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I've been playing around with the patch tool on a customers photo today. I love it. You draw a little selection around the bad stuff and drag the selection to an area you want to clone from. It's really neat to watch. I have several smooth areas of background of this clients work that it works fantastic on. It's so cool. The healing brush works very good too but you have to be careful near areas of dark and light side by side or you wind up with a shade midway between both. Another feature I really like is the file browser. It is so nice to have the contents of your file there in thumbnail form with all the info listed on the side so you know the file specs. I could get spoiled with some of these new toys.
I've been doing very little lately due to problems with my hands. But I did play with the healing brush and patch tool a little, and I'm very impressed with both. But like Debbie said, you probably need to use it for a while to know exactly how to use it best.
Initial thoughts on healing (long)
These thoughts are based on my beta test, I have not used the final shipping version - but I do not think much would have changed in this area.
In previous versions of Photoshop, luminosity blend stamping was a good way to add realistic texture to retouching - but Adobe are doing more than this with the new healing tools of Photoshop 7, although with some images it does initially appear that the luminosity data is simply being applied to the destination pixels.
The healing brush offers it's magic with normal - and luminosity/color blend modes. So it would seem that more is going on than just luminosity blending.
Healing treats the image as being split into _smooth_ and _noise_ content. When retouching, an image often needs the smooth and noise treated in different ways to produce optimal results. I am not a programmer, but perhaps Adobe do some sort of high/low pass filtering or a new algorithm may have been written for this part of the healing task. I guess it does not really matter where the math comes from, as 75% of the time the healing operation works as intended the first time around, which is not often the case with the clone tool on some tough retouching subjects.
Experienced retouchers know that grainy/noisy/textured images are often best handled with a harder brush, if the grain edge interaction is to be preserved, but this often requires more care of samples and smaller brushes. The healing tools use different math to blend the noise component of an image than the smooth component of an image - separate square root math blending of the soruce/destination noise is performed and then blended into the regular math/normal mode blending of the source/destinations smooth component. At the same time, a new heal operation takes place and then the image data is recombined and served.
After you release the mouse or patch - you will notice the heal operation take place in the staus bar, which is a post processing move rather than a live processing move as with the clone tool.
The healing tool can work with variable hardness, but seems to work well with the harder/hard settings, as the results are easier to predict (it can be hard to predict the brush feather and heal interaction with softer settings, although it depends on the size of the heal and the image content).
Since the healing tools are performing complex smooth/noise blending and healing between source/destination data - YOU CANT HEAL TO TRANSPARENCY as with the basic clone tool (which simply shifts pixels).
The clone tool worked in high bit mode (unlike paint tools) since it was moving existing blocks of data around, and not generating new high bit data on the fly. It is nice to see that the healing process is not limited to regular bit data, as high bit workflow users can take advantage of the healing process on their untoned images - with a higher chance that after a copy of the master archive image is toned (levels, curves) the retouching will not be amplified (pattern may not be an option in 16 bpc).
Users used to stamping to a transparent layer will either need to copy larger feathered general selections to a new layer - or simply retouch on a entire duped layer or file. Sadly you can't have your cake and eat it too, when it comes to using the healing brush in a similar way to the clone tool. The results of the new tools often outweigh the smaller file size or familiar ease of use of the old transparent layer stamping.
Healing is not an exact science - and the process can be helped by using a selection to isolate the retouch to a specific area. This may not be needed for all healing tasks, but if you encounter a edge blend issue or spill over of unwanted data - a selection can help isolate the heal.
There are limited blending modes available to the healing brush - with most work simply being performed in normal blend mode, although the other commonly useful blending modes for retouching are available too.
Of special note is the _replace_ healing brush blend mode - which acts more like the traditional clone tool in normal mode, although it does not overcome the transparency issue (it is not the clone stamp). In replace mode, the process does not heal and only blends the noise/smooth components of the image, as in the other modes. So if you find the heal process is not helping, you can still benefit from the improved math blending of the soruce/destination noise component and use the tool like an improved clone stamp (but no painting to transparent data).
I can't quite say what the actual 'heal' process really is - but it often looks like an extreme gaussian blur, although I am sure something more is going on rather than just normal mode blending of source/destination data with a averaging/blur thrown into the mix.
I have a great flatbed scan of the skyline of Darling Harbour, Sydney at dusk - with a 'ding' right in the middle of the tranny in the gradated sunset sky. This was a chore to retouch with the clone tool and any blending mode and sample point etc...the healing brush or patch make this correction quicker with less noticeable results. Retouching of skin is now a breeze too.
In some more extreme repair cases, you may find that the healing process does too good a job - and attempts to retain to much detail in the damaged area while it is blending. In this case the clone stamp or floated selections or other tradtional methods might be best, before the healing tools are used to refine the edge join with their improved noise blending...or perhaps replace mode would be used before regular 'old school' methods.
I hope this helps new users with their initial healing attempts. The clone tool is not removed from the average retouchers toolkit, nor are intelligent sample points and artistic judement - they are just reduced to a minimum. The new tools are not perfect, but they are not cheap and gimicky either.
Unlike regular brushes, the healing brush have a specificly limited set of brushes and options - and do not access the new more powerful brush engine as does the clone stamp.
If 'cosmetic' retouching is a big part of your work, then I am sure you will be impressed with the new healing brush and patch tools.
The healing patch can be used in two general ways (and a third with a saved texture pattern, which I have not explored much yet - but could be promising). One method you make a selection of the damaged area, then drag this to the clean area you would like to use as a heal source - the other method reverses this workflow where you select clean pixels and drag to damaged areas.
Thanks for a brilliant assessment of the new tool. Now if I can just remember a little of that!
I took a while to read but you sure got down to the nitty gritty on the healing brush tool. Lots of good info.
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