Adobe Photoshop Retouching Tools


In this lesson we will be discussing the first five tools in the Retouching Tools panel.  These tools include the Spot Healing Brush, Healing Brush, Patch, Content Aware and Red Eye.  To access these tools quickly within Photoshop hit the J key.   To scroll through the brushes press Shift + J.

These brushes are found in the Tools Panel on the left side of your screen when Photoshop is open.

Spot Healing Brush

The Spot Healing Brush is a great source for repairing imperfections and blemishes in your image.  With this brush you do not have to specify a sample before you start to use it like with the Healing Brush.  The Spot Healing Brush takes samples from pixels and matches the texture, lighting, transparency and the shading of the pixels to the pixels that you are healing.

This is a much faster Healing Brush because you are not having to select your pixels that you want to sample.  Instead the program does it for you.

If you right click with your mouse a small pop-up window will appear at your curser.  This pop-up window will allow you to change the size, hardness of your brush tool, spacing, angle and roundness.  These are some of the same tools you will see with your brush tools as you start using that.

Within the Spot Healing Brush you have extra controls that show on the Options Bar.  The Options Bar is located at the top just under the Menu.

These extra controls include the Content Aware, Create Texture, and Proximity Match buttons.  You are also given the option to apply your corrections to all of the layers you have up.

The video below is a quick little video that goes more into depth about how the Spot Healing Brush works.


Healing Brush

The Healing Brush tool is similar to the Spot Healing Brush tool.  Like the Spot Healing Tool, the Healing Brush allows you  to repair imperfections and blemishes in your image.  With the Healing Brush you select your sample pixels by pressing Alt + right click on Windows or Options + right click on Mac.

You can select up to five samples with this tool before you start healing.  This is a great tool for smaller, more detailed retouching.  It’s a great tool to use if you want your heal to blend in with the rest of the image.

In the Options Bar you will find a selection menu of: Mode, Source, Aligned, Sample, Ignore Adjustments, Pressure, and Diffusion.

The Mode selection allows you to adjust the blend mode of the image.

The Source selection allows you to select either Sample or Pattern.  Sample will give you the option to select a sample from your image as a reference to remove a flaw, like the Clone Tool.  With the Pattern selected you will be given the option to choose a pattern to remove the flaw.

The Aligned selection allows you to keep the Source brush and Target brush aligned to each other.

The Sample selection allows you to select which layers you will be taking samples from.  If you work “non-destructively” select “all layers” and your selection will take samples from all of the layers that are visible.  This is how I usually keep mine selected.  We’ll get into more detail about “non-destructive” work in another post.

In the Ignore Adjustments selection you are given the option to turn off Adjustment layers.  We’ll get more into Adjustment layers in a later post as well.

The Pressure selection gives you the option to adjust the pressure of your pen if you are using a pressure sensitive tablet such as Wacom or Huion.

The Diffusion slider allows you to control how quickly your healed region adapts to the surrounding image.

The video below by tutvids goes through both the healing brush tool and the spot healing brush tool in greater detail.


Patch Tool

The patch tool is much like the clone tool or the spot healing tool.  But this tool uses a pattern to cover up the desired flaw.

To use this tool you can select Shift + J and scroll through the pop out selection window to find the patch tool.

Make sure to duplicate your layer as you work.  By doing so you’re working non-destructively.  Use the tool to select the pixels that you are wanting to patch up by selecting an area.  Drag the outlined patch over to the area you want to generate the patch from.

There are a few different options to choose from in the Options Bar that will help you achieve the look you want while using this tool.  They are Patch, Structure, Color and Sample All Layers.

Next to the Patch option is a drop down window that has two more options to them.  They are Normal and Content Aware.  Using Content Aware will help everything blend together nicely by using the Photoshop Patch Tool algorithm.

Both of the Structure and Color options have sliders to determine their values.

And the Sample All Layers option is available and used as we discussed in the last section.  If you have more than one layer you are working on, it’s a good idea to click on that so you are not only sampling the layer you’re drawing on.  Especially if you’ve got a lot of blending within your image, it’s a good idea to sample all layers.

I’ve included a video below to help illustrate the patch tool.


Content Aware Move Tool

By using the Content Aware Move Tool you are able to select and move a part of the picture.  The picture itself is recomposed and the hole that you left behind is filled with matching elements from your image.

You can use this tool to move and place objects in different locations within your image.

Use the Extend tool to expand or contract objects such as hairs or trees or buildings.

When selecting the Content Aware Move Tool the Options Bar will have these options for you:  Mode, Structure and Color.

The Mode option gives you two options: Move and Extend.  Use the Move tool to move your object to a different location.  Use the Extend tool to expand or contract your object.

Use the Structure slider (1 to 7) to determine how closely you want your patch should reflect the existing pattern.

Using the Color selection will give you the option to use the slider (1 to 10) to select  the algorithmic color pattern and how closely you want it to blend in your image.

With Content Aware Move Tool you are given the option to sample all layers again.

You are also given the option to Transform On Drop.  This option gives you the option after you have moved your object to transform or scale after you’ve moved it around.

Enjoy the video below!


Red Eye Tool

The Red Eye Tool is a classic tool to help you remove “red eye” on your pictures.  Red Eye happens when the light from the flash of the camera reflects off the retina of the eye.  It makes the eyes look, well, red.

To use the red eye tool, click on it to make it active.  Click on the red that is in the eyes of your subject.  There are adjustments that you can make for the red eye tool within the Options bar.

Within the Options bar you have the choice to change the effects of the Pupil Size or the Darken Amount.  Play around with it until you get the desired effect you want.

Here’s a great video to help illustrate how to use the red eye tool.


Take What You’ve Learned and Run With It!

So, now you know what the different retouching tools can do.  Isn’t this fun??  I’ve enjoyed sharing these things with you and look forward to hearing and seeing how you’ve been able to use them!

What new things have you learned from this?  Leave a comment below and let me know if you’ve got any questions.

Have fun creating!!!



  1. I need to learn more on this subject so have bookmarked for future reference to go it all and learn learn learn
    Thank you

  2. Hello Kelly,
    I have always wanted to learn how to use photo shop
    You did a great post on it
    Thank you for sharing and have a great day!

  3. Hey Kelly thank you for taking the time to write these tutorials! Adobe and other digital drawing programs have so many buttons and options and settings that it is easy to get lost and give up – and the manuals for them are equally daunting. I’ll be coming back for more, please keep on posting more guides and also more of your artwork for inspiration! <33 🙂

    • Thank you so much for visiting! I completely agree with you on the buttons and manuals. I went through much frustration over the years trying to figure things out with them, lol! But, I’m so glad I stuck with it 🙂
      Thank you for enjoying it and my artwork!

  4. I found this post usefull for me, I have bookmark for use. I need some like this to make my image perfect. Thanks for the post.

  5. I think this awesome info here. I use photoshop and learned two are 3 things from your video’s. I wasn’t acquainted with all the healing brush could do. I’m bookmarking this for future reference. And will be revisiting your site. I’m heading to other articles you have to see what else I can learn.

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