New ways to heal, fix, fill, and remove in Photoshop

Adobe has a long history of helping photographers to easily repair parts of their images. The Clone Stamp tool, the Spot Healing Brush tool, the Patch tool, Content-Aware Fill, and the Content-Aware Fill dialog are some examples that come to mind. With these tools, sensor dust, extraneous elements, and even unwanted objects can be removed from an image leaving behind pixels that blend seamlessly into the rest of the image. They’re not always perfect, but Adobe has continued to improve performance to the point that we have come to rely on these tools to make our images more “perfect” when the scene, the light, our equipment, or our technique isn’t optimal.

Recently, Chuck Hallsted emailed to discuss the latest additions to Adobe’s arsenal of clean-up tools, and Dave Kelly made a series of videos taking a closer look at them. While the Spot Healing Brush is often still the first thing I try, especially for removing sensor dust, I’m now feeling bolder when it comes to removing larger “imperfections” in my images and am finding the new tools are a big help. They offer ease-of-use (no new dialog window required) and the results often exceed expectations. In the past I would first use the Spot Healing Brush and follow it up with the Clone Stamp tool to get the best outcome, but these newer tools often provide a better fix in a single pass. I’m glad to see Adobe continues to improve the options for what has become an essential part of our image-processing workflow.

Delete and Fill

Delete and Fill has become my go-to method for repairing larger flaws in an image. It usually works well when using a selection tool like Lasso or Marquee to select the area to remove, but I also use the Object Selection tool if the element I want to remove has distinct edges that the Object Selection tool can find. To a large degree, Delete and Fill is an excellent replacement for the Patch tool. It also seems more capable than Content-Aware Fill in some situations, so is definitely worth trying first-line. In the video below, Dave Kelly shows how to use it.

Delete and Fill keyboard shortcut with the Object Selection tool

As Dave demos in the video above, Delete and Fill is invoked via a context menu accessed by right-clicking on the image after making a selection. If the Object Selection tool is active and the image only has one layer (like the Background layer) then the keyboard shortcut SHIFT+Backspce (Windows) or shift+delete (Mac) can be used to execute Delete and Fill. This could be useful during the initial cleanup of the image before adjustment layers or other pixel layers are added. However, once additional layers are added that reveal image areas outside the selected area, even if the visibility of these layers is turned off, the keyboard shortcuts simply opens the Fill dialog window, at which point the “Content-Aware” option would need to be selected, and since it’s not as reliable as Delete and Fill, this really isn’t the best option. So, these keyboard shortcuts would only be useful for calling Delete and Fill at the beginning of processing the image in Photoshop. The video below demonstrates using this keyboard shortcut.

The Remove tool in Photoshop Beta

One of the newest repair tools that Photoshop recently released in the Beta version of Photoshop is the Remove tool. This tool allows users to paint the areas of the image that need repair and then Photoshop does what appears to be some “cloud” processing to fill the area with pixels that match the surrounding area. Given that this process generally takes longer to complete, it’s not always optimal if Delete and Fill can get the job done. It does have the advantage that it can be done on a blank pixel layer if the “Sample all layers” option is checked in the Options bar. (Delete and Fill requires a pixel layer with a stamped version of the image.) The Remove tool is currently receiving a lot of positive reviews on YouTube, so it will probably be released in the product version of Photoshop eventually. However, given the added processing time for using this tool, it might be worth trying Delete and Fill first so see if it will get the job done. For many less-complex repairs, Delete and Fill will do a perfectly good job. Currently, Photoshop Beta is the only way to access the Remove tool, and it’s probably not worth installing it for just this one tool as issues with color settings and the beta version becoming the default version of Photoshop can occur when it’s installed. However, the Remove tool is a potentially an important new development and that might be coming soon. Dave Kelly takes a look at the Remove tool in the video below.

Multi-image Content-Aware Fill (Photoshop Beta)

Finally, just for completeness, Chuck Hallsted also pointed out the video below. It’s another feature in Photoshop Beta that allows multiple images to be used when repairing an image using the Content-Aware Fill Dialog window. Right now it’s definitely more cumbersome than the previous methods discussed, but this might change if cloud-processing and artificial intelligence are incorporated into the process.


Adobe continues to improve and expand the image-repair methods available in Photoshop. Delete and Fill is definitely worth trying at this point in time. The Remove tool will probably be released as a more accurate “cloud” version of Delete and Fill, but processing time might make its use best reserved for more complex repair situations where Delete and Fill fails to achieve the desired results. Content-Aware Fill might be less needed if Delete and Fill and the Remove tool achieve superior results. The Spot Healing Brush is still the quickest way to remove sensor dust.

3 thoughts on “New ways to heal, fix, fill, and remove in Photoshop

  1. Tony,
    I just tried out the new Remove Tool in Beta and it is fantastic…this is going to be a HUGE time save when doing edits!!!


  2. Apparently, PS has not released the new feature except on BETA versions and it is still being tested per the chat assistant. Gary Ritchie


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