Curriculum Guide Index

SLP Curriculum Guide #24: Retouch Brushes - Example

This series of guides will explore the Photo Enhancement tools or the 'Retouch' Tools. Because these tools are like brushes (brush tips) one can retouch just small areas of a photograph. For the most part the Tools Tool Palette for each Retouch Tool has similar options, so learning to use these options will provide one with great skills to enhance photographs.

Guide #24: Retouch Brushes - Example

The Clone Brush is often used to removed unwanted objects and/or flaws in a photograph. As with many tools it is often best to begin learning the tool by starting with the Default Options. Then when experimenting with various Option values one learns how each option affects the outcome.

Take time to explore these Retouch Brushes to learn how they work on various photographs. One can turn an average looking photograph into a work of art. Let your creativity expand.

Hints and Tips

  1. Clone Brush:
    • Visually determine what area to begin using when removing or cloning over an unwanted object.
    • The basic way of using this Brush is to Right Click when you have a background area wanted for cloning and then Left Click over the unwanted object.
    • Often the better way to create a good blend of background over the unwanted object is to Click rather than Drag the mouse. However, if the background is fairly uniform in color and texture dragging the mouse will tend to work well and faster than individual clicking.
    • The Options:
      1. Size: In removing objects where the background is fairly uniform in texture and color a larger size is fine. Often though when the background is not uniform in color or texture smaller Brush size is best.
      2. Hardness: As a general statement it is often best to use a Hardness value less than 100%, (50% is a good value) in order to blend the background over the unwanted object.
      3. Opacity: Often Opacity is set to full value (100%) though lower values will create a blend that is more transparent and therefore may not totally remove the object. Experiment however to see how this value works.
      4. Aligned Mode: When Checked the background area chosen will move to a new location as one resets the mouse area to be cloned. Uncheck allows the selected background area to remain the same no matter where one places the mouse when cloning. If the background area is fairly uniform in color and texture then Unchecking the Aligned Mode is fine. However, if the background area is not uniform in color or texture, use the Aligned Mode unchecked.
      5. Continuous: Unchecking this box will allow paint to build up over the area being cloned if Opacity is less then 100%. When Checked repeated clicking over an area will have not additional effect beyond the initial click.
      6. Blend Mode: This option is a more advanced option and requires understanding of how the different options function when using All Layers is checked. To learn more about using the Blend Mode use the Help for 'Blending Layers'.
      7. Density: This option is rarely used when cloning as lower density values create more and more of a spotted result (like creating noise).
    • As one clone's watch the result. If unwanted use the Undo (Ctrl + Z) keys and/or reclone. Once the object is removed, particularly if the background area is not uniform in color or texture, clone again over the same area to create better blending by selecting another background area.
    • To clone next to objects one does not want to remove, often it is very helpful to zoom the image and use Thickness (lower the value to create a narrow selection area) and Rotation (use a value that turns the selected area to line up with the object not to be removed).
    • Although not part of this Guide, when finished often using the soften brush over the area (values are important often low values) helps to create a nicely blended finished product. Sometimes using Sharpen Brush will also be useful when finishing the picture.
    • While working a photograph, a useful technique is to not only duplicate the original photo to preserve it and work with the duplicated image but to also use layers. Keep the background layer (duplicated original) and duplicate it as a new layer to work on. If you want to experiment and think the new layer worked on is worth preserving just duplicate it as a new layer and then work on that layer. Once finished not only save it as a PSPIMAGE file for being able to work again on the image, you then can save the layer you like (you may have to turn off other layers) as a JPEG file for use on web pages.
  2. Sharpen and Soften:
    • Except where you clearly want to sharpen or soften areas at 100% it is often better to at least lower the Hardness value to 50% or less to get a better blending of the areas being painted.
    • Sharpening tends to bring out more detail.
    • Softening tends to blur more.
    • Note that Softening often is used to soften the edges of an object to allow the whole object to better blend into the background.
  3. Lighten/Darken and Dodge/Burn:
    • Lighten and Dodge will lighten the area being painted and are similar in their result.
    • Darken and Burn will darken areas and are also similar in results.
    • The contrast tools tend to work, though, slightly differently in their results with Dodge and Burn tending to accentuate detail more while Lighten and Darken tend to affect brightness of the area.
  4. Saturation Up/Down:
    • Saturation affects the depth of the colors. Saturating down will ultimately turn the area to a greyscale without affecting the color density (leaving the density at 16 million colors).
    • Experimentation with this brush is very useful to see how the end results appear in a photograph.
  5. Hue Up/Down:
    • Hue affects the hue or color of the area and can work very quickly so experiment.
    • Use undo (Ctrl + Z) when result is not what you want to be able to start again.
    • As with most of the Retouch Brushes, lower values of hardness and in the case of Hue Opacity are recommended. Also keep Continuous unchecked in order to allow the same area results to build up.

An Example (Click on Thumbnail for full size)

  • Goal: Use most of the retouch tools to illustrate their effect on a photograph.
  • Plan: From original create a photograph that darkens part of the background (bridge), sharpens the foreground (roots at bottom) and blurs upper part of photograph to create a pseudo-3D appearance.
  • Clone Brush: Extended the roots at right and eliminated the green bush leaving just a small portion as a green plant in background behind roots. Technique used included small size (50) and Hardness and Opacity at 50 with small short clicks (right/left clicking) at times varying where the captured area was to add some texture to the new roots.
  • Sharpen: Sharpen the roots and ground in the foreground (bottom half) using similar values as above. Since Opacity was lower than 100% had Continuous unchecked so I could sharpen up to 100%.
  • Burn: Using the Burn Brush to darken yet also create a bit more detail, burned the Bridge and underneath the bridge to darken that whole area.
  • Sharpen: Again sharpened the roots area to accentuate by setting values to 100%.
  • Hue Up: Changed slightly the inverted top shaped root by creating a more purple hue to the inner area.
  • Sharpen: Sharpened the Hue Up area and the root in its front part.
  • Sharpen: Sharpened the Bridge area both the bridge and below it to have highlights.
  • Saturation Up: All leaves where painted with a Saturation Up to deepen (though not totally evident) their appearance.
  • Soften: Softened the top 1/3 - 1/2 of picture at first using 100%. In the middle of the picture dropped the Opacity to 50% to start blending into the foreground with goal of having bottom 1/2 of picture accentuated.


  1. When completing a tutorial or series of tutorials, and having placed them upon your web page, post in the SLP Forum your completed work using this layout:
    • a. Name or Screen Name.
    • b. Web Site URL.
    • c. Version of PSP using.
    • d. List of Tutorials completed.
  2. From exploration of using any of the Clone Tool on images and/or photographs post some of your results and or comments in response to the exercises.
    • a. Indicate what you did so others can duplicate.
    • b. Indicate what option values.
    • c. Add comments on your results and findings of interest.
    • d. Share your questions and comments in the SLP Forum and your graphic results in the member Gallery SLP Album as well as in the Forum.


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