How to Use the Patch Tool in Photoshop

The post How to Use the Patch Tool in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sarah Hipwell.

How to use the Patch tool in Photoshop

I’ll be honest: While Photoshop is full of amazing tools, there are some that I use far more than others, and some that I’ve never even touched.

But out of the array of powerful Photoshop tools, the Patch tool is one of my absolute favorites. Not only is it helpful in a wide variety of scenarios, it’s so easy to use, even for folks with limited Photoshop experience. And with each version of Photoshop, it just seems to get better.

Below, I explain everything you need to know about the Patch tool, including how it works, how to use it, and how to adjust your settings for optimal results. So if you’re seeking to understand what the Patch tool is capable of, or you want an effective way to fix problematic areas of your photos, then keep reading!

What does the Patch tool do?

How to use the Photoshop Patch tool

The Patch tool is part of Photoshop’s set of healing tools, all of which are designed for retouching and repairing your images. It’s primarily used to repair larger areas of an image or to get rid of any distractions or blemishes.

The tool was introduced into Photoshop at the same time as the Healing Brush. It is similar to the Healing Brush tool in that it matches the texture, lighting, and shading of the sampled pixels to the source area. However, the Patch Tool uses selection-defined areas instead of a brush.

(Note: Prior to Photoshop CS6, you could not work on a separate empty layer when using the Patch tool, in contrast to the Spot Healing Brush tool and the Healing Brush tool. This meant that, to use the Patch tool, you had to duplicate the layer that you were working on. However, in Photoshop CS6, the content-aware setting was introduced to the Patch tool, and you can now work on an image using an empty layer. This has made it quite powerful indeed!)

What makes the Patch tool unique is that each time you use it, you’ll get a slightly different result – even on the same selection. As I mentioned above, it is great for retouching larger areas of your image, and it’ll do this very fast and quite seamlessly.

For instance, my image of a ruddy turnstone looks decent, but there is some debris on the concrete that I would ideally like to remove:

original image before using the patch tool

As you can see in this next image, the Patch tool did a great job of getting rid of the cigarette butts and even the stains on the ground:

How to use the Photoshop Patch tool

It was super quick, too!

Additionally, if you set the Patch tool to its Destination mode, you can use it to duplicate, or clone, the selected area. I rarely use it that way myself, but it’s still an option to keep in mind, and I’ll illustrate it later on in this article.

Where can you find the Patch tool?

The location of the Patch tool depends on how your version of Photoshop is configured. You might find it hidden behind the Spot Healing Brush tool:

patch tool highlighted in tools panel in photoshop
Click on the Spot Healing Brush in the Tools panel. A fly-out menu will appear with the Patch tool visible.

Or it might be clearly visible in the Tools panel:

How to use the Photoshop Patch tool

Regardless, it’s signified by a “patch” of fabric.

To get started with the Patch tool, simply click on the Patch icon, then continue with the instructions I share below:

How to use the Patch tool: the basics

Working with the Patch tool is extremely easy. Here’s what you do:

  1. Select the Patch tool, then choose Source or Destination in the Options bar at the top of the screen. Note that Source will tell Photoshop to patch the selected portion of the image, while Destination will tell Photoshop to use the selected area to patch a different portion of your image. In general, you’ll want to use the Source option, and this is selected by Photoshop by default.
  2. Using your cursor, click and draw to select a portion of your image. The selection process is similar to the Lasso tool, where you draw the selection freehand.
  3. Once you complete your selection, you should see the marching ants appear. Place your cursor inside the selected area, then click and drag it in any direction. You will see a preview of the adjusted image as you drag the cursor.
  4. When you release the cursor, Photoshop will blend pixels from the source and the destination area to create a seamless merged image.
  5. Finally, you can deselect the image by tapping Cmd/Ctrl+D.

Yes, it really is that easy, but you probably won’t get a 100% accurate result every time. You may have to make a few attempts. Just make sure you are working on a duplicate background layer or using a separate empty layer rather than your original background layer.

Pro tip: You don’t have to use the Patch tool to define a selection. You can use any selection tool and then select the Patch tool.

Before I discuss the Content-Aware setting, I want to demonstrate how the Patch tool can be used with the Destination option to clone an isolated area of your image:

Using the Patch tool to duplicate an area

For this next example, I’m going to use the Patch tool to duplicate a bird so there are two ruddy turnstones in the image. The steps are basically the same as above:

  • Make a selection around the bird.
  • Choose Destination in the Options bar.
  • With the Patch tool selected, position the cursor over the selection and move it into the place where you want the “new” bird to appear.

The Patch tool didn’t do a bad job, but if you look closely, the surrounding pixels of the selection haven’t blended in so well:

How to use the Photoshop Patch tool
I used the Patch tool to clone/duplicate the bird in Destination mode. However, the duplicated bird has a noticeably pixelated edge.

If you run into a similar problem, here’s an alternative method for getting a better result once you have made the selection for duplicating an area:

Press Cmd/Ctrl+T. This brings up the free Transform tool. Now move the selection to a new area on the image. Click on the tick box to commit, or press Enter on your keyboard. The selection is still active, as the marching ants are visible around it.

With the Patch tool selected, move the cursor over the selection. Hold down the mouse, move the selection slightly, and then release. You will notice the surrounding pixels are blended better:

How to use the Photoshop Patch tool
There is a definite improvement when you use the Free Transform tool, then hold down the mouse and move the selection slightly at the same time just before releasing it.
How to use the Photoshop Patch tool
And voila – now I have three birds!
How to use the Photoshop Patch tool
Another example where I used the Free Transform tool along with the Patch tool set to Destination mode.

How to use the Patch tool with content-aware mode

I like to use the Patch tool in both its normal mode and its content-aware mode. In normal mode, the Patch Tool does a great job with general clean-up. However, when you’re working with areas close to the edge of the image, the Patch tool struggles to blend or repair the selection – and that’s where the Patch tool in its content-aware mode really shines.

How to use the Photoshop Patch tool
When an area has sharp contrast or is up against the edge of a photo, the Patch tool in its normal mode is less effective, and that’s where the content-aware option becomes hugely useful.
Notice the selection on the right-hand side of this image…
How to use the Photoshop Patch tool
I removed the unwanted areas using a combination of the normal mode and the content-aware mode.

To use the Patch tool in content-aware mode, make sure the tool is selected. Then go to the Options bar and change the Patch: setting from Normal to Content-Aware.

How to use the Photoshop Patch tool
Switching the Patch tool in the Options bar from Normal to Content-Aware.

If you want to work using an empty layer above the image, make sure Sample All Layers is checked.

Then use the Patch tool as described in the previous sections of this article!

To better understand how the normal mode differs from the content-aware mode, take a look at this next example, where I tried to remove a golf ball on a tee:

How to use the Photoshop Patch tool
The golf ball I’m trying to remove.

This image was patched using the normal mode:

How to use the Photoshop Patch tool
The Patch tool in normal mode didn’t do such a great job of removing the golf ball!

While the second image was patched using content-aware:

How to use the Photoshop Patch tool
The Patch tool in its content-aware mode successfully removed the golf ball and tee from the image!

And the result was a whole lot better!

Fix your photos with the Patch tool!

Hopefully, you found this article useful – and you now feel like you can quickly and easily fix your images with the Patch tool.

As I explained, the Patch tool is super simple to work with, and it’s a great way to remove unwanted portions of a shot, though you can also use it to clone parts of an image!

So fire up Photoshop and have some fun. Try to remove a blemish or two using the Patch tool. Test out the different modes and see what you think!

Now over to you:

Do you use the Patch tool in Photoshop? Do you plan to? What do you think of it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The post How to Use the Patch Tool in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sarah Hipwell.

The post How to Use the Patch Tool in Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sarah Hipwell. I’ll be honest: While Photoshop is full of amazing tools, there are some that I use far more than others, and some that I’ve never even touched. But out of the array of…

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