Remove Blemishes with a Free Photo Editor
It annoys me when a picture of me is ruined by a blemish.Â There’s a lot “wrong” with this picture. There are some things I can’t fix (the goofy look on my face)Â and some things I could fix but that I don’t really mind. But there was one thing that was driving me bonkers and it was super easy to get rid of. The giant spot on my cheek!
If you take digital pictures and have a program like GIMP with a clone stamp tool you can zap zits no problem. I highly recommend downloadingÂ GIMP (which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program) for this and most of your other photo fixing. It’s free and it’s the closest thing to Photo Shop you’re gonna find for picture fixin’. Did I mention it’s free?
The clone stamp tool lets you selectively copy (clone) an area of a picture and paste (stamp) it onto another area. So you can clone an area of good looking skin and stamp it over a problem and voila! Problem solved!
In this Tutorial I’m going to turn this goofy picture with a big pimple on my cheek
into this goofy picture with no pimple.
1. Open Your Picture
Go to File>Open and open the photo you want to make blemish free.
There will now be a little version of your image at the bottom of the Toolbox window. This represents your background layer. Right click on the little image and select duplicate layer. (*If you’re on a Mac laptop control+click won’t work as a right click. Use your mouse pad settings to make a double finger-tap equal to a right click. Alternatively you can go to the main GIMP window and select Layer>Duplicate Layer.)
Doing this gives you an original layer on the bottom, called Background, and a layer on the top called Background Copy. As long as Background Copy is selected and Background is NOT selected, edits you make to the picture will only happen to Background Copy. When a layer is selected it’s highlighted in blue like Background Copy is here.
Working on one layer at a time is a good thing. If you do something you don’t like to Background Copy that you can’t fix with Edit>Undo, you can just delete Background Copy and start from scratch. You should duplicate your background layer any time you open a new image. It’s a good safe habit to get into.
2. Get the Clone Stamp Tool
Select the Clone Stamp tool by double clicking on it. It’s the icon highlighted in blue here that looks like a rubber stamp. Double clicking should also make a pop upÂ window called Tool Options appear with, you guessed it, options for the stamp tool. I set my brush option to a fuzzy circle (the size doesn’t really matter). This will help the stamp blend better on my photo. I’ll leave the opacity set to 100% for now and I’ll make sure the Source is set to Image. The scale button changes the size of your brush but I don’t use it. It’s easier to use the left and right bracket keys on your keyboard ( [ and ] ) to make your brush smaller and larger.
3. Select a Clone Source
The source is the area that is copied/cloned. You want it to be similar in texture and color to the area that you want to fix.Â Making the sourceÂ close to the area that you’re fixing is an easy way to get a good result. At the bottom of the main window there is an option to zoom in or out. I zoom in a lot so I can see what I’m doing and pick a good source. I placed the brush right next to that big spot on my cheek. (Pardon my pixels I’m zoomed in 400% and this is a lower resolution photo.) When the clone stamp brush is in a suitable area press control + click. Your source is set.
4. Stamp Over the Problem
Move the clone stamp brush over the blemish and click. That’s it! You’ve stamped over the blemish and your photo should look all the better for it.
You have a few choices here. Once you’ve stamped over all of the blemishes in your photo you can right click on the Background Copy layer and select Merge Visible Layers. This will merge the two layers you have into one layer so you can save a smaller file. Save it as a tiff file if you know you want to keep these edits but you might want to edit the picture more later. If you know for sure that you’re all done editing save as a jpeg. I’ll write a post on the whys and wherefores of this saving issue.
If you’re still editing and you want to be able to come back and change some more or start from scratch don’t merge down. Go to File>Save AsÂ and save the file as a .xcf file. This saves the layers you have so you can come back and do more editing later.Â Once you’re all done it’s a good idea to merge your layers. Having all those layers makes files bigger and they take up more of your memory.
- Switch the visibility of the layer you’re editing on and off by using the little eye icon next to the layer image. Clicking the eye turns off that layer’s visibility and makes the eye icon disappear. Now you see the layer immediately below. In this case the layer beneath Background Copy is the un-edited Background layer. Turning Background Copy‘s visibility on and off lets you instantly see the changes you’re making. You can see if you need to edit more or if you’re going to far. To turn the layer visibility back on, click where the eye used to be. Layer visibility will turn back on and the eye icon will re-appear.
- Change your source when you need to. You can change the source before you stamp every time to make sure you’re selecting a good area. Or you can make the clone source align with your brush.Â In step 4. my clone brush is an empty square and the source is the square with a cross next to it. If I have Aligned selected at the bottom of the clone stamp options window (double click the clone stamp icon to make this window appear), when I move the clone brush to another part of my face, the source will stay right next to my brush. This can be a nice feature but sometimes you’ll need to change the source to get a better tone or texture match for an area. Just control + click again to set a new source.
- Play with the brush settings. Double clicking on the clone stamp icon brings up options for that tool. You can play around with the blending options and you can set the opacity to a lower level. Lowering opacity can be good if an area only needs light coverage. Play with the settings and see what you get. Remember you still have that original layer that’s not affected so if you really mess up something that “undo” won’t fix, you can always start over. If you have already made some edits that you’re happy with, duplicate Background Copy before you start playing with brush options so you won’t have to start from scratch if you mess something up.
- Try the clone stamp tool to nix stray eyebrows. I get these a lot. Using the clone stamp tool is like having a pair of tweezers for my photos.
- When you’re happy with your work duplicate that layer!! Continue working on the new top layer. If you go overboard or make a big mistake on this top layer, you won’t have to start from scratch. You can go back to a version that you were happy with. You can make all the layers you want. Use them! You can even rename the layers as you go so you can keep better track of them. Double click on the text in the layer, like Background Copy, to rename it. I could rename Background Copy “Cheek Clone”, and then make another layer to brighten my eyes “Eye Brighten”.Â If I had a zit on my forehead I could fix it in a new layer called “Forehead Clone”. You get the idea.
- Don’t go over board! Just like too much makeup, too much cloning can look worse than the original problems. When I first discovered the clone stamp tool I stamped out every detail on my face. If I look at those files now I realize I look like I’m made of plastic. It’s not pretty.
- Use a light hand at first and come back to the photo a day or two later. If you still think it needs more work right click on the cloned layer (Background Copy) and duplicate it. Make your new edits to the top layer. If think you’ve gone too far you can get rid of the top layer without removing all of your earlier edits. I often find I like the lighter touch and don’t do any more edits beyond the first round.
- This isn’t the best tool to do certain things like cover large areas of acne or smooth out bumpy textured skin. Larger areas like the bumps on my cheeks can often benefit from a selective blur which I will explain in another post. For those familiar with makeup, the clone stamp can act like a spot concealer. The blur technique I’ll explain is like using a light to medium coverage foundation.Â You even get to use a mask, which sounds like a spa treatment, and play with the paintbrush!
- Ask Questions!!! If you have a question about a technique or tool, ask away! I certainly don’t know everything but I can at the very least set you in the right direction.