Lesson 5

Touching up

This lesson deals with what you can do to fix up minor details in a picture. I will use a digital photograph as an example, but the same principles apply to a scanned or painted image--and can, in fact, be used creatively to draw pictures. I will demonstrate some of these applications at the end of the lesson.

Here is a picture of a guinea fowl taken in Hawaii. Unfortunately, there are two random people in the background detracting from the bird. The first challenge is to delete the people without leaving an unnatural spot in the picture.

It is possible to do this by using the Marquee tool and the Lasso tool to cut and paste bits of the scenery on top of the people. However, Photoshop has tools designed exactly for such a purpose that help make the pasted sections blend in more naturally.

Select the Patch tool from the toolbar (right). What the Patch tool does is allow you to select an area, as with the Lasso tool, then copy and paste one part of the image that fits that selection area into another part of the same image. You can decide whether to set it for selecting the source area (the area to be hidden) or the destination area (the area to be copied) first. In this case, I will use it to select the source first. This setting is found in the Patch menu (below).

The second option in the Patch menu is to set it to fill the source area with a pattern. That won't be necessary in this case.

When you are using the Patch tool, the cursor looks like a patch with a dangling thread. The tip of the dangling thread is the selection point. Use this cursor to draw around a part of the image that needs to be hidden. I will start with the head of the man in the picture. Once you have made the selection, click and drag the selection area to a part of the image that you wish to copy and paste over the source. As soon as you let go of the mouse button, the part you have selected will automatically paste itself over the source area. This process is illustrated in the pictures below.




The key to using the Patch tool effectively is to break the source object into small portions and match each section as naturally as possible from some other part of the image. If you try to do the entire man at once, it will be hard to find a single section that big to look natural in his place.

In a small picture, it can be difficult to see fine detail well enough to work effectively. When that happens, Use the Zoom tool to zoom in on the part you need to see. You can always zoom out again at any time. When you select the Zoom tool, your cursor will look like a magnifying glass. The default is for zooming in; the magnifying glass will have a plus sign in it. To zoom out, click the icon in the Zoom menu that has a minus sign in it. You can also accomplish this by right-clicking with the mouse and choosing the appropriate option from the menu that appears. Clicking on "Actual Pixels" will reset the image to 100% magnification.

Zoom in until the picture is as large as you need, then return to the Patch tool and continue patching until you have replaced both people.

If this takes care of the problem, great. If it doesn't, though, you may need to do some more adjustment. In this case, although the Patch tool covered the people, it left a bit of unnatural blurring where indicated by the arrows (left). Use the Healing Brush tool to take care of this.

The Healing Brush tool takes a sample of one part of the picture and uses that sample to paint a different part of the picture. First choose the area you wish to use as the sample and Alt + click. Then paint over the area that needs touching up as if you were using the Brush tool. I find that setting the Healing Brush to "Replace" mode works best in a situation like this.

After using the Healing Brush tool, the picture now has no unnatural blurry spots (right). Yet I'm still not satisfied with the picture. The bright sunny area in the upper left corner makes the picture seem unbalanced. I don't want to change the brightness level for the whole picture, only for that one section.

This is where selection tools are very important. When you select an area of the image, any action that you apply only affects the area inside the selection marquee. Thus, it is possible to select the overly bright corner and reduce its brightness without changing the rest of the image.

After selecting the offending corner with the Lasso tool, I decreased its brightness. Then I changed its color balance to add more blue and green so that it would blend in better with the rest of the background. The resulting picture is shown on the left.

Now, unfortunately, I'm not happy with the railing on which the bird is standing. It looks too stark and artificial compared with the natural tones of the surroundings. I want to change it to look more like wood so that it won't stand out as much.

To do so, first select the railing, being careful not to select the feet of the bird. This may require some careful addition or subtraction with the Lasso tool. Also, it helps to feather the edge of the selection by about two pixels. Then open the Hue/Saturation dialogue box and check "Colorize." Play with the settings until you get a color that you like. The settings that I used are shown in the picture (right). The result of these settings is shown below.

This looks better. In more advanced lessons, I will discuss how to use filters to give the "wood" a more natural rough look. For the moment, this is close enough.

On closer inspection, though, the part of the railing in the very front and center doesn't blend in well with the rest of it. This calls for the Smudge tool to fix the problem.

The Smudge tool is used to click and drag on one part of the image, smearing its color to another part of the image as if running a finger through wet paint. Select the Smudge tool and drag it from the dark part of the railing across the light part.

The result of using the Smudge tool is shown below.

The picture is almost finished, but something is still nagging at me. The place along the edge of the railing where I smudged it doesn't have a nice sharp corner the way the rest of the railing does, as indicated by the red arrow. Also, the bird's feet have become a bit blurry.

To fix this, first use the Eyedropper tool to sample the brown color of the railing corner to make it the foreground color. Use this to paint in the corner over the smudged portion with the Brush tool.

The painted line by itself stands out a little too much, so select the Blur tool (from the same icon as the Smudge tool) and run over the line to make it blend in slightly. Don't blur it too much, or you will defeat the purpose of having drawn the line in the first place.

Note that the tools used in this lesson--particularly Patch, Healing Brush, and Blur--are commonly used in touching up photos of people. They can wipe away wrinkles and blemishes if used carefully.

Once the line is blended in, switch to the Sharpen tool and run it over the bird's feet. The Sharpen tool accentuates the outlines of the objects it touches. You may want to run it over the rest of the bird's outlines, if they sustained too much blurring from using the Patch tool around them.

Finally the content of the picture is adjusted to my satisfaction. Yet it still seems to be lacking something. It would be nice if the picture had a frame.

Select the entire image, then click Select → Modify → Border. Input a value for how wide you want the border to be. I chose to use 10 pixels. This selects a border 10 pixels wide around the image.

Click Edit → Fill. This brings up the "Fill" dialogue box. The Fill action will fill the entire selected area with the specified color. In this case, it's set for the foreground color, which is still dark brown from having painted the railing. Change the settings if desired and either press Enter or click "OK." This puts a brown frame around the picture.

If you don't want to cover up the edges of the picture, especially after having worked to get the railing to look decent, you can enlarge the canvas size around the image first before applying the border.

These same techniques can be used to draw pictures rather than to touch up digital photos. As an example, I will explain how to use the processes mentioned above to draw a smiley face.

Start by opening a new image. Use the Elliptical Marquee tool to select a circle for the face. Choose a foreground color for the color of the face. I will use yellow for the sake of the example. Use Edit → Fill to fill the circle with the foreground color.

The smiley face really needs a black outline to make it stand out from the background, so choose black as the foreground color. Go back to the Edit menu, but instead of clicking "Fill," click on the item directly beneath it, "Stroke." Stroke is an action that does not fill the entire selection area, but instead paints along the line of the selection. The width of the line it paints is specified by the first field, and you can also determine whether you want it to be inside the selection marquee, outside the marquee, or directly on top of the marquee.

You should now have a colored circle with a black outline. You can continue to use the selection tools with Fill and Stroke to make the eyes and mouth. I used the Elliptical Marquee tool with Fill for the eyes and Stroke for the mouth, then used the Eraser tool to erase the unwanted part of the ellipsis to make the mouth look like a smile.

If you want to add blushy cheeks, you can continue to use the selection tools, or you can paint on rosy circles with clicks of the Brush tool. If the cheeks aren't blurry enough for you on the first try, you can always use the Blur tool to fix that.

Below is the example of the simple smiley face that I drew. The black lines appear sharp and jagged because I turned off anti-aliasing. If you like smoother lines, make sure to check the anti-aliasing option.

I thought the face looked a bit plain, so I used the Brush tool along with the Smudge tool to draw a cherry blossom petal as if fingerpainting. I then used the Magic Wand to select the petal and switched to the Move tool. Pressing Alt while using the Move tool automatically makes a copy of the selected object and moves it to the desired location. Then I used Edit → Transform → Rotate to make the petals look like they're fluttering down from above. Finally, I used Stroke to frame the picture in pink.

You are limited only by your imagination!


Open a digital photo and touch up anything you find that could use improvement. Try to use various selection tools as well as Patch or the Healing Brush. Next open a new file and practice drawing a picture using the selection tools along with Fill and Stroke. Use the Brush tool to add details, along with Smudge and Blur if you can think of ways to take advantage of their effects.

This is the last of the introductory series of lessons. After this they move into intermediate territory, so if you are still confused by anything at the end of this lesson, go back and practice it before moving on.