Adobe Photoshop comes with a variety of powerful tools to help you completely transform an image. The removal tools are one of those good-to-have editing tools we all need from time to time. Learn how to use the healing brush and other Photoshop tools to remove people or unwanted items in seconds. It is not as time-consuming, as you might think.
Open your image in Photoshop and head over the left toolbar. Right-click on the Spot Healing Brush Tool and you’ll find the following four options:
- Spot Healing Brush Tool
- Healing Brush Tool
- Patch Tool
- Content-Aware Fill
In this Photoshop tutorial, we will explain in detail how to use remove unwanted objects in Photoshop. Also, we will help you understand the differences between these tools and how to choose the most effective one for your task.
1. The Spot Healing Brush Tool
The Spot Healing Brush tool fixes image imperfections quickly. Whenever you have a distracting object in your image, you have the ability to remove it with this tool.
It has the name “Spot” because it is used to brush off imperfections of small areas by analyzing and blending details from round areas around them.
Pro Tip: The best way to use the removal tools is to duplicate the layer before making any change. We do that so we can separate the retouching process from the main image.
The Spot Healing Brush Tool Options
After you select the Spot Healing Brush from the left sidebar, right-click on the image you want to retouch. A new window will pop up with the spot healing brush options.
Use the options to customize tool settings, such as size, hardness, and spacing, and get the effect you want.
- Size: Select the preferable size of your brush depending on the spot you want to remove. Sometimes, it is better to zoom in to your image and select a smaller size brush for more refined results.
- Hardness: This option allows you to select the hardness of your brush. Usually, it works best at around 75% to 100%. However, the results might differ if you are retouching a landscape shot or a portrait.
- Spacing: This option controls how smooth the stroke of your brush is. Leave it at 25%, which is the perfect value in most cases.
How to Use the Spot Healing Brush Tool
Every time you want to remove an object, brush over the area you want to clean and experiment with different brush strokes. Observe how the brush functions and adjust your moves accordingly.
If the area you clean does not look good, you can press CTRL + Z (or CMD + Z on MacOS) to redo a move. You can control all the history and moves from the tab HISTORY on the right sidebar as well.
Pro Tip: For smooth brushing movements and speeding up your workflow, we recommend you to buy a pen tablet or a mouse with high sensitivity (like a gaming mouse).
2. The Healing Brush Tool
The Spot Healing Brush tool requires no source point. However, the Healing Brush Tool works differently and it is suited to those who want more control (i.e. retouching skin or more refined areas).
Basically, the Healing Brush Tool is used to repair imperfections by painting over them with pixels from another part of the image.
How to Use the Healing Brush Tool
This tool has the same options as the Spot Healing Brush. Adjust the size, hardness, and spacing according to your preferences.
If you click on the image you want to retouch, you’ll get a warning message that says “Alt-click to define a source point to be used to repair the image”. In order to use this tool, you first have to define a source.
Hold the ALT key on the keyboard (Option key on MacOS) and click on the area you want to select the sampled source. Then, drag anywhere in the image. The sampled pixels are blended with the existing pixels each time you release the mouse button.
Pro Tip: To move throughout the image while you’re zoomed in, hold the space bar and move around by using the mouse.
3. The Patch Tool
The Patch Tool is used to replace a selected area with pixels from another part of the image. But instead of using a brush or a round area to remove an object, the Patch Tool uses a selection made by the user. The rest is pretty similar to other tools: Photoshop matches texture, highlights, and shadows of the sampled pixels to the source area.
The Patch Tool Options
On the top menu, you have the Patch Tool Options. Here’s what you need to set up:
- Patch Option – set to Normal
- Select Source instead of Destination
- Uncheck the Transparent option
- Pattern should be inactive.
- Diffusion – set to 5.
How to Use the Patch Tool
Before you start using this tool, you have to decide what you need to remove and replace. Then, make a selection around that area.
Drag the selected area and notice that Photoshop is showing a preview of what that area will be placed with. Choose an area that fits the best, line it up properly, and then release the mouse.
When you are done, press CTRL + D (or CMD + D) to deselect the area.
Pro Tip: You can change the option at the top to DESTINATION and determine the destination of your selection and not the source. Try it and see what happens!
4. The Content-Aware Fill Tool
Content-aware technology is used on Adobe Photoshop to remove or replace elements in your image. You tell it what you want to move and where, and the editor does the rest. It’s a good tool for areas with lots of detail and texture, where you can’t make a clean selection.
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How to Use the Content-Aware Fill Tool
Using the Content-Aware Fill tool always begins with the selection of the area you want to fill with surrounding image detail.
Object Selection: In this image, we want to remove the photographer. Head over to the left sidebar and click on the Object Selection Tool. Then, drag to define a rectangular mark key around the object. The tool will automatically create an accurate selection of the photographer.
Content-Aware Fill Workspace: On the main menu click on EDIT>CONTENT AWARE FILL… and the Content-Aware Fill workspace will appear.
The selected area is on the left, while the sampled area that created the fill, shows as a green overlay. On the right, is the preview of the result and the far right is the control panel with all the sampling area options and settings.
The Content-Aware Fill tool has done a great job by removing the photographer, but there is still some work to do in order to complete the process. As you noticed, there are still parts of the photographer that are not completely gone.
To fix that, we need to click on the LASSO TOOL at the left sidebar and the EXPAND option at the top bar. Now, the selection has been expanded to incorporate more of the detail around the subject. But we are not done yet.
How to Define the Sampled Area
In the sampling area options, the default is set to AUTO. This method will use content that is similar to the area that is immediately surrounding the selection.
To completely remove the photographer, some areas need to be expanded more. You can also select RECTANGULAR or CUSTOM and define the selected area manually.
To remove the photographer correctly, we used the selection tool around him, especially in the areas of the shoes and lines on the floor. Now, it looks much better.
Pro Tip: To quickly remove an object from your photo, make a quick selection using the Lasso Tool. Then, click the DELETE key. Click OK at the pop-up window and voila! The object has been removed and replaced by the surrounding pixels.
Which Removal Tool is Better?
All four Adobe Photoshop removal tools are useful and serve a certain purpose. Also, every photo needs different retouching. Hence, it all comes to personal preferences for each photographer to select a tool to work with.
Undoubtedly, the Spot Healing Brush Tool is the most common and fastest to use. It basically does everything for you, from selecting the area to replacing it and matching the scene.
On the other hand, the Healing Brush Tool is used for more detailed work and requires more time and precision. Furthermore, it is used for portraits and skin details.
The Content-Aware Fill Tool is used to replace bigger objects in more complex situations. It can do an excellent job at covering the details.
Related Photoshop Posts:
- How to Crop Layers in Photoshop
- How to Change the Brush Size in Photoshop
- How to Use Quick Masks in Photoshop
- How to Fade an Image in Photoshop
Using Photoshop to remove objects is very flexible when it comes to which tool to use. It’s up to you to decide which one works best for you for the objects you want to remove. Everything comes down to what you want to do with an image. You might need to quickly remove a small imperfection or work thoroughly in order to create a high-quality print for a client.
Have you ever used any of the tools we’ve mentioned? Which is better in your opinion? Let us know in the comments section below.
Hi, I am John Mak a self-taught landscape, sports and event photographer from Greece. I love nature, traveling and cooking. I’m also a freelance writer. I create content for photography websites and other small businesses. I use Mirrorless Cameras, lenses, gear and I share more about it in my personal website. You can also find me on Instagram @johnmakphotography