• M Team

4 Easy, Highly-Effective Tools On Photoshop

And how to use them correctly.


Photoshop can move mountains - literally - If you know how to use it. But you know that already, that’s why you’re here. So I’m not going to bother crafting an exciting intro that leaves you wanting more, because, well, that’s just wasting your time and you need to get editing! So here: 4 life-changingly awesome editing tools just like I promised.


1. Spot Healing Brush

The Spot Healing Brush is a crafty little tool, typically used to remove spots and blemishes on your photographs. Try it out quickly! Open your Photoshop and click on the icon like the one above. The one that looks like a plaster with tiny dots around it. Right. Now that you’ve got it selected, go ahead and click on a spot that you want removed from your shot. Did it disappear? Good! That’s exactly what it’s supposed to do.


Essentially this tool removes inconsistencies that you tell it to. It calculates what the spot’s supposed to look like, by sampling the immediate area surrounding the spot. We use this tool to remove blemishes from faces, dust particles that were on the lens or even specks of dirt from clothing. But a part from all this, there’s another great way to use this tool. If you hold your click in, and then drag your brush, you can paint a line over fine inconsistencies of the image too. We use this technique to remove finer strands of hair that are covering a persons face.


Before you get going with the Spot Healing brush, take a look at these guidelines for a little extra help when getting started:

1. This tool is most effective when used on spots and fine lines. For correcting larger areas you’ll want to check out the Layer Mask tool below.

2. The Spot Healing Brush works best when your blemish is on a fairly clean background. If the spot is surrounded by a lot of detail, it tends to smoosh that detail together in a strange way. For example, if you click on a pimple just below your subject’s lips, the spot healing brush might replace that blemish with pink lip detail instead of the smooth skin that you want it to. For problems like this, pay close attention when we discuss the Clone Stamp, or read on for the healing brush.

3. Lastly, don’t confuse the Spot Healing Brush tool with the Healing Brush tool. It also looks like a plaster except it doesn’t have the dotted lines around it. If you click and hold on the Spot Healing brush icon in the toolbar, the Healing brush tool will pop up - And vice versa. Because they’re kept in the same place in the toolbar they are often confused for the same tool. The healing brush tool requires you to tell Photoshop exactly where it should source a sample from. You can do this by holding alt. and clicking on the good skin that you want to replace the blemish with. A great solution to those tricky little edges.


2. Layer Mask

If you thought the Spot Healing brush was cool, the Layer Mask is going to add a devastating karate kick to your editing moves. You’ll find the icon for the Layer Mask at the bottom of your ‘Layers’ window. It looks like a block with a circle cut-out in the middle. Seeing as you’ve already got your Photoshop open, select one of your layers and then click on this Layer Mask icon. Great. Did you see how that added a white square next to the layer name? Good. That white square is really just acting as a mask to the layer it’s attached to. I don’t know if you saw this but the moment you clicked, your foreground/background colours in the left toolbar changed to black and white. Now! Select your brush tool (the icon that looks like a paint brush in your toolbar) and switch your foreground colour to black if it’s not already - And start painting! The areas you’re painting with black should disappear. If you switch your foreground colour back to white, you’ll notice you can paint those areas right back in and make them visible again.


What’s so great about that? Well this simple tool can be used in so many clever ways. You’ll find yourself using it regularly to fix or refine your work where needed. Let me tell you how: You can paste multiple shots into the same Photoshop document in different layers. When you use a Layer Mask on one of those layers, you can reveal or hide the image/layer beneath it as you paint. What this means is you could essentially take the sky from one shot, and a wedding couple from another shot and create a stunning photo composite. You could even place your wedding couple in a different location entirely if you have such a shot to work with. Using this method we’ve been able to remove certain people from group photos, replace a blinking face with a smiling one, or even remove large objects like our studio flash that is constantly photo-bombing our best shots. So go and get cracking!


Oh wait, take a look at these guidelines first:

1. You can adjust the intensity of your brush when painting your Layer Mask, by playing with Opacity, Flow and Brush Hardness, which can all be found in the top panel. *Tip: The settings for brush hardness can be found in a drop-down menu next to an icon of a big white dot.

2. When painting your Layer Mask, make sure the white square next to the layer name is selected, and not the actual image or you’ll just be painting black or white onto your shot.

3. Instead of using varying images, duplicate the layer of your original shot and make adjustments to it. You can then paint in/out these adjustments in specific areas using a Layer Mask (Perhaps you want to add vibrance just to your subject's eyes, for example).


3. Clone Stamp

The Clone Stamp! A life-saver tool that’s as simple to use as it is to explain. The Clone Stamp works like this: It takes a sample from somewhere on your image and paints an exact duplicate of that sample wherever you tell it to - Cloning the area. Let’s take you through it step by step. Once you click on the icon in the toolbar (It looks like a cookie stamp), hold the ‘alt’ key and click on any area in your image. Done? Right, you just told Photoshop the exact area it must duplicate when you start painting. Now, let go of ‘alt,’ and your cursor should've changed back from a little target to a brush circle. With the Clone Stamp still selected, begin painting across a different portion of your image. And there you go! Did you notice how you started painting an exact copy of the area you sampled? That’s great! This is how you can use this tool IRL: If you have a large object that needs to be removed from your background, sample an area of clean background that you want to replace it with, and paint over your obstruction. It’s like it was never there! If you have a pimple on the edge of a face, sample the edge just next to it and replace that bumpy edge with a crisp one. Play with your opacity and brush hardness to see how this affects your work.


Check out our top tips for this easy-to-use tool:

1. The sample target moves with you. Be aware of this as you paint, to be sure you don’t duplicate a sample of the wrong thing. When we use this tool, we work on small areas at a time and are continuously re-selecting a sample point as we go.

2. If the sample target moves over the edge of the image, it will paint a hard line onto your shot. Watch where your sample target moves as you paint to avoid this happening. Or just go back in your History panel ‘cos we all make mistakes. 4. Content-Aware

This last tool is a little genius and will save you loads of edit time. If you need an inconsistency removed from your image and it’s on a fairly consistent background try this: Click on one of your selection tools (Press the ‘L’ key for your Lasso tool or ‘M’ for rectangular marquee tool, for example) and select the object you want removed. Does it look like you’ve got Christmas lights around your selection now? Perfect. It’s been selected. Now go to ‘Edit’ in the top menu bar, and then click on ‘Fill...” - A small ‘Fill’ window should’ve popped up. Next: In the drop-down menu next to ‘Contents:’ Click on the option for ‘Content-Aware.’ Make sure your opacity is set to 100% and then press ’OK.’ You did it! Well, Photoshop did it, but we can say it was all us. What’s just happened is Photoshop calculated the immediate surroundings of your selection and guessed what should be there. This is why it generally works best when your object is on a clean/consistent background.


I only have one guideline for this tool, here it is:

- Trial and error. I never really know whether the Content-Aware tool is going to work unless I try it. On a clean background it works every time, but there've been times when it’s worked beautifully on a busy/detailed area too - Sometimes it’s a total disaster and I have to go back and try using a Layer Mask instead or my Clone Stamp to fix the issue. So those are 4 great tools that will help you produce those incredible ideas you have. If you have any questions on some of the tools above, comment below or drop us a DM on Instagram so we can help you out. Until then - Happy Editing! Love, M Team

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MATTHEW HENNING

© 2020 by Matthew Henning Photography.  All Rights Reserved.

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