Retouching tools are provided in all editing software, although entry-level applications may provide few of them and offer limited scope for adjusting them. Most applications apply adjustments with ‘brushes’ that can be adjusted with sliders, usually in a pop-up dialog box that resembles the screen grab below. Brushes can also be set via a dropdown menu in either the menu bar or the toolbox.



Adjusting the size and softness of a brush in the pop-up dialog box in Photoshop.

The Fade slider tool is usually found in the Edit dropdown menu. This slider can be used to reduce the impact of most editing adjustments, letting you pull back on brightness, contrast and colour adjustments when you think you have gone slightly over-the-top.


Locating and using the Fade slider to reduce over-saturation, which has been applied via the Saturation slider in the Vibrance function.

It comes in handy for controlling the Auto adjustments for tone, contrast or colour if the default setting over-corrects. It can also be used to change the strength of dodging and burning. It’s important to understand that for all adjustments any Fade changes will only affect the last stroke made.

Cloning and Healing

Sometimes an image may contain elements you would like to remove but in positions that make them impossible to remove by cropping. In such cases, the cloning tool provides an easy fix. In most editing software, the cloning tool is indicated with a rubber stamp icon. It works by copying a selected area and repeating it in a new section of the image.

You can usually choose the size of the cloning ‘brush’ and determine whether it has hard or soft edges. Most software will also let you adjust the ‘strength’ of the copying so you can let the layer beneath the cloned area show through ““ if so desired.


Selecting the Cloning tool in Photoshop. The ‘brush’ is shown at the end of the red line, with the dialog box for adjusting its size and edge softness just below the menu bar.

The Healing Brush (which is often denoted by a Band-Aid icon) is used to correct imperfections in images. It works by sampling the colours and textures in the area around the blemish and blending the mark into the background. Some applications provide two settings: Healing and Spot Healing. With the former, you must select the area containing the hues and textures you wish to replicate. Spot healing makes the selection automatically, based on the area around the blemish.


Using the Healing Brush to remove a minor blemish from a subject’s face.

Photoshop provides two versions of the Healing Brush tool: the Spot Healing Brush Tool is fully automatic, while the Healing Brush Tool lets users select the sampling area manually.

Manual sampling is preferable with detailed images where automatic sampling may select from part of the image that doesn’t quite match the area that needs to be corrected.

Red-eye correction

Most editors provide one-click correction for the red eyes that can result from subjects being photographed with on-camera flash. It can be as simple as selecting the correction ‘brush’ and ‘painting’ over the affected area or drawing a rectangle around the area that contains the red eye.


Correcting red-eye in Photoshop is as simple as selecting the Red Eye tool from the Healing Brush dropdown menu and drawing a rectangle around each affected eye.

In older editors that don’t provide a one-click option, corrections can be made with a soft brush that has a tip slightly smaller than the affected eye. You simply select an appropriate colour, either by using the eyedropper tool or via the Colour Picker in the toolbox and use it to paint out the red colour.

Another option is to select the area that is red, create a new Layer via Copy and desaturate the colours with either the Saturation or Vibrance slider. (Moving either slider all the way to the left removes all colours, turning the area into black.) Flatten the image to merge the layers before saving the corrected image.

Dodging and Burning

Dodging and burning tools take us back to the chemical darkroom days when special tools were used to lighten (dodge) or darken (burn) specific areas of a photo by increasing or limiting the exposure in those areas when making a print. These tools are simulated in image editors by brushes, which can be adjusted as outlined above.


Selecting a dodging brush to lighten shadows in Photoshop.

Clicking on the tool in the Toolbar (circled in red in the illustration on page 84) allows you to open a dropdown menu for selecting which tones will be affected. The size and hardness of the brush are set via the Brushes dropdown menu just left of the Range and Exposure settings for the dodging or burning tool.

The beauty of these tools is that they only affect the range of tones selected. So if you select the Shadows range with the Dodge tool, you can ‘paint’ the brush over areas containing highlights, midtones and shadows and only the shadows will be lightened.

Be cautious about using the Burn tool to darken very light-toned areas. Where there is no colour information to sample, the tool will use neutral density (grey) to darken the brushedover area. This often produces unattractive results.

Colour replacement

Occasionally you may want to change the colour of an object in a photo, either to make it stand out or merge in with the background. Many editors include a Replace Colour tool for this purpose. It’s not the most professional way to change colours in an image and may not deliver the results you need, but it usually works well for simple tasks.


Changing the colour of the green sail in this picture to harmonise with the pink colour of the child’s top.

Start by using the eyedropper tool to select the sail colour in the Colour Picker (circled). Then select Image > Adjustments > Replace Colour. Areas containing the selected colour will appear as white in the dialog box that appears. Colour replacement is achieved by adjusting the Hue, Saturation and Lightness sliders below the selection preview.

The best results are obtained with area of colour that have well-defined boundaries. But even then, you will probably need to set the Fuzziness slider above the preview window to 100% to catch in all of the coloured area.

Adding Text

There are many situations when you might want to add text to images: creating greeting cards or titles for slideshows or books, labelling illustrations; the list is endless but the process is simple. To provide a basic example we’ve chosen the creation of a greeting card.


Selecting the Text tool and font in Photoshop.

Start by selecting the Text tool from the toolbox and draw a rectangle in which to place the text on the image. This rectangle creates a separate text layer. Then choose a font from the dropdown menu in the menu bar.

The position of the text in the box can be selected by clicking on the option in the area circled in the right side image. For this example, we have chosen to position the text in the middle of the box.


Setting the font characteristics and entering the text. The final frame shows how the Move tool in the toolbar can be used to reposition the text layer on the image.

The next steps are to select the font colour by clicking on the box circled in red in the left side picture. This opens the Colour Picker, shown overlaid on the image.

Then select the font style from the dropdown menu, shown in the central image. The text is shown in cyan because it is being adjusted. Once the font style and colour have been determined, the text box can be repositioned by selecting the Move tool, circled in red in the right side image.

These adjustments are the ‘tip of the iceberg’ for editing tools. Use the links at the end of this chapter to discover more tools and options for using them. With practice you will develop your own set of tools and preferred ways of using them, which will help you to become proficient in editing all of your images.


Excerpt from  Photo Editing Pocket Guide