Digital Darkroom; The Patch Tool Photoshop

The Digital Darkroom is a series of posts aimed at beginners and those interested in Digital Photography and Editing. In previous weeks we have looked at basic adjustments, curves, editing colour with the HSL/Color panels, black and white toning, split toning, local adjustments, sharpening, noise reduction and Lens Correction and Camera Calibration in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. Moving into Photoshop we have looked at the program’s layout,basic adjustments to light, basic adjustments to colour, basic black and white adjustments, Basic Sharpening, Basic Noise Reduction, Creating Presets and Actions, Basic Masks, Making Selections, Refining Selections, Using the Pen Tool, Clone Stamp, Heal Tool and this week using the Patch Tool to clean an image.
If you wish to check out previous posts in the series you can do here.

Last week we looked at cleaning out images the Heal Brush and the Clone Tool to clean an image as well as combining them with a selection to selectively clean an area of an image. Photoshop is a program that offers you a lot of options to do the same thing. The Patch tool is one of them. The patch tool uses the same algorithms as the heal tool but unlike the heal tool it works using a selection instead of a brush.

The patch tool comes with its own lasso style selection method that you use to trace the area of the selection. However you don’t need to use the tool to make the selection. Any selection method covered a few weeks ago will work fine and then you can switch to the path tool.


In normal mode the patch tool also lets you choose between the selection being a source or destination. For cleaning you need to have source selected but if you wanted to duplicate the area you can also use destination. However the best mode for cleaning an image is actually the content aware mode, as it matches patterns and colours much better. For this post we are going to be concentrating on the content aware mode.

Adaptation with Content Aware

Adaptation pre Photoshop CC can be found under cog icon of the patch tool menu. In Photoshop CC the two options are part of the patch tool menu and both have two options; Structure and Color.

Structure- lets you choose how closely the tool will reflect existing image patterns.  A setting of 5 will be very close and 1 very loose. A setting of 5 would be good for an area that has many repeating patterns that you want to keep, whereas 1 is good for areas that are less detailed. I generally keep  structure at 3 for the first time and then change it if the patch doesn’t quite work.


Color- how much colour blending you want to apply. 10 will apply the maximum strength of the algorithm and 1 the weakest strength. If you use ten the colour blending would be expected to be most accurate compared to 1 where I would expect there to be some haloing.


With the patch tool you can source one layer or all. Depending on the image will depend on what you want to use. I generally will set the source to the all layers, however I can see a situation when only sourcing one layer would be useful; for example when editing a composite and you need to patch out the details on one element.


ex1In this image the problem for me is the traffic light on the right. It doesn’t add a lot to the image and I find it quite distracting. I toned the image in Lightroom and imported the image to Photoshop as a smart object. As with the heal and clone tool, I like to use the patch tool non-destructively so I created a new layer.


ex2Using the patch tool I made a loose selection around the traffic light. I then moved the selection up using the patch tool to select the cloud area above. As you drag the tool you can see a preview of what you are filling the area with. Once I found the right area to replace the traffic light with i released the mouse and let Photoshop blend the area. This sounds straight forward but sometimes things don’t look quite right and some adjustments to the adaptation is needed.
I used a structure of 4 because there is some patterns in there that would need to be replicated and color of 7 because I the colours didn’t need to be exactly right to make it more realistic.

Narutowicza Lindleya Lodz

When to Use The Patch Tool

The patch tool is useful when needing to replace large areas. Of course you could use the heal or clone tool but the patch tool is much quicker and easier that making a selection and sampling the blending to areas together. With the added bonus of content aware the patch tool makes it look less obvious that an area has been replaced.

If you have any questions or comments please use the comment box below, all are welcome as this series is designed to help people learn how to use Photoshop and Lightroom.

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9 thoughts on “Digital Darkroom; The Patch Tool Photoshop

  1. I am going to try this method for getting rid of unwanted stuff in a photo. Seems a little cleaner than the clone, or healing tool.

  2. Such a powerful programme , you’re breaking it down very well for those like me who struggle Ben . I’ve not played as much with it all as I would like so these tutes are very helpful Thank you !

    • Thank you Poppy. It is a very powerful programme and it is very hard to learn just jumping in. I have tried to slice it up as best as I can, so a lot of posts do flow into one another and I am glad that has been helpful to you.

  3. A useful tutorial thank you. I realise now (I think!) that LR does the same thing automatically (with a manual override) but being able to do the same in PS will, no doubt, come in handy.

    • Lightroom’s heal tool has a similar function that you can use and paint the selection. It works pretty much the same although sometimes i choose the patch tool over the LR tool especially when the area is an odd shape.

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