There are a couple different Affinity Photo image repair tools: clone, healing, blemish, patch and in-paint. Each of these tools has a use case, a particular kind of problem it is good at solving. And, there is plenty of overlap. You can solve the same problems with many of them. Which you choose is a matter of preference. Read on below and check out the video to learn more.
Once Upon a Time… There was only the clone stamp brush.
The Clone Brush tool is separate from the other healing tools in Affinity Photo. It lives on the tool bar all by itself. There is a good reason it isn’t grouped with the other tools. The Clone Brush is simple and doesn’t include any wizardry to blend in your repair. The other tools mentioned, as you will see below, all include some level of automatic blending or texture matching.
Clone simply copies from your source point to wherever you click to brush. It does a pixel by pixel copy, applied through the brush settings (see below). It will even obey the dynamics if you use them. Here is an example with a large brush and 100% hardness (a sharp edge circle):
Clone is the original image repair tool. It used to be my go to, but not any more. Regardless, you might use the Clone Brush when you:
- want to remove something from an area of uniform text/color/tone.
- need to duplicate something in the image in a new location.
- have a large source area to clone from.
The clone brush can be very frustrating if you don’t have a good source area available. This often happens in photos because the light subtly shifts across the image, or because of the relative focus of different areas. If you clone from an area that is very sharply focused into an area that is slightly out of focus, or vice-versa, it will stick out.
Affinity Photo Image Repair Tools
The intelligent image repair tools can be found near the bottom of the tool bar. The icon that appears depends on which tool you last image repair tool you used. Think of it as a deck of cards with the last card on top. To change tools, click-hold on the top icon until the menu pops up. Then select the tool you want and it will be on top and selected.
These tools are group together because they are all intelligent tools for repairing specific types of problems. How do you choose between them?
Healing Brush Tool
The Healing Brush Tool can be thought of as a texture clone. It uses a source point just like the simple Clone Brush, and obeys the Brush Settings. As you drag click, it will copy the texture from the source area and attempt to blend it in with the existing background color and tone.
The healing brush is ideal for healing small patches of texture, such as skin when there isn’t an exact color and tone match available for cloning. Because it blends the image repair in, it is far simpler to create an invisible repair with the heal tool than with the Clone Brush.
Healing Brush Use Cases
The healing brush is one of my favorite tools in Affinity. I use the Healing Brush Tool for:
- Fixing small areas of skin such as age spots, wrinkles or other skin defects. This can be combined with frequency separation for added power.
- For removing small items from the background when I don’t have an exact source match but do have a similar area of texture.
- Any time I need to heal an area when I only have a small source area to work from. I can reset the source point between strokes.
- To blend in repairs started with other tools when heal can’t handle it alone, but the other tool does a poor job matching color and tone.
Here is an example of removing nails from the fense. Matching the exact color and tone of the out of focus background would be annoying with the clone stamp tool. With the heal brush it is simple and quick:
The entire repair took about 5 seconds. The only trick to it is to set your source point on the top edge of the fence and work upward. That way the top of the fence looks correct.
The Patch Tool is very similar to the Healing Brush Tool. Rather than using the source point and brushing in the area you are repairing, you select the repair area using Affinity Photo’s selection system, including things like the ability to refine a selection.
Once you have a selection you will see what the patch will look like in real time as you mouse around your image. Click to pick a source location and the patch is done. Make sure you switch to a different cursor (like the normal arrow cursor) before deselecting the area.
Patch Brush Use Cases
I don’t use the patch tool much, but that is a personal choice. It can be very handy if you have a large area to repair and an equally large source area of the image.
Whether you use this or the standard Heal Brush Tool is mostly a matter of personal choice. Would you rather brush in the repair areas, possible being able to reset or change the source point between each stroke? Or, would you rather draw a selection around the area and then pick one source area?
Here is the before and after of the repair:
The blend over the fence isn’t perfect, but that is likely because I didn’t spend much time picking my source.
Blemish Removal Tool
The Blemish Removal Tool does not need a source point but does obey your Brush Settings. It intelligently replaces the texture where you click based on the area around it. The Blemish Removal Tool is simple and fast for fixing small defects in an image, such as pimples or other skin defects. It offers limited control, but requires no extra time to set a source point.
Use the Blemish Removal Tool when:
- You need to fix small spots on the image such as dust spots or individual pimples.
Here is a quick example removing the rain drops from the background behind the owl:
The Blemish Removal tool is simple and handles a specific type of problem, removing small defects, easily.
Inpainting Brush Tool
The Inpainting Brush Tool is one of the things I love about Affinity Photo. Inpainting is a context aware tool that fills in an area based on the surrounding areas. In the Photoshop world, the similar tool is called “Contextual Delete”. Whatever you call it, it is very powerful and incredibly useful when repairing an image.
Inpainting is fully automatic aside from the brush settings. In painting works wonders on natural textures such as clouds, blue sky, skin, grass, dirt and the like. It works well on some “human” structures like fences and brick walls.
Since the tool is fully automatic, it usually either works or it does not. If it fails to do what you want, you can undo the change and try again, or work incrementally. Because Inpainting is dependent on the image around the repair, the order that you use it in (fixing one part of the image before another) can make a different. If a repair doesn’t go as planned, undo and try it in a different order.
Inpainting Tool Use Cases
Inpainting is great for:
- Removing dust spots from the blue sky or clouds, removing unwanted items from the image such an exit sign in an event photo.
- Repairing blemishes on skin, especially when paired with frequency separation.
- As a starting point for complex repairs. It often doesn’t get it 100% right, but gets you closer so it is easier to fix with the other repair tools.
The main gotcha to look out for with the Inpainting Tool is repeated details. Sometimes it will repeat other things in the image in an obvious way. If this happens, a quick pass with one of the other tools, like the Healing Brush Tool, will remove them in a seamless way.
Here is an example of taking bright spots out of the background using the Inpaint tool:
I rarely make an image repair using only one of the affinity photo image repair tools above. I switch between them in the course of a single repair to achieve the results I want.
A fairly normal pattern is:
- Use the Inpainting Tool to quickly remove an item from the image. This often gets me about 90% there.
- Switch to the Clone Stamp or Healing Brush to clean up specific issues such as edges that are misaligned or to remove patterns that Inpainting left in the image.
This tends to be cyclic working from a big area for a rough repair and then drilling down to smaller and smaller areas until the repair is complete. In the construction world, they would say they “roughed in” the repair, and then went back and did the finish work. It’s the same principle.
Controls and Options
Many of the tools above use a source point and the brush settings.
Clone and Blemish use a “source point” as the source of the information they use to make the repair to your image.
To set the source point, press the alt or option key and click on the image where you want the source point. A small cross hair will appear there.
When you click and drag to use the brush , the cross hair will move following the motion of your mouse. Once you start painting the source point tracks your mouse position. Even if you release the mouse and reclick, it will continue to track position. If you want to change your source point, you need to repeat the alt/option click step to set a new point.
Some of the tools discussed here are brushes. The means you control how they are applied through the brush settings. Brushes in Affinity Photo are powerful and deserve an entire post to cover them in depth. However, there are some key features everyone should understand.
The brush options tool bar appears at the top of Affinity Photo whenever you have a tool selected that uses the brush options.
The Width of the brush determines it’s size. For simple circular brushes (what most people use most of the time), this is the diameter of the circle in pixels. Bigger number equals bigger circle. It’s that simple.
Opacity & Flow
Opacity and Flow do seemingly similar things but they have slightly different uses. For simplicity, just imagine using a simple paint brush. Opacity governs the maximum opacity that the color you are painting. During any one stroke (one period of time with the mouse button depressed), you will never paint that color over the images with opacity greater than what you set.
Flow on the other hand determines how quickly you reach that maximum opacity. If your flow is set to 100%, you will reach it instantly. If on the other hand, flow is set to some lower value, it will take longer to reach the target opacity.
You can think of the Opacity setting as the overall limit for a single stroke and the flow as the “speed” with which you approach that limit on any given stroke (press and hold of the mouse button). The combination of these two settings lets you control how you feather in brush strokes, which can be important for some of the repair tools we are going to discuss.
Hardness controls how hard or soft the edge of the brush is. For simplicity, lets imagine a simple circular brush. With Hardness of 100%, you get a sharp edged circle. With Hardness of 0% you get a very soft edge circle that fades from full opacity (based on the Opacity setting) to completely transparent at the edges.
The percentage hardness is the percentage of your brush radius used for a smo0th transition. If you brush size is 100px (radius 50x) and you set the hardness to 50%, the center 50px of the circle is applied at full opacity (based on the opacity and flow settings). The outside 25px of the brush are a smooth gradient from full opacity to fully transparent.
Generally, for repairs, we work with soft brushes (hardness set low or to 0%).
Affinity photo has more controls for the brush to the right of those shown above. Most people doing image repairs won’t need to venture into these, but should be aware they exist. One of the most interesting features is the dynamics that let you modify the brush as you use it through things like pen pressure, angle and rotation (if using a tablet device) and randomly as well.
He is a self taught experiential learner who is addicted to the possibilities that new (to him) gear open up. He loves to share the things he has worked out. Andrew started with a passion for landscape and night photography and quickly branched out to work in just about every form of photography. He is an ex-software developer with extensive experience in the IT realm.