Photoshop Essentials.com - Tutorials and training for Adobe Photoshop.
Removing Skin Blemishes With The Spot Healing Brush

Remove Acne, Skin Blemishes With The Spot Healing Brush

Written by Steve Patterson. In this tutorial, we'll learn how to use the Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop to quickly and easily remove acne and other minor skin blemishes from an image.

The Spot Healing Brush is basically a texture replacement tool. It takes damaged or unwanted texture from one area and replaces it with good texture from another area. It then blends the good texture in with the problem area's original tone and color to produce seamless results.

It works a lot like the regular Healing Brush in Photoshop, but what makes the Spot Healing Brush such an amazing and time-saving tool is that it does what it does with almost no effort from us!

If you're familiar with the Healing Brush, you know that for it to work, we need to tell the Healing Brush which area of good texture to use to replace the bad texture. But the Spot Healing Brush makes the decision all on its own. In most cases, all we need to do is click on a problem area with the Spot Healing Brush and Photoshop repairs it instantly, almost like magic!

It works by choosing good texture from the area surrounding the spot we clicked on, and it usually does a great job as long as we remember that the name of the tool is the Spot Healing Brush, not the Huge Problem Area Healing Brush or the Click And Drag Me All Over The Image And Expect Miracles Healing Brush. The Spot Healing Brush works best on, well, little spots. In this tutorial, we'll learn how to use it to quickly and effortlessly remove pimples and other minor skin blemishes, but the Spot Healing Brush also works great at removing things like dust, dirt and mold, and repairing small scratches. Let's see how it works.

This tutorial is for Photoshop CS6 (the version I'm using here) and is also fully compatible with Photoshop CC. If you're using Photoshop CS5, you can still follow along, or you may wish to check out the original version of this tutorial. Photoshop CS4 and earlier users will also want to check out the original version.

Making The Spot Healing Brush Even Faster With Keyboard Shortcuts

The Spot Healing Brush works fast, but learning a few simple keyboard shortcuts before we begin will speed things up even more. To zoom in on the image, press and hold Ctrl+spacebar (Win) / Command+spacebar (Mac) to temporarily access the Zoom Tool, then click on the spot where you need to zoom in. To zoom out, hold down Alt+spacebar (Win) / Option+spacebar (Mac) and click. To pan around inside the image while you're zoomed in, hold down the spacebar by itself to temporarily switch to Photoshop's Hand Tool, then click and drag to move the image around.

Learn More: Image Navigation Essentials – Zooming And Panning In Photoshop

For best results with the Spot Healing Brush, you'll want your brush to be slightly larger than the area you're trying to fix. This means you'll usually need to change your brush size quite often as you make your way from one problem spot to the next. The fastest way to change your brush size is with the left and right bracket keys on your keyboard. Press the left bracket key ( [ ) repeatedly to make the brush smaller or the right bracket key ( ] ) to make it larger. Also, since the Spot Healing Brush chooses the replacement texture on its own, sometimes it makes a mistake. When it does, simply undo your last step by pressing Ctrl+Z (Win) / Command+Z (Mac) on your keyboard, then try again.

For this tutorial, I'll be using the Spot Healing Brush to quickly remove some distracting pimples from the girl's face in the photo below, but the method is the same no matter what it is you're trying to remove or repair as long as the area is small enough for the Spot Healing Brush to be effective. Here's the photo I'll be working with (acne on face photo from Shutterstock):

Image of acne on face. Image #82534531 licensed from Shutterstock by Photoshop Essentials.com
A teenager with typical teenage skin problems.

And here's what she'll look like when we're done:

A close-up of the original problem area. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
The final result.

Let's get started!

Download our tutorials as printable PDFs! Learning Photoshop has never been easier!

Step 1: Add A New Blank Layer

With the photo newly opened in Photoshop, we can see in the Layers panel that we currently have one layer, the Background layer, which holds our image:

The Layers panel showing the original image on the Background layer in Photoshop. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
The Layers panel showing the original image on the Background layer.

Even though our goal is to make the photo look better, we still want to protect the original, so let's add a new blank layer above the Background layer. We'll do all of our spot healing work on this separate layer. Press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard and click the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:

The New Layer icon in the Layers panel. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
Clicking the New Layer icon while holding Alt (Win) / Option (Mac).

Pressing and holding the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key while clicking the New Layer icon tells Photoshop to first open the New Layer dialog box where we can name the new layer before it's added. Let's name the layer "Spot Healing". Click OK when you're done to close out of the dialog box:

Naming the layer in the New Layer dialog box. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
Naming the layer in the New Layer dialog box.

If we look again in the Layers panel, we see the new Spot Healing layer sitting above the image:

The Layers panel showing the Spot Healing layer. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
The Layers panel showing the Spot Healing layer.

Step 2: Select The Spot Healing Brush

Select the Spot Healing Brush from the Tools panel. You'll find it grouped in with Photoshop's other healing tools. If one of the other tools is showing in place of the Spot Healing Brush, simply right-click (Win) / Control-click (Mac) on the tool and then choose the Spot Healing Brush from the fly-out menu:

Selecting the Spot Healing Brush from the Tools panel in Photoshop. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
The Spot Healing Brush is grouped in with the other healing tools.

Step 3: Select The "Sample All Layers" Option

By default, the Spot Healing Brush works only with the layer that's currently selected in the Layers panel. Since our currently-selected layer (the Spot Healing layer) is blank, that would cause us some problems. All we'd be able to do is replace nothing with different nothing. We need to tell Photoshop to look at the image on the Background layer as well. To do that, select the Sample All Layers option in the Options Bar along the top of the screen:

The Sample All Layers option in the Options Bar in Photoshop. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
Selecting the "Sample All Layers" option in the Options Bar.

Step 4: Select "Content-Aware"

Next, we want to make sure that the Type option is set to Content-Aware which it should be by default. The Content-Aware feature, which was first added to the Spot Healing Brush in CS5, allows Photoshop to make more intelligent decisions when choosing good replacement texture for the problem area you've clicked on:

The Content-Aware option for the Spot Healing Brush. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
The Content-Aware option for the Spot Healing Brush.

Step 5: Click On The Problem Spots To Heal Them

With the Spot Healing Brush in hand, and "Sample All Layers" and "Content-Aware" selected, all we need to do now is click on problem areas in the image to fix them. I'll zoom in on an area of the girl's face so I can see the problem spots more clearly. Then, I'll move my brush cursor over one of the pimples and adjust my brush size using the left and right bracket keys so that the cursor (the black circular outline) is just slightly larger than the pimple itself:

Removing pimples on a girl's face with the Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop. Image © 2010 Photoshop Essentials.com
Use the keyboard shortcut to make the brush cursor a bit larger than the problem spot.

I'll click on the pimple with the Spot Healing Brush, and just like that, it's gone, replaced with good texture from the surrounding area:

The pimple has been removed with the Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
One click is all it took to remove the pimple.

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes the Spot Healing Brush can make a mistake, so if that happens, just press Ctrl+Z (Win) / Command+Z (Mac) to undo it and try again. Each time you try again, you'll get a different result. I'll continue clearing up other pimples in the area by moving my brush over them, adjusting its size with the left and right bracket keys, and clicking:

Removing more pimples with the Spot Healing Brush. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
More pimples have been cleared up with just a few simple clicks of the mouse.

Let's move down to her chin where we see some larger problem areas:

A close-up of the girl's chin showing larger clusters of pimples. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
Larger clusters of pimples can be a bit more of a challenge.

To retouch these areas, I'll start by clicking on the smaller, isolated pimples to heal them first and get them out of the way:

Removing the isolated pimples from the girl's chin with the Spot Healing Brush. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
Removing the isolated pimples before moving on to the larger areas.

Then, rather than trying to fix a large area with a super wide brush and a single click, I'll approach and retouch it in smaller sections, beginning from the outside and making my way inward. Along with clicking the Spot Healing Brush, you can also click and drag in short strokes. As you drag, your brush stroke will appear black:

Dragging out a short brush stroke with the Spot Healing Brush. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
Dragging a short brush stroke across the area.

Release your mouse button and Photoshop heals the area with surrounding texture:

The result after dragging with the Spot Healing Brush. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
Releasing the brush to let the Spot Healing Brush do its thing.

I'll continue clicking and dragging over the area one small section at a time, going back over any problem spots as needed with additional clicks, and after just a couple of minutes worth of effort, Photoshop was able to do a pretty good job:

The cluster of pimples on the right has been cleaned up. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
The area on the right is now looking a lot better.

I'll do the same thing for the area on the other side, using a small brush and a series of clicks and short brush strokes to tackle the area a little at a time. Here's the result, again after just a couple of minutes worth of effort:

The girl's chin is now pimple free thanks to the Spot Healing Brush. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
Her chin is now pimple-free thanks to the Spot Healing Brush.

There's one larger problem area remaining, and it's directly under her nose:

The remaining area of pimples under the girl's nose. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
A few more pimples left to retouch.

Once again, I'll start by clicking on the individual, isolated pimples to heal them, keeping my brush just slightly larger than the pimple itself:

Healing the smaller areas of pimples first. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
Healing the smaller areas first.

Then I'll use a combination of clicking and dragging with a small brush to heal the remaining area:

Healing the remaining area under the nose with the Spot Healing Brush. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
Clearing up the last of the pimples.

The area is now pimple-free, with healthy skin texture in its place:

The final area of acne has been cleaned up with the Spot Healing Brush. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
Another great job by the Spot Healing Brush.

The Lighten Brush Mode

If you’re using the Spot Healing Brush to remove acne or other skin problems as I am here, you’ll often get even better results by changing the Brush Mode in the Options Bar from Normal (the default setting) to Lighten:

Changing the blend mode for the Spot Healing Brush to Lighten. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
Try the Lighten brush mode when fixing skin problems.

With the brush mode set to Lighten, Photoshop will only replace pixels that are darker than the good texture data. Since pimples and other skin blemishes are usually darker than normal skin tone, only the pimple or blemish itself gets replaced, leaving more of the original image surrounding it intact. If a blemish happens to be lighter than the normal skin tone, try the Darken mode instead. You can quickly switch between all of the brush modes for the Spot Healing Brush from your keyboard by holding down the Shift key and pressing the + or - keys.

For comparison, here once again is what the photo looked like originally:

A close-up of the original problem area. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
The original, untouched image.

And here's our final result:

A close-up of the original problem area. Image © 2016 Photoshop Essentials.com
The final result.

And there we have it! That's how to clear up acne and remove minor skin blemishes, leaving healthy looking skin in their place, using the Spot Healing Brush in Photoshop! Now that you know how the Spot Healing Brush works, take your skills to the next level by learning how to smooth and soften skin in a portrait, or how to reduce the appearance of wrinkles! Or, check out our Photo Retouching section for more image editing tutorials!

Get all of our Photoshop tutorials as PDFs! Download them today!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

You May Also Like...