How to clean up skin in Photoshop using the Patch Tool by Courtney Bowles
How to clean up skin in Photoshop using the Patch Tool by Courtney Bowles

When taking photos of children, nothing is perfect.

While editing, I always notice a scratch, blemish, some drool, or even stray crumbs on their faces.

There are many methods of removing imperfections but my favorite is Photoshop’s Patch Tool. I use this tool on both children and adults. I love that it retains the texture in the skin, looks clean and natural rather than plastic-y and blurred.

The Patch Tool (keyboard shortcut is J) works in a way similar to the healing brush but rather than a brush, it works with a selection that you define.

You can use the patch tool itself to make the selection of the area that needs to be patched or removed. Then you drag the inside of the selection to an area of the image – such as clean skin – that can be used to patch over the original selection.

The tool allows you to preview what pixels will be cloned into your selection. Once you release the mouse, Photoshop analyzes both selections and merges them to heal the area.

To completely remove a blemish or scratch, stop here or sometimes an additional patch may be needed to completely remove the scratch.

The patch tool can also be used to soften the skin, lines, and wrinkles. After you make the patch, you’ll fade the selection (using keyboard shortcut command + shift + F). This will open up a fade dialog for you to change the opacity of the patch.

For laugh lines on children’s faces, I normally keep the opacity pretty low, around 30% or so. For adults, depending on the severity or deepness of the wrinkles, I’ll increase the opacity to around 60%.

You do not want to completely eliminate the lines and shadows of the face because that would change the contour of the person’s face.

The patch tool helps eliminate distracting elements in the skin while naturally smoothing and retaining texture quickly and easily. It is my most used tool in Photoshop; I use it on every face I edit.