Distractions are everywhere in photography. They draw the eye away from the subject in the final picture. Shooting on location means dealing with them as much as possible at the time of photography. Often, though, there are things that go unseen until the final is showing on the monitor then… The line on the wall growing out of Tiffany’s arm really bothers me. Notice the mark under her leg and the other line through her hand. These are distractions that a lot of photographers wouldn’t see or choose to ignore. I want people to look at Tiffany, not the flaws on the wall behind her. No problem because they are easily removed in Photoshop. Right? Well… As with most things Photoshop, it’s not as easy as it seems until the secret is revealed.

Setting Cursor Preferences

First let’s set a couple of Photoshop’s preferences to make working with the painting tools easier. On the Mac, choose Photoshop > Preferences > Cursors. In Windows Click Edit > Preferences > Cursors.


Under the Painting Cursors column click the buttons for Full Size Brush Tip and Show Crosshair in Brush Tip. While your are at it, for Other Cursors click the button labeled Precise. You’ll see how great these setting are in a minute.


Strategy map

Here are the lines behind actor Tiffany Dupont that I find distracting. The vertical line on the wall interrupts the graceful flow of her arm. The blob below her leg looks like a wardrobe failure. The line running below her knee and behind her hand causes another visual conflict.


The sample doesn’t match the target

At first look, this is a simple fix. Cloning or healing with the original Healing brush requires choosing a sample area then brushing it over the area to be covered. That works just fine until the retouch reaches the intersection of the line and Tiffany’s arm. The solution is to clone or heal an edge of her arm that doesn’t have the line in it over the portion that does. The problem appears when the sampled edge of her arm doesn’t line up with the target as shown below. The crosshairs for the sample cursor and the target preview cursor show the exact center of the brush. They make choosing sample areas very precise. They also help align the target preview to the actual part of the photo to be retouched.

The sample of Tiffany’s forearm doesn’t match the area than needs covering.

The Clone Source Panel

In Photoshop, choose Window > Clone Source. This is super important. In a minute I’ll give you the keyboard shortcuts to rotate the cursor. First, promise yourself you’ll always open the panel first. Rotate the cursor preview by holding down the Shift + Option (WIN: Alt) + < for counter clockwise and > for clockwise. Notice that the cursor had to be rotated -6.5º to match the sample of Tiffany’s forearm to the target. Click to clone or heal. When the brush is aligned, move up the line a ways to clear enough room to easily finish removing the line. A note of retouching style is important. I start with cloning or healing an edge of  her arm that doesn’t have the line. I click with the cursor aligned on the edge of her arm then clone or heal up into the wall and then down onto her arm. This breaks the line where it intersected her arm. Removing the rest is easy.


Reset the cursor to 0º by click the reset arrow to the right of the angle readout. Having the Clone Source panel open, reminds you to reset the cursor after the target has received the sampled area.

Lining up the cursor

The three steps for aligning the cursor are shown in the illustration below. First sample the area the healing brush or clone stamp tool will use by Option (WIN: Alt) clicking it. The cursor is loaded with a preview of the sample. Second, position the cursor so that one edge of the sample aligns with the target. Rotate the cursor until the sample line is parallel to the target. Third, move the cursor over until the lines match. Click and brush. Done. Use the same process to fix the other obnoxious line to the right.


One more thing…

Remember to reset the angle of the Clone Source panel.

Have fun with this versatile panel in Photoshop. This is not its only trick although I believe it’s the best of them.