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Clean photos and remove distractions with the patch tool in Photoshop

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It’s not unusual to get smudges and, dirt and footprints on the white seamless paper during a photoshoot. It’s also common the see the edge of backdrop or light modifiers in the scene. I don’t compromise the shoot or worry about them during shooting because they are so easy to fix in Photoshop. This is from one of my recent shoots, where I was using a white backdrop with colored gels. see all the footprints in the bottom of the paper? Let’s clean it up.

We are going to use the patch tool in a different way than you have seen possibly. We will use it like a magic eraser and just dab away the dirt. Don’t forget to check out the short video to see this in action.

footprints on the seamless paper

Remove objects from a photo with the patch tool in Photoshop.

Choose the Patch tool from the toolbox.

Select Source from the top menu.

source vs destination patch tool

Make a selection around the area you want to patch. This is the edge of the backdrop.

fix the edge of the backdrop by filling in photoshop

Drag the selection to a similar colored area without the distractions.

use patch tool in photoshop

Release and it will blend in the fill. It’s that easy. If you are worried about any discoloration, you can repeat.

fills the hole

Clean dirt and smudges from a photo with the patch tool.

Let’s clean up the floor and make it nice and clean.

With the Patch tool selected, choose Destination.

destination with patch tool

Make a selection on the clean area of the photo. (If there is no clean area, use the clone stamp to create one)

smusges and footprints

Drag the patch selection to an area you want to clean.

use patch tool to fix the smudges and dirt

Without deselecting, drag to another area and watch it miraculously become nice and clean. (you have to see this in action on the video)

magic eraser


clean up your photo

and done

remove objects from photo in photoshop

Here I finished it off by adding a little bit of rim light in Photoshop, as well as dodge and burn for impact.

final images retouched

I hope you enjoyed this quick little tutorial.

If you are interested in learning all the tools in Photoshop, check out my brand new course, Photoshop 2022 For Digital Photographers. It’s the fastest way to lean Photoshop. Over 80 lessons and all the same image files are included so you can follow along.

Great to see you here at the CAFE





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22 responses to “Clean photos and remove distractions with the patch tool in Photoshop”

  1. Seasons Greetings to you too Colin. Thanks for keeping us up to date with OS throughout the year and look forward to what’s instore fpr 2022.

  2. This was cool! I use Patch Tool all the time on Source. Never tried the “Mr Clean Eraser” approach with Destination. Now I will after seeing what it does. Thx, Colin.

  3. Hi Colin
    Excellent. Help please, source and destination etc does not show when I select the patch tool. How do I activate the please?
    Using the latest CC

  4. Season’s greetings to you Colin and everyone at Photoshop Cafe.
    Yes, I have been using the Patch Tool with both, Source and Destination, but I did not know that you can move the selected area (in Destination) around to clean other areas as well.

  5. Merry Christmas, Colin
    Your emails add a little fun to my mornings, even with 40 years in graphics. It’s nice that they are free so I don’t need to hunt down permission. Here’s to a good new year. Thanks so much.
    Tamara at Charley’s Greenhouse & Garden

  6. I have, as have others, used the patch tool but only in the Source mode. I have struggled with backgrounds and smudges for years but never realized how simple this tool in the Destination mode can be at simple cleaning jobs.

  7. Hi Colin, love your channel.
    Whenever I use the patch tool I get a blurred half toned smudge as a result. I cannot get a “clean” patch (even by going over the same spot several times). I tried content aware and normal settings but makes no difference. I also tried changing the diffusion and colour settings but no better also. Can you suggest please?

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