Using the Brush Tool in image retouching!

Creating convincing grain over an air-brushed area.

Most Adobe Photoshop users, from novice to pro, will recoil at the thought of using the Brush Tool in restoring or manipulating any portion of a photographic image. This is understandable as this process usually results in a ‘very digital’ and texture-less conclusion. Many have abandoned the Brush Tool altogether in preference to the Clone/Stamp, Heal Tool or Pattern Maker as primary methods.

I use the Brush Tool on a regular basis and have done so for the past 10 years to reconstruct any part of an image that cannot be easily repaired via the Clone/Stamp Tool or by using copy(Ctrl C), paste(Ctrl V) and Transform (Ctrl T). When so much of an image has been lost and options are thin on the ground, using the Brush Tool is still a viable alternative.

Rebuilding using the Brush Tool

Here is a step by step recipe for creating a photo realistic object using the Brush Tool.

  1. Firstly, create a blank new layer to isolate the region of your image to which you will apply the Brush Tool.
  2. Outline the shape of the object that you would like to create using the Polygonal Lasso Tool.
  3. Now, mix a base-colour/tone using the ‘Color’ floating palette (menu: Window> Color).
  4. Paint over the selected area to fill, or flip your colour-chip (quick key X) and then fill (Ctrl Backspace). This will form the primer colour/tone of your object.
  5. Change the opacity of the paint and blend in all required shadows, highlights and patterns to create detail in the object. Some artistic skill may be needed.
  6. Once finished, de-select (Ctrl D) any selection you may still have.
  7. Add noise to your layer (menu: Filter>Noise>Add Noise). I suggest a small amount between 1.5 to 2.5 to start with.
  8. Now, add a little Gaussian Blur (menu: Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur), between 0.5 to 1.5. Adjust until preview displays desired result.
  9. Flatten image (menu: Layer>Flatten Image).


That should do it. If the grain doesn’t match, try using a greater or lesser combination of Noise and Gaussian Blur. Although some may use Photoshop’s own grain generator (menu: Filter>Texture>Grain…), I prefer to maintain an enhanced level of control over the appearance of photographic grain.

Remember: Using this technique, you should find that by fine-turning the mix of Noise and Gaussian Blur, you can produce any type of grain.

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