a little bit more 'cause it doesn't quite cover up the whole thing. So, the spot healing brush, very automatic. If you find that it doesn't work because the spots are too close together, where it doesn't have room to automatically find some other areas, that's where we have the healing brush, 'cause the healing brush works in a similar fashion to the clone stamp in that you have to option alt click to say use that area, but then unlike the clone stamp tool, which just does copying and pasting, the healing tool still looks at texture and other things and tries to do some blending in. So, if I use that tool, like in this one you'll be able to see even more the difference between trying to heal a whole area or not. If I try to cover up this red bar again, I'm gonna option or alt click over here, and as I start healing, I'll do a better job of giving myself some room here. Okay, so as you can see, as I start healing, see how it's getting a lot of that kind of red, mushy stuff happening? But if I keep going, it looks worse, and worse, and worse, but eventually, if I cover the whole thing, see how now it looks better? Except for there's a little line I can see. But this is a good example of the reality is the main problem is gone, and I've introduced one other one that I just go back and fix. So, there are times where I watch demonstrations by certain companies that make certain software, and they use a tool and it just looks perfect the first time, and I'm like, yeah, that never happens for me. It's usually pretty darn good the first time, and I do one little tweak, and now it looks great. So, if you go in with the expectation, that's still amazing to me, compared to the old days of clone stamping for forever, trying to cover up that big red box and it did it very quickly. Now I would just go back to the regular healing brush and just fix up the little bits here and there that needed to be adjusted. Remembering, again, still on a separate layer. But look at all that information it generated, based on just me painting an area, and it said, well, I'll use this nearby area that you indicated, and I'll still try and blend it in accordingly with the surrounding areas. Question? You were saying the content aware healing brush, that it may just pull in an area that you don't want, so you might have to do it a couple times. Can you ever modify that brush to maybe mask out areas so it's only gonna select from a certain area? You can, and we'll talk about that a little later. There are ways. Because, basically, that's exactly what happens, is it looks for sources to use, and if there's a source you don't want, you can do exactly that, and I'll use an example later on to show that, where you hide it temporarily, so that it doesn't even have the opportunity to use that. So, the reality between these tools is that it's gonna depend. Personally, I almost always start with the spot healing brush. I don't usually have cases where there's a big red box on top of my photo I want to remove. That was obviously done for demonstration purposes. Often, it's a whole bunch of little small things, so the ability to use the spot healing brush, that's also why I love using a Wacom tablet and pen, because I can set pressure sensitivity, so instead of changing the size of the brush manually, the harder I press makes a bigger brush, so if I have different size blemishes, I can lightly touch some, press harder for others, and on the fly I'm changing, doing all that retouching without spending any time going, bigger brush, smaller brush, bigger brush. So, I'll start with the spot healing brush and do as much as I can that way, and then, for other things, okay, now I need to switch to the healing brush, which is the one where I can indicate an area to clone from, okay? So, as we go through now, again, in this case, all I had to do, I didn't have to check this time 'cause I just knew it was on, I just made sure that sample all layers was turned on, so that when I was using the healing brush, it knew to put that onto its own layer. Now, the one thing we have to be cautious about, so I'm going to get a raw file here. In an earlier class, I talked about this thing called Camera Raw smart objects, which is a very favorite way of working for me, but it introduces another challenge. And the good news is, the solution is simple, 'cause we've already done it, and that is, when people go to use the spot healing brush on a smart object, they get that symbol saying they can't do it, 'cause the concept of a smart object, again, is the pixels don't actually reside here, so therefore I can't heal and clone. But the difference is, well, we can just add a new layer, and then, oops, I forgot I was using the wrong healing brush. Let's use the spot healing brush. Then I can go in and do whatever I want in terms of getting rid of some of these little things that I might not want in here, okay? The problem with this is, I mean, this works really nicely, and the reason that I like using Camera Raw smart objects is I always have the ability to continue to edit the file, to go back and change it, but here's where you have to put your thinking cap on a little bit, because I used the spot healing brush based on the way this photograph looks right now. If I decide, well, you know, now that I've been working on this, I wanna go back to Camera Raw, and let's just maybe increase the saturation, maybe, a little bit, make it a little darker, perhaps. Yeah, I like that better. When I click okay, now I've basically introduced a new problem because my spots don't update, 'cause they were done at the time. It's a one shot deal. So, what that means is one of two things. Either you have to accommodate that for planning very carefully and hopefully saying, well, if I'm gonna do my retouching, I have to make sure that this image looks the way I want it to. So, that's one option. Another option we'll talk about a little bit later is you can do forms of healing and cloning right inside Camera Raw, which is another option. Or the third one would be, if I wanted to make some adjustments to this photograph at this point is don't go back to Camera Raw, use an adjustment layer, because one of the things, the nature of an adjustment layer is, wherever you put the adjustment layer, it automatically affects all layers below it. So, right now I have my photograph, the healing layer on top of it, so if I make sure that I'm at the very top, and now I go in and do, like, say, saturation, see, everything's being affected because that adjustment layer is looking down through the layers panel and going, okay, I'll adjust that spot layer and I'll adjust the original layer. So, that's another option. This way, I could continue, now, to still be on this layer and do more spot healing, et cetera, and it'll keep updating. And the advantage of this method is if you ever do this and then decide, eh, I don't like that saturation after all, you throw away the adjustment layer, and those spots you've done will still be fine. But that's kind of the thought process you have to go through. The first important note is if you have a smart object, you don't really have a choice. You basically have to use a blank layer. I would recommend using a blank layer for cloning and healing regardless, even if you don't have a smart object, because it just gives you those other advantages of adjusting, you know, moving, et cetera. Now, I don't have a retouching example to show you, but here's the other example with the healing brush that we often do, is say you have a photograph of someone with bags under their eyes. Well, if you remove them completely, it wouldn't look really realistic because that's just a facial feature of them is to have a line under their eyes, so if you remove it completely, it doesn't look like them. So, if you do the healing on a blank layer and then lower the opacity slightly to let the original show through just a little bit, now you're lessening that problem but not removing it completely, so it just looks like bad plastic surgery. So, that's the other huge advantage of doing any kind of cloning, healing, et cetera on its own layer is that advantage of having also the normal layer functions like opacity to say, well, now that I've done that, it looks a little unrealistic. Let me pull back the opacity of that layer. And it's not uncommon, I've seen people that are retouching someone's face and they might have three separate healing layers at different opacities. Like, this one is for pimples that I know they want me to remove completely, so that's 100%. Other facial features, one might be at 75% opacity and one might be at 30% opacity, and then you pick the appropriate layer to do your retouching, based on whatever the issue is you're dealing with. That's the other huge advantage, to me, of doing things on a separate layer is that it gives you that opportunity. Question? So, what's the difference between using a blank layer and a copy of your background? So, the main difference is just simply file size. I mean, ultimately it's the same, although in this case, because it's a smart object, if I just duplicated it, then I'd have another smart object that still wouldn't work. If it's a regular layer, just like the regular background layer, then technically there's no difference, except it just takes more memory to have a bigger file size to duplicate all those pixels. All right, so, the other option is to have a situation where, I showed you before, where if you open that smart object and then do your healing, et cetera, and then decide to change the Camera Raw setting that, as you saw, the spots don't update. So, the other choice, and it's an option. I will say it's not quite as, what's the word? Elegant, perhaps, the way that the tool works in here. It's okay, it's pretty good. It is to do basic healing of obvious issues right inside Camera Raw. That way, because Camera Raw's a live update, anything you change, so if I do the healing or the cloning in Camera Raw and then decide to change the exposure, it doesn't matter 'cause it'll just keep updating the same file. So, there are times where, if you think, for example, I'm not sure if this is the final look that I want, which I know for sure I wanna remove this little piece of graffiti here, I might be better off doing the healing right inside Camera Raw. It works a little differently. I mean, it's a similar principle. I click on this tool up here and you'll see it's the spot removal tool, and I have the option of either cloning or healing. I always prefer doing healing in here. I just think it works better a lot of the time. So, it works kinda similar to the spot healing brush in Photoshop in that I don't have to option click or anything, I just paint, but you'll see it almost is encircling the part that you want to work with, and then it shows you, with this little arrow, where do you want to use as your cloning or your healing area. So, for example, if I pick that area, well now I'm gonna use that same element somewhere else, so it's just a matter of dragging. So, in some ways, some people like this a little better 'cause you have a little more control where you can decide it's gonna pick a spot for you to say this is the area that I think you should use, or I'm gonna use as the healing area, but you can just click on that and move it to some other position. If you're a gambling type, you can just press the forward slash key, and every time you do, it picks a different area, which I don't know why you'd do that except it's fun the first time. But after that it's kinda like, yeah, I'll just pick my own, thanks though. 'Cause sometimes you're like, really, you wanna pick that spot? But it's very visual because, of course, you can look at it and say, well, there wouldn't be any point in me picking this area. In terms of the texture, it works. This is actually one of the interesting examples of how the healing brush works. Notice how you, I'm sure a lot of you expected it to be really obvious and yellow, but it doesn't, because the healing brush just looks at texture, not color, the same was as the clone stamp will. If this was cloning, it would get a big, wrong-colored area, but the way the healing function works is it's looking more at texture than it is color. So, sometimes, if you're not finding, like in this case, if the door wood isn't working, there's certainly nothing wrong with trying a nearby area that the texture might be enough for it to work, okay? So, the advantage of doing it inside Camera Raw like this is now, if I go back and say, well, I want now to just adjust the overall exposure, you see there's no evidence that I've done any kind of healing or anything, because it's just part of the image, okay? Now, if I open it in Photoshop, I could still continue to do things like other work, but again, I'd have to add a blank layer because it's, by default, because of my setting, it's a Camera Raw smart object. But the advantage of doing it this way is, again, if I'm doing other things, say I'm just adding text or whatever I'm doing in Photoshop, I know at any time, if I go back here and make any adjustment, I'm gonna be fine because that healing I did, which by the way, only shows if you go back to that tool, then you'll see the spot, and it shows you this little pin. If you ever don't see it, by the way, somehow this little checkbox called show overlay gets turned off, which is terrible, because then you don't know where you cloned or healed, so it's always good to have these on. The other advantage of Camera Raw, by the way, for healing type work is, if you've ever experienced that terrible thing of sensor dust, where there's little tiny specks on your camera, the only good thing about them is they appear in the same place as any photograph because it's on the lens, or on the sensor. In Camera Raw, you have a couple of options to help you. The first one is this little checkbox that says visualize spots. In this case, it's not sensor dust, so it looks crazy, but if you had a really nice sky and you think there might be some spots, you would actually see little dots that your eyeball might not pick up, but this helps you find them. So that's one thing. The other part of it is, let's imagine, for a moment, I did have 20 photographs I'd taken where I realized, oh no, there's sensor dust up in that top left hand corner. So, I don't wanna open 20 separate photographs and do retouching of each one, so what I do is, in Camera Raw, id o the first one like this, then I would click done. And then, in bridge, I can select all 20 images, say previous settings, previous development settings, previous conversion, that includes healing. So, it would go through and it would heal all the other 19 photographs because the sensor dust is in the same spot. That only works, though, because it's sensor dust and the sensor dust is always in exactly the same spot. If you just had random dirt here and there, it would work, of course, because it's not gonna go through and say, oh, in this photograph it's over here, this photograph it's over there, okay? But that's a really nice way, if you have what is often a terrible problem to have, except for that one silver lining is at least it's in the same location, so you might be able, normally people ask all the time, is there any way to automate cloning and healing? And the answer usually is no, because how could you, because it's always in a different spot. But with sensor dust, that's the only good thing about it, is it's in the same location. So, let's go back to this photograph now that we've seen a little bit about things like the spot healing brush. I always, and I don't use the term always likely. I'm not just saying that. I mean, I always try spot healing first if I can, because if I can just paint a line and be done, to me, that's way better to aany other alternative. I have option or alt click here, then move over here and paint. So, I'm gonna try it, just to see what it does. And it may well be that it works great, it might not work very well at all, so overall, it's done really well except for the man bun that has suddenly appeared on his head. But again, I'm okay with that, first of all, because it would just love to lave it that way because it would bug him a lot, but also because I know, well, now I can go and use some other tool like the clone stamp or something, just to cover up that one little part. That's still faster than trying to clone the entire thing. But overall, like, you look at the top of the curtain and the bars in the back, it did a pretty good job of matching up, so I'd be perfectly fine with that. Now, switch to the clone stamp tool, get a smaller brush. By the way, I should mention I'm using keyboard shortcuts 'cause I can't hep it. When I wanna change the size of the brush, I use the left bracket key to make the brush size smaller, right bracket makes it bigger, and then I would just click on a nearby area and cover up that spot. So, in a very short time, I've dealt with that issue. So, knowing that it's still on a separate layer, so if later on at it and go, oh, I wait a minute, there I can see it, problem over here, I know I can still edit because the healing or the cover up is on a separate layer. So, that's always my first attempt is to see what it does. I almost forgot to switch away from the clone stamp tools. That's why it was acting so weird. That's pretty good. And there are still times where, you know, I have to laugh because I've been using Photoshop since day one where there were no layers and there was one tool called the rubber stamp tool and people were like, "Oh my gosh, it's fantastic!" And now people are like, "Gosh, that content aware wasn't perfect!" I'm like, you know, it's still pretty darn good compared to the alternative of me cloning for 25 minutes. So, I go in with limited expectations, and more often than not, I am very happily surprise at, wow, that was actually pretty good. And if nothing else, it was a really good start. Like that last example where it had the man bun, it still overall did a pretty good job. I had to just fix a little bit. But I've seen people undo and try it like 17 times. I'm like, you know what, just get a good start and move on from there. It's still a huge time saver compared to whatever alternative we have, right? All right, so, this is a typical situation, is to look for those reference lines. Let's try, just out of curiosity, to see what happens down here, paint over this whole head. Still pretty good. This part down here looks like that. I'm not sure if it should. It's hard so see, maybe it doesn't really continue, but I think it looks a little odd to me. So, here's another example where, could I use the clone stamp tool to try and now fix this part? I probably could, but I like to look at it and see, if I see a big chunk of information that looks like I could use that, I would try to do that first. So, I'm gonna go back to my background layer, take my marquee selection tool, and select way more than I need. And so, there's a couple of ways I could do this. I could use the shortcut that's gonna duplicate onto its own layer, which is fine. Then I'd have to move it. But one of the things I know is called cloning et cetera for beginners, but to me, this is a tip that, once you learn it, it's not beginners or anything else. I switch to the move tool, and I hold down a certain key that I always use 'cause it adds certain great modifications, the option or alt key, and as I drag, it's gonna automatically copy. Yeah, I guess I should put it on a new layer first. I don't wanna do it on the same layer. Okay, so scratch that, we'll just do it this way. So, I've copied it onto its own layer. Now I can use the move tool, and I just have to change the order of the layers, and now we can see that it's not a perfect blend. It's pretty close though, so you could make some adjustments for brightness, et cetera. But part of the reason I wanted to show you that is that's kind of the thought process I would go through. Yes, you can always use healing or clone stamping, but there are times where, if you can just use existing pixels that are already there and kind of copy and paste and move them, sometimes it works better. In this case, I don't think it did work as well, but it's still worth trying, 'cause it took me a couple of seconds to kinda figure that part out.

Class Description

Clone Stamp, Patch and Content-Aware are three of Photoshop®’s most indispensable retouching tools. In this class, Dave Cross will define and compare these popular features and explore the different ways to use them. Flaws, mistakes and imperfections on your images can be frustrating. This comprehensive course will help you develop the skills you need to tackle almost any retouching challenge that comes across your screen.