Easy skin clean up and retouching in Photoshop with the Patch Tool

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.

About the Author:

Courtney is a full time wedding and portrait photographer in central Virginia. She spends most of her free time photographing her children, seeking out magic and whimsy in their everyday. The rest is spent with her husband on a never ending list of renovations on their old house.


  1. Eva Urban Wheelz Jan 30 2018 at 3:25 am - Reply

    The magic you do .. amazing!

    • Courtney Bowles Jan 30 2018 at 8:57 am - Reply

      Thank you very much!

  2. Jennifer Jan 30 2018 at 9:04 am - Reply

    This is so amazing! Clean up is always the hardest for me. It always ends up unnatural looking. I’ll definitely use your tips!

    • Courtney Bowles Feb 01 2018 at 12:48 pm - Reply

      Thank you! Hope it helps!

  3. Nicole Feb 01 2018 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    Awesome tutorial Courtney! Such great tips! Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. Shayla Feb 10 2018 at 3:53 am - Reply

    I have learned here about photoshop path tools process. that you have experienced here perfectly. thank you very much for this beat idea

  5. Solaiman Sumon Feb 19 2018 at 6:54 am - Reply

    Photoshop image editing and retouching tutorials . I have seen the full video clip . Just impressing . Well-done for shared this post .

  6. Danielle Awwad Mar 14 2018 at 11:29 am - Reply

    This was such a wonderful tutorial!

  7. Robert smith Apr 30 2018 at 2:49 am - Reply

    Such a useful tutorial about photo retouching

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