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My Essential Touch-Up Toolbox: Healing

Julie Govan is the Brand Manager at Crutchfield, and has been writing about consumer electronics since 1999. Her areas of expertise include home theater, surround sound, digital cameras, and HDTV. In her spare time, she also writes book reviews and fiction. She earned a B.A. in English from Davidson College, and went on to receive a master's degree in English literature from the University of Virginia.

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As I've said before, I am a Photoshop novice. (I work surrounded by skilled designers who would no doubt agree, as they spend their day doing crazy smart things with layers and Photoshop plug-ins.)

But I mainly use Photoshop to touch up digital photos. And as a result, there is only a handful of  features I tend to use over and over again. So I'm going to cover the ones I can't do without.

Let's start with the Spot Healing Brush.

The Healing Brush in its most basic form lets you select an area of the picture to correct. I like to use it for lines or streaks that need remedying.

But what I use even more is the Spot Healing Brush. That's because I take a lot of pictures of kids. And photographs of kids tend to expose things you just didn't notice when you were taking the picture, like a flake of oatmeal dangling from an earlobe, or a cookie crumb juuust inside the right nostril. These inevitably show up only on your very favorite shot, and you only spot them hours after shooting.

Bring out the Spot Healing Brush! Like the regular Healing Brush, it's designed to intelligently compare surrounding pixels with the selected area, and fill in what it thinks should be there. But it's specially designed to handle things that occur as small spots.

Here's an example of an upside-down toddler with a lingering breakfast crumb on her cheek, circled in red.

I went ahead and made the Spot Healing Brush large enough for the crumb and a respectable border of skin around it. I hovered over the crumb, clicked once, and voila!

Generally it works pretty well. Sometimes, if the spot or blemish you're working on is really close to another mark or shadow, the Spot Healing tool will try to incorporate that mark into the change. I usually cope with that by making my brush size as small as possible while still able to handle the size of the mark I'm trying to remove.

I'd love suggestions on other tools that are either a mystery to you, or that you depend on heavily.

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