Remove Objects with the Patch Tool in Adobe Photoshop

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May 7, 2021
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Even though I use Adobe Photoshop almost every day of my life, I still find myself in awe of some of it’s capabilities. Those capabilities, combined with the creativity of its users, leave me speechless. One of the areas I’m most interest in and curious about is how to make things “disappear.” While there are many tools that help something like this happen, one of the more powerful is the Patch Tool.

What’s the Patch Tool? Well, let’s take a look at what Adobe has to say about it:

The Patch tool is used to remove unwanted image elements. The Content-Aware option in the Patch tool synthesizes nearby content for seamless blending with the surrounding content. The results are similar to Content-Aware Fill, but using this tool gives you the flexibility to choose the source area.

That pretty much sums it up. But, as usual, a definition just isn’t going to cut it here. In today’s post, I’m going to work through a small project where I’ll use the Patch Tool to remove a tree from a tree line. While this is one use for the tool, it’s also often used for removing things like imperfections in a photo, independent leaves from the ground or maybe even graffiti from a wall. There are all sorts of uses, but I’ll leave those up to you.

The Original Photo​

Below is the photo I’ll be using for this post. The reason I chose it is because the trees are distinct from one another. Removing objects becomes exponentially more difficult when they aren’t separate from other objects, so for a first post on the topic, I though this was appropriate.


My goal is to remove the tree on the left side of the photo. Let’s pretend there’s a good reason for this. Obviously, it’s going to make the photo lopsided, but I suppose we’ll have to just live with that. After all, this is only for demonstration purposes.

The Patch Tool​

The Patch Tool can be accessed by pulling out (clicking and dragging) the Spot Healing Brush Tool in the left vertical toolbar. Once you choose the tool, you can simply press the J key on your keyboard to quickly access it again if you ever wander off to use another tool.


Copy Layer​

The first thing I’m going to do to start this project is copy my background layer, so I’ve got two layers. If I need the original for anything, it’ll be safely tucked away below the layers above it. I won’t touch the bottom layer. It’s just a safety. I’ll use the top layer as my working layer.

To duplicate the background layer, I’ll drag it down to the bottom of the Layers panel and let it go on the Create New Layer icon. This is the result of that:


I also renamed both layers to Background and Removed Tree. I really need to get into this habit more because it’s very helpful as an organizational technique if I’m working with many layers.

Patch Tool Settings​

There are two settings that would work well with this project. I’ve tested both of them and I really can’t tell the difference between the results. The settings are Normal and Content-Aware and they can be found in the options bar at the top of Photoshop.


The essence of both of these modes is that they allow you to circle an object and move it until it becomes invisible. You can set the edge softness (blend) of the encapsulated area and set how you would like the fill to appear. For this project, I’ll use the Content-Aware mode because I like that one best.

Two additional settings that I’ll be taking advantage of under the Content-Aware mode are:

Structure: Offers values between 1 and 7. 1 resembles the patched area very loosely (will blend more) and 7 resembles the patched area much more tightly (won’t blend as much – will be more accurate to the original area).

Color: This setting affects the blend as well. You can choose a value between 0 and 10. 0 offers no color blend and 10 offers the most color blend.

I suggest experimenting with these settings for any photo you work on. Since I’m working with a very soft sky area, I would like as much blend as possible, so I’ll choose both 1 for Structure and 10 for Color.

Patching Over the Tree​

The first time you see how this tool is used will slightly confuse you. The basic way it works is this; you use the Patch Tool to surround, or lasso an area of a photo. For this project, I’ll lasso the top part of the tree first and then the bottom part of the tree after that. Once something is lassoed, you can drag it somewhere else in the photo and let go. In this photo, I want to replace the tree with the sky and the grass, as if the tree never existed. The area you drag the lassoed object to should be similar to the object’s background. I’ll show you below. It’ll make much more sense.

The first area I’m going to select is the top part of the tree. I’m going to do this in sections because it’s much more easy to manage that way. Once I select the area, I’ll see the marching ants. The way to select something is to draw around it as if you had a pencil in your hand.


Once the object is selected, I can drag it to another spot in the photo that resembles what I’d like the original area to look like. Take a look at the screenshot below:


The best way for you to get used to what’s happening is to try it in your own photo. In the above screenshot, I’m still dragging. I haven’t let go of the mouse pointer yet.

In this next screenshot, I continued dragging into the sky and let go. Check out what the original area (where the tree was) now look like.


You can see how the leaves aren’t there anymore and how the top of the tree was replaced with the sky. Because of the Content-Aware setting and the blend options I used, the part of the tree that remains fades into the clouds. Next, I’ll do something similar to remove the bottom of the tree.

With this next selection, I switched to Normal mode because I’m dealing with more of a detailed area – the grass. If I stayed with the Content-Aware, the grass would end up blurry. That’s the beauty of this tool. You can flip back and fourth.


You can see that I grabbed some of the grass in this selection. That was intentional. I’m going to use that grass to align the selection. Next, I’ll drag the selection to the right and try to line up the grass horizon.


In the above screenshot, I made things very obvious for you, so you could see how I can move the selected object around and line it up with something else. Now, I’ll properly align the grass and let go of my mouse.


If I hit Ctrl+T (Windows) or Command+T (Mac) on my keyboard to free transform the object, I can twist it slightly counter-clockwise so the angle of the selected grass matches the angle of the existing grass even more.


When finished, I can hit Enter on my keyboard to apply the transformation and then I can head up to the Select > Deselect menu item and click on it. That will deselect the object and remove the marching ants.

Here’s the final photo with the removed tree:


If someone were to view this photo, I’m willing to wager that they would never guess there was a tree in the spot where one used to be.

The more you practice with this tool, the better you’ll get. The trick is to use it under the right conditions. Don’t try to go crazy with it where it won’t work. It’s better to take advantage of it where you can get good results.

I hope I effectively introduced you to the Patch Tool in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks!


May 7, 2021
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How To Use the Patch Tool in Adobe Photoshop​

For years, I wondered what in the heck the Patch Tool in Adobe Photoshop was. It wasn’t until pretty far into my photography and designing that I ever bothered to check it out. Back in the day when I was doing this stuff more professionally, I was so used to doing everything by hand that I glossed right over some of the better tools that would have saved me tons of time. I’m a glutton for punishment, I know.

One of the tools that can really help out a photo editor is the Patch Tool (keyboard shortcut J and Shift+J). It can be found over in the left vertical toolbar, if you click and drag out the Spot Healing Brush Tool. Basically, the Patch Tool can make things in a photo disappear like magic. It’s really awesome, especially if you would like to remove an object from a photo that doesn’t have a lot of clutter. The best part is, it’s an extremely simple tool to take advantage of. There’s not much of a learning curve involved.

In today’s post, I’d like to show you how this tool works. I’ll be using an example photo of an airplane and I’ll be making that airplane fly off somewhere else. When I’m finished, all I’ll be left with is a nice blue sky. You’ll have to use your imagination to conjure up different applications where this tool might assist you with your photos.

Demo Photo​

This is the photo I’ll be using for this post. As you can see, I’ve got some room around the plane, which is perfect. My goal is to keep just the sky and remove the airplane altogether.


For the sake of keeping things realistic, we’ll have to pretend that I want a nice sky photo for use in another project. Either that, or I just love pictures of clouds.

Activating the Patch Tool​

Since I’ve already got the photo I’d like to work on open in Photoshop, I’ll size it to fit my work area by pressing Ctrl+0 (zero) on my keyboard and head straight for the Patch Tool over in the left vertical toolbar.


Now, if you’ve ever used the Lasso Tool, you’ll go about working with this tool with ease. It shares the same “lassoing” characteristics with the Lasso Tool.

Once the Patch Tool is selected, a new options bar at the top of Photoshop will appear. Basically, there are four values you want to concern yourself with. They are Patch, Structure, Color and Sample All Layers.


Next to Patch is a drop-down box. The two current options for this attribute are Normal and Content Aware. If you want Photoshop to patch over the object using its magical algorithm so everything blends together nicely, choose Content Aware.

The two options to the right of Patch are called Structure and Color. Both use sliders to determine their values. If you want the patch that will be placed over the object you want to remove to represent the area you’ll be using as a patch very closely, raise this value. If you want just a general “idea” of a replacement, lower this value. Since the photo I’m using has a fuzzy, cloudy background, I’ll use a low value, so things blend in as much as possible. I’ll use a value of 1.

As far as color goes, the lower the value, the less the blend. If you raise the value all the way to 10, you’ll be employing the maximum amount of color blending that Photoshop allows. Again, since the background of the image I’m using is soft, I’ll keep this value high. I’ll use a value of 10.

Since I’m working directly on the background layer, the Sample All Layers option isn’t available. If I were to create a new blank layer to work on, this option would become available and would allow me, if checked, to sample visible layers below the blank layer that’s currently selected. This is especially helpful if you’re trying to work in a non-destructive fashion.

Drawing Around the Object​

Now that I’ve got everything set, I’ll simply draw around the airplane and the smoke trail behind it. Again, this is just like using the Lasso Tool at this point.


It doesn’t have to be perfect, but when drawing, you should try to keep close to the outline of the object.

Once I let go of the Patch Tool, the line I just drew turned into marching ants, as if I were using a selection tool.


Moving the Object​

From here, all I need to do is drag the outlined object somewhere else in the photo. Ideally, I would drag to an area that looks like something I’d like to replace the object with. With this in mind, I’ll drag the airplane directly below where it currently sits.

dragging-object.jpg dragged-object.jpg

Once I find a nice spot, I can let go. Photoshop will take a few seconds to process the area that will replace the airplane.


Once the computation is finished, I’ll be left with a new outline of marching ants. I’ll just click anywhere in the work area to remove those marching ants and I’ll have my finished product.


Fine Tuning the Result​

After following the instructions above, if you find strange looking outlines or anomalies, don’t worry. You can continue repeating these instructions by patching over those outlines and anomalies. Eventually, things will look the way you want them to.


I hope I helped you understand a bit of how the Patch Tool works in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

COMMENT: One other feature (at least in CS6): If you want to fade the effect of the patch transformation you can go to Edit->Fade Patch Selection… and use the slider to change the opacity. This works well when retouching things like wrinkles around the eyes when you don’t want to make the result look too drastic or artificial. P.S. I thoroughly enjoy your Photoshop posts and look forward to seeing them in my inbox. I’ve learned more PS techniques through your posts than any other source.

COMMENT: Thanks for the tip! That’s a really good one. Also, I love that you get something out of these posts. I’m truly happy that you’re learning something from them. Thanks for the comment!