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What is the Healing Brush?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 16, 2024
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The healing brush is a tool that can be used to touch up digital images. It functions similarly to a clone tool, in that it allows the user to select an area to repair and another location to use as a base. Rather than directly cloning the selected area, the healing brush is often capable of seamlessly integrating the two selections. This can be especially useful when touching up digital photographs, since it can aid in the removal of skin blemishes, wrinkles, and other issues. The healing brush can erase marks caused by dust or nicks on images that were scanned from physical photographs.

Modern image manipulation programs typically include a wide variety of tools to touch up or repair photographs and other pictures. One popular option for photo manipulation is the clone tool, which is also referred to as a rubber stamp or clone brush. This tool is used to essentially overwrite the information in one area of an picture with image data from another. Feathering or other techniques are often used to make it less obvious that the image was manipulated, though these methods are not always sufficient. The healing brush is a slightly more sophisticated version of the tool that can result in a more convincing finished product.

A defining feature of the healing brush is that it incorporates the texture from the area of the image that is being overwritten rather than simply covering it up completely. The area that is replaced is essentially stitched together with the part that is being used as a basis for the fill, resulting in a finished product that is typically more convincing. This brush is also known as a healing tool or a spot healing brush, depending on the particular program.

Using the healing brush tool typically begins with creating an outline of the area that needs to be fixed. This could be wrinkles on a person's face or undesired object in the background of the photograph. The next step is usually to identify another part of the picture that contains similar image data. These two parts of the image can then be blended together so that the blemish or undesired object is essentially healed out of the picture.

The exact way that the tool is used can vary depending on the photo manipulation program, as can the final results. Some programs have better healing brushes, while others have advanced clone tools that use texture synthesis to intelligently remove blemishes. There may also be a different level of user interaction required, as some programs can operate in a more automated fashion.

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