Are you looking for a great way to touch up your images or remove blemishes? Well you have access to the Spot Removal tool which is surprisingly versatile.

Advanced Healing Brush (a.k.a. the Spot Removal tool)

Lightroom 5, Adobe Bridge and Photoshop CC 2014 all share the Camera Raw 8 processing engine. What this means is there is only one Camera Raw that is shared by all three applications. The user interface in Lightroom is different than that of Camera Raw hosted by Bridge or Photoshop.

Note: For purposes of clarity, when I say Lightroom I am talking about Lightroom’s user interface for Camera Raw. When I say Camera Raw I am referring to the the dialog seen in Bridge or Photoshop.

New math

Lightroom 5 and Camera Raw 8 in Bridge and Photoshop feature a super improved Spot Removal tool. There are two major improvements. The first is simply (if you are an algorithm maestro) better math behind the working of the tool. Using version 8 of Camera Raw automatically and dramatically improves the results with the Spot Removal tool over the previous version.


The big news is the Spot Removal tool now supports painting over an area to be healed or cloned. Previously, only the area in a circle could be retouched. The photograph of Amy shows the edge of the beauty dish lighting her and an “A” clamp on her bustier. The Q key opens Lightroom’s Spot Removal tool. I’ll use Healing on the beauty dish and Clone on the “A” clamp.

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Removing the clamp

The Q key chooses the Spot Removal tool. If Lightroom is in a different module, pressing Q first opens Develop then the advanced healing brush. In the Navigator panel on the top of the Develop module left side bar, click the 1:1 setting. Clicking inside of the preview will zoom in to show 100% of the pixels. Retouching, especially removing something like the “A” clamp must be done at the 1:1 view or higher to make certain the work is perfect. Accurate retouching can’t happen at lower resolution views.

Shift + Q toggles between the Clone and Healing functions. This retouch requires cloning out the “A” clamp then healing the hard line. I start with Clone using a ten pixel brush to paint carefully over the orange “A” clamp. The improved patch match algorithm analyzes the painted portion of the photo then it looks for an area to replace it with. Sometime successfully, sometimes not so much. This isn’t a problem. Simply grab the sampled pin and drag it to an appropriate location to replace the targeted portion or tap the forward slash key ( / ) to have Lightroom choose another sample position.

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The Healing function reaches out to surrounding areas to blend the sampled area into the one being healed. Brighter or different colored places to be healed will often blur into the subject in a not at all pleasing way as shown in the example below. Clone over a bright or colored area first then use the healing tool to blend in visible edges.SO Color Change-008

Healing works really well for even large areas like the beauty dish. I painted over the beauty dish in the healing mode then moved the sample area to a location that did not have any obvious textures. Our eyes are very keen pattern recognizers. It’s a great idea to avoid healing or cloning from sample areas that will cause a duplicate shape or pattern.

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Lightroom’s interface relies on shortcut keys to keep the number of check boxes and buttons to a minimum. These are the shortcuts for the advanced healing brush tool:

  • Q – Spot Removal Tool
  • Shift + Q – Toggles between Clone & Heal
  • Option (PC: Alt) Scissors tool. Click on a pin to delete it. Option (PC: Alt) drag around a group of pins to remove them.
  • / – Chooses a new sample location.
  • H – Toggles between hiding & showing the pins, sample & target areas when the cursor is inside the preview area.
  • Shift, then Shift + Click – Clicking on a point then shift clicking on another clones or heals in a straight line.

RAW retouching

Performing as many edits as possible in Lightroom or Camera Raw keeps working in Photoshop to a minimum. The advanced features of the Spot Removal tool makes retouching RAW files a lot more practical. I find myself working more and more in Lightroom & Camera Raw. I spend less time in post and more behind the camera. I believe you will too.

2192-PSW LV lightingKevin is a commercial photographer from Atlanta. He works for fashion, architectural, manufacturing and corporate clients. When he’s not shooting, he contributes to Photoshop User magazine & writes for