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Spot Healing in Adobe Photoshop CS2, Part 2

Complex blemish removal and resurfacing By Dave Nagel
In the first part of this tutorial series, we looked at using Photoshop CS2's brand new Spot Healing brush to remove simple blemishes from a subject's face with, essentially, one click of the mouse. But what if the blemishes in your image are so concentrated that no combination of these techniques will work? After all, if the entire surface of the subject's face is flawed, there is no clean area for the Spot Healing brush to sample, so rather than removing blemishes, you'll just be spreading them around and rearranging them.

This is where you begin to see some of the more "miraculous" aspects of the Spot Healing brush. We're going to learn to use this tool not just to cover up a single blemish on the subject's face, but to resurface that face, generating a texture for the skin on the fly that's actually based on the subject's own skin texture, minus the flaws. This will be particularly useful when cleaning up images of subjects whose faces are riddled with acne or chicken pox or pock marks in general. In my case, I'll be using it to remove a face full of freckles.

Now, before you freckled folk out there (and their protective kin) start sending me nasty letters, let me assure you that I, personally, love freckles to death and don't consider them blemishes in any way. I'd never want to remove them, unless I were making a fake ad for some miracle anti-freckle cream. I'm just using this as an example because I don't really want to sit in front of a picture of an acne-marred face all day as I write up this tutorial. Okay? We're good? Good.

The resurfacing technique
Now, just to show you the difference between the technique we learned last time around and this new technique, let's take a look at an example. My subject in this image is simply covered in freckles. If I were to use the previous technique to try to spot heal this image, I wouldn't get anything remotely approximating what I want. Here's the original at 50 percent scale.

And here's the same spot after using the Spot Healing brush inside the red circle.

It's changed, but definitely not for the better.

The reason for this is that I'm using the "Proximity Match" type of operation on this image, so Photoshop is taking samples from the pixels surrounding the area I'm attempting to heal, resulting in, simply, a rearrangement of the freckles on the subject's face.

So what we need to do in order to solve this is to go to the top Tool Options bar and switch the setting for Type from "Proximity Match" to "Create Texture."

Now watch what happens when I paint three quick strokes inside the circle.

Not only are the freckles gone, but, as you can see in this 100 percent scale view, the area has been replaced with a natural skin texture--natural because it's based on the underlying texture of the sample area. This is similar to the type of result you might see using a combination of a High Pass filter and several compositing steps. But here, you get it all on the fly just by drawing over the area you want to change.

And it is really just that simple in most cases. However, there are some potential troubles that you'll encounter along the way. Here's what they are and how you can deal with them.

Solving problems: losing detail or adding in artifacts
As with the technique we discussed (using Proximity Match) in the first article in this series, there are two types of problems you'll encounter when working with the Create Texture method with the Spot Healing brush. But these two problems manifest themselves differently.

The first of these is the introduction of artifacts into the healed area. The image below shows my subject's forehead prior to applying the Spot Healing brush.

Now, if I use long strokes or a large nib for my brush, I'll wind up with something like this--not only weird, splotchy artifacts, but also an immediately noticeable pattern.

That's not good. But it also needn't happen. I can easily avoid this by using a smaller brush and shorter, choppier strokes. The image below shows the result on the same area using short, vertical strokes. The dark gray section illustrates one such stroke used in the process.

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Related Keywords:adobe photoshop cs2, spot healing, healing, blemish, removing blemishes, blemish removal

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