How to Work with the Patch Tool in Adobe Photoshop

How to Work with the Patch Tool in Adobe Photoshop

Here’s everything you need to know about the Patch Tool with this step-by-step tutorial to touch up your images.

When you take a picture only to later realize it wasn’t perfect, you don’t have to go back and reshoot the photo. Instead, you can use the help of an image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop. The software has several magical tools that can do wonders to your photo.

One of those is the Patch Tool. When there’s an element that you want to remove, or if there’s a certain part of an image that you want to duplicate, the Patch Tool is your magic weapon. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial for touching up your images with the Patch Tool.

What Is the Patch Tool?

The Patch Tool is found in Adobe Photoshop and can be used to retouch your photos. It’s classified under the Spot Healing Brush group because they have similar functions. But, while the Spot Healing Brush works by brushing on the image, this tool works by selecting a part of the image.

Where to Find the Patch Tool

The Patch Tool can be found in the Toolbar. If you can’t see your toolbar, click on Windows and make sure there’s a check mark next to the submenu Tool. In the Toolbar, the Patch Tool is located under the Spot Healing Brush Tool. Right-click on it, and you’ll find the Patch Tool on the third row. Once you’ve clicked on it, whenever you press the shortcut J on your keyboard, you’ll automatically be selecting the Patch Tool.

Patch ToolThe Patch Tool is located under the Spot Healing Brush Tool in the Toolbar.

What Can You Do with the Patch Tool

In a nutshell, the Patch Tool can do two things: Remove an element and duplicate an element. Scroll down for an explanation of each function.

Removing Unwanted Elements from an Image

The first thing you can do with the Patch Tool is remove unwanted elements in your image. But, when do you need to consider removing elements in your image?

You don’t want to show the element (for example: when there’s dirt, blemishes, or a photobomb that reduces the aesthetic of the image)If the element is distracting from the main focus of the imageYou just want the photo to look cleanerYou want to have more blank space within your photo

Removing ElementsThe Patch Tool can be used to remove elements from the image. Image via Yurii_Yarema.

Removing ElementsBefore and after removing elements from the image with the Patch Tool.

How to Remove Unwanted Elements with the Patch Tool

The first step is, of course, opening your image in Adobe Photoshop. Then, if you use any version of Adobe Photoshop before Photoshop CS6, you need to duplicate the background layers. However, if you use Photoshop CS6 or newer, you can either use a duplicated background layer or an empty layer on top of the image. This duplicated layer is used to prevent damaging the original image and serves as a safe, new canvas to experiment on.

Duplicating BackgroundDuplicate your background layer as a working space for the Patch Tool.

Now, select the Patch Tool (J). On top of the canvas, choose Source.

Select SourceTo remove an element, choose Source on the menu bar.

Choose the element you want to remove in your image. For this tutorial, we’ll remove the white flower petal on top of the main image. Create a selection around the image. Make sure that the selection area isn’t touching any part of the element you don’t want to remove. When you finish selecting, drag the selection to the empty space near the element. Now, your element has disappeared!

Removing ElementStep-by-step example of removing the unwanted element.

What actually happens is that the area you chose first is being replaced by the area you chose after you dragged the initial selection. Therefore, make sure the destination area that you choose is similar to the background of the source element’s background.

To remove another element, deselect the selection by pressing Ctrl+D (or Cmd+D), and repeat the steps. To finish, deselect the selection again.

Cloning an Element in an Image

Another thing you can do with the Patch Tool is clone an element in an image. In photo manipulation terms, cloning means the act of copying part of an image from one area to another. Here are some examples of when you need to clone a part of an image:

Filling an empty spaceMaking a border of one area with anotherBalancing out an imageMaking a background or pattern from an image

Clone Element AnimationThe Patch Tool can be used to clone elements in an image.

Cloning an ElementBefore and after cloning an element with the Patch Tool.

How to Clone an Element with the Patch Tool

Open your image, duplicate the background layer, and choose Patch Tool (J). Now, instead of choosing Source, choose Destination.

Choose DestinationTo remove an element, choose Destination on the menu bar.

Make a selection around the element you want to clone. When you finish selecting, drag the selection to where you want the cloned element placed. Now, you have a twin element!

Cloning an ElementStep-by-step example of cloning an element.

Make sure that when you select the element, it doesn’t intersect with any elements you don’t want to clone. Also, make sure that your destination place is a blank space or a non-blank space that’s okay to cover with another element.

To clone another element, deselect the selection by pressing Ctrl+D (or Cmd+D), and repeat the steps. To finish, deselect the selection again.

Content-Aware Patch

The Patch Tool has two modes: Normal mode and Content-Aware mode. On the previous sections, we used Normal mode. The difference between Normal and Content-Aware is that when we choose Content-Aware, the patch will synthesize nearby content for seamless blending with the surrounding content.

Enabling Content-AwareFrom the Patch menu bar, choose Content-Aware.

On the Content-Aware menu bar, there are several options that you can adjust.

Structure: Adjusting how closely the patch should reflect existing image patterns. If you put it on maximum (7), the patch adheres strongly to existing image patterns. If you put it on minimum (1), the patch adheres loosely to existing image patterns.Color: Adjusting the amount of color-blending applied to the patch. If you enter 0, color blending is disabled. If you enter 10, it will apply maximum color blending.Sample All Layers: Enable this option to create the move in another layer using information from all layers. Select the target layer in the Layers panel.

Check out these additional image editing tips and tutorials:

How to Retouch Old, Dusty, or Scratched Photos in PhotoshopWhy the New Photoshop Content-Aware Fill Is Insanely PowerfulHow to Smooth Edges in Photoshop After Making a SelectionCreative Cloud Update: How to Use Focus Area, New Content-Aware, and More5 Ways to Use Basic Compositing in Your Video Projects

Cover image via Yurii_Yarema.

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