Earlier this week, I published a tutorial about removing distractions with the Patch tool in full Photoshop. Whether you use the Patch tool, the Clone Stamp, or another method of distraction removal, your results often don’t look perfectly natural.

This “Level Up” technique gives you an advanced option for refining your distraction removal work. And just because it’s an advanced option doesn’t mean it’s not easy – it’s just a technique that you don’t usually learn about when you learn about distraction removal.

Also, this tutorial applies to both Photoshop & Photoshop Elements.

You will learn:

  1. Why the Clone Stamp isn’t always enough
  2. How to repair the texture of your “cleaned” area
  3. Other applications of this technique

Before we get started, learn about how we made this drawing in the sand here.

Why the Clone Stamp Isn’t Always Enough

The Clone Stamp, the Patch tool and any other retouching tool you’ll find in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements all have one big obstacle: they all repair unwanted pixels by replacing them with other pixels from your photo.

The little voice in your head might be saying, “Wait. Isn’t that a good thing? We have good pixels and bad, and we want to get rid of the bad and replace them with the good.”

You are right, little voice. BUT, if you have a large area to repair and a small area of good pixels to cover your bad pixels with, you start duplicating the patterns from the good pixels in unnatural ways.

Take this photo that I took on a beach.

Distraction Removal before edits

Neither the wind, the weather, the tides, the other tourists, nor my children cooperated long enough for me find a perfectly clean area of sand for us to write on. I used the Clone Stamp for background cleanup: I removed the footprints, handprints, and rewrites from this photo. That cleaned up version looked like this:

Distraction Removal after clone stamp

Better, right? But the sand looks fake now. Too smooth. Not to mention the fact that my cleanup work wasn’t perfect. This fake appearance happened because the Clone Stamp took away the natural texture of the sand. We all know that sand varies from inch to inch. It has more detail, just like you see between the words we wrote in the sand.

How to Repair Sand Texture After Using the Clone Stamp for Distraction Removal

Luckily, Photoshop gives us lots of tools for repairing texture that we’ve removed. Most of those tools are in the Filter menu. If you’ve been around here long, you’ll know that I don’t use the Filter menu in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements very often. Sure, there are a few features that I do use from this menu (sharpen, blur, liquify and distortion removal), but that barely scratches the surface of what Adobe offers.

To repeat my texture repair for sand, follow these steps:

  1. If you have more than one layer in your file, select the top layer and stamp the visible layers using shortcut Shift Alt/Option Control/Command E. Stamping visible creates a new layer that is a combination of all the layers below it. Double click on this layer’s name to rename it to “Texture.”
  2. Select the lasso tool (Shortcut L) and set its feathering to about 10-20. Loosely draw a selection around anything in the image that you don’t want to add texture to.Distraction Removal selection
  3. Invert your selection by typing Shift Control/Command I. This selects everything you want to add texture to.Distraction Removal inverted selection
  4. You have two options for the next step. If your background has nearly-good texture, like my sand, use option one. If you need to start from scratch with your texture, choose the second option.
    1. Type Control/Command C to copy this selection. Go to the Layer Menu and select New>Layer Via Copy.
    2. Go to the Edit menu and select Fill Selection. Change the Contents drop-down menu to Color – this opens the color picker box. Move your cursor over the sand in your photo – the cursor should change to an eyedropper. Click on a representative area of sand to choose the color for your new texture. Hit OK twice.Distraction Removal choose color
  5. Now we add texture. In the Filter menu, select Noise>Add Noise. Check the Preview box so that you can see your results as you work. Play with the amount- start with about 10%. Gaussian Distribution works well in most cases. I like Monochromatic too, but it depends on the texture you are replicating. Hit OK.distraction removal add texture
  6. Go back to the Filter menu and select the Filter Gallery. Choose Texturizer and Sandstone, as you see in the image below. The other settings will be dependent on your particular image. Experiment with this until you get the look you are going for. The Light option is particularly helpful. If you have sun shining in a specific direction, select that direction for your texture. Also, the Invert option can make a big difference – give it a try.distraction removal texturizer filter
  7. Click OK, and adjust the opacity of this layer to suit your photo. My opacity ended up at about 80%.Distraction Removal layers panel
  8. If your texture doesn’t look great, undo your work and start over at step 4. Use option 1 if you had tried option 2. Or use option 2 with a different color. Also, make sure to experiment with your filter settings as you rework your steps.

Other Ways to Use Texture to Refine Distraction Removal

Now’s a good chance to explore the Filter menu.

The Filter Gallery>Texturizer has several useful settings. You might choose Brick if you are cleaning up a brick background. Canvas works well on drywall. For both of these, use the Scale slider to make the texture look smaller or larger to match the texture in your photo.

Choose Grain instead of Texturizer for other helpful options. You might find options here that would work well on fabric backgrounds.

Check out the Filter>Render menu too. You’ll find Clouds here as well as Fiber. Here’s one way you can use that Clouds filter.

Finally, you can often download textures at no cost. Search online for the type of texture you need to replace and incorporate it into your photo using a layer mask and layer opacity.

Any questions about these techniques? Filters aren’t easy if you haven’t spent much time with them. Post your questions in the comments below and we’ll work it out.

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