Practical Photoshop Elements: Removing Blemishes

February 24, 2014

Practical Photoshop Elements: Removing Blemishes

In our next several posts, we’re going to talk about working with your images in Photoshop Elements, concentrating on the tasks and techniques that most home photographers want to learn about. So we’ll look at ways to edit, correct and enhance your images to make them look their very best. And then we’ll look at ways to output those images so that you can share them with the world.

Now there are going to those among us who may not feel that talking about image editing makes sense on a photography blog since the point of learning photographic techniques is to get the image right in the first place rather than depend on editing software afterwards to make the picture right. And, to give those folks their due, there is an ongoing debate among many professional photographers about the validity of post-processing.

But I happen to be on the side of photographers who believe that post-processing is not only a valid part of digital photography, it’s, in fact, an integral part and one of the better ways to hone your photographic skills. Why? Because, first, there’s a lot to think about when you’re out shooting, especially when you’re trying to capture an image that goes beyond the basic anything-goes snapshot. There’s exposure and composition, focusing and white balance and the quality of light…. And while it’s certainly possible to get all that right out in the field, realistically it doesn’t always work out that way. And you can learn a lot about photography simply by learning to edit your photos. Changing composition by cropping can be a great way to see the effects of different arrangement and layouts. And spending time correcting images can help you remember any issues and may just make it more likely that you’ll nail it next time.

Besides that, “post-processing" is hardly new to the digital era. When I was first learning photography, I took a class where the students all developed and printed their own film. There we learned how to develop film, but also how to work with darkroom equipment to make adjustments to the image that was imprinted onto the negative. We learned to adjust the image exposure by dodging (make areas of the image brighter) and burning (make areas of the image darker). We learned to crop and straighten. We learned to merge two negatives into one image. We learned that we could impart different coloring effects to our images either through the use of a filter attachment on the camera lens or by using different chemicals when we processed the analog film.

So, you see, post-processing didn’t come into reality with the development of the digital camera and, with that, image editing software. But digital photography does take the process to new heights and makes if more convenient, less smelly and way easier on the wardrobe!

With that said, let’s get started by looking at the first technique we’ll cover and that’s how to remove blemishes from a person’s face using Photoshop Elements 12.

Removing Blemishes in Photoshop Elements 12

Blemishes! Ugh!

We all have them but that doesn’t mean that we want them showing up on our photos.

Luckily, Elements 12 has a tool that makes removing blemishes a snap. The tool is called the Spot Healing Brush and here’s how it works.

Step 1

You can access the Spot Healing Brush from the Expert Editing mode.

remove blemishes with photoshop elements

Step 2

The Spot Healing Brush can be found in the Elements toolbar that sits vertically along the left hand side of the software interface. It’s located in the third tool grouping and is bundled with the Healing Brush. Click to select the tool.

remove blemishes with photoshop elements

Step 3

When you select the Spot Healing Brush, you'll see the options for the tool displayed in the Tools Options box located underneath the active image area.

remove blemishes with photoshop elements

At the far left of the Tools Option box, be sure that the Spot Healing Brush is selected.

remove blemishes with photoshop elements

Next to that, choose Content Aware under Type to tell the program to use the color and texture of the surrounding pixels with correcting each blemish.

remove blemishes with photoshop elements

Finally, you will see the brush options. The top of this area shows the type of brush (hard or soft) and below that the brush size.

remove blemishes with photoshop elements

You can change the type of brush by clicking on the small, down facing arrow next to the currently selected brush. This will open a pop-up menu where you can choose from a variety of soft (fuzzy-edged) and hard (solid-edged) brushes. Each of the brushes will be labeled with a size.

remove blemishes with photoshop elements

This technique works best with a soft brush, so choose a fuzzy-edged one from the menu. The size of the brush you choose will appear in the size box below the brush tip but you can change that number independently by moving the slider to the right or left independently.

Step 4

Now that you have your tool set to go, you're almost ready to do some editing. But first, keep in mind that any edits that you make are permanent once you save your file. So you may want to consider working on a duplicate to even just a duplicate layer when you do your editing.

With your image open, move your cursor in front of your photo. You should be able to see a circle that represents the brush of the Spot Healing Tool. Adjust the brush size as needed. You can do this quickly by using a keyboard shortcut to make the brush larger or smaller. The left square bracket key ([) will make the brush head smaller while the right square bracket key (]) will make it larger.

By the way, if you don’t see a circle but instead see a cross hair symbol, you probably have your caps lock enabled. Turn off caps lock to correct this.

Now just click and/or paint over the blemished areas to remove them.

remove blemishes with photoshop elements

As you work, keep these tips in mind:

  • As noted above, you can change the brush size at anytime by using the square bracket keys. Pressing on the left bracket keys reduces the brush tip size. The right bracket key increases the brush size.
  • If you need to, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl++ (Command++ on the Mac) to zoom in or Ctrl+- (Command+- on the Mac) to zoom out.
  • Ctrl+0 (Command+0 on the Mac) fits the photo to the active image area.
  • Ctrl+1 (Command+1 on the Mac) zooms the photo to 100% or 1:1 pixel magnification.
  • And if you don't like an edit, use Ctrl+Z (Command+Z on the Mac) to undo it.
  • Use Alt+Ctrl+Z (Command+Opt+Z on the Mac) to undo a series of keystrokes.
  • To pan around your photo, press the spacebar to bring up the hand tool. Then, using the hand tool, drag and move the photo into a different position on the screen.

Here's my before and after:

remove blemishes with photoshop elements

remove blemishes with photoshop elements



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