How to Do Skin Retouching in Photoshop

One of the most highly requested and simple photo touch ups requested is for blemish removal on the skin. Whether this is acne, freckles, or just random spots on a person’s skin, there is a powerful and simple tool that removes imperfections, blending them into the skin perfectly, in a jiffy.

skin retouching photoshop

“Before and After” captured by Seth Lemmons

This tool is called the Healing Brush, and it can be found in most versions of Adobe Photoshop. Today we will discuss the options available in the healing brush toolbox and how to use each of them.

To get to the healing brush, click the little bandage icon in your tool box. Or you can access it via shortcut by pressing the “J” key on your keyboard. When you click and hold down on this bandage, you will see some different healing brush tool options: Spot Healing Brush Tool, Healing Brush Tool, and Patch Tool. Well, what exactly do these tools do, and how do you apply them?

Spot Healing Brush

This is the simplest of the three options. It is used on small imperfections where there is an even area to sample around the blemish. This tool actually takes a sample from the pixels around the blemish and matches it in the lighting, texture, and tone. After selecting this tool, choose a brush size that is slightly larger than the blemish and just click on the blemish. For slightly larger marks and scratches, the brush may be dragged across the area. The blemish should be gone! Presto! For areas with fine detail, you might want to consider the next tool.

Healing Brush

The healing brush allows you to select your own sample (known as the source) or a preset pattern to blend the imperfection with the rest of the image. Say you have an image where there is very fine detail in the imperfection. Select the healing brush tool and alt+click (option+click for Mac) to select your source sample. When selecting the source, you are looking for a part of the image that closely matches what you would like the blemished area to look like afterward. Consider tone, texture, and highlights/shadows when selecting the source. After choosing your source sample, click on the blemish as you would with the spot healing brush to blend the imperfection. It may take some trial and error plus sampling from multiple parts of the image find the perfect blend to the imperfection.

Patch Tool

The patch tool is a combination of the healing brush and the lasso tool. It’s great for correcting larger areas. As with the healing brush, you can correct the imperfection with a source or a pre-set pattern. There are several options for using the patch tool. The most common is to select the area of imperfection as you would with the lasso tool (dragging around it). On the option bar, make sure you select Source Mode. Drag your selection to an area that you’d like Photoshop to use to blend the imperfection and release.

As with all photo retouching, correcting blemishes requires a lot of patience, attention to detail, and trial and error. Things may not look right the first time, but don’t be discouraged. Simply undo and try again!

About the Author:
Sheryl is from the ten dollar touch up (, a full service photo touch up, photo restoration, and photo editing site. All editing is done by hand and custom fit to each customer’s need.

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