How to Use the Spot Removal Tool in Lightroom

Many of the other image editing programs, like Photoshop, contain tools that you won’t ever need as a photographer. All the tools in Lightroom were designed specifically for use during the photo editing process. If you’re just getting started, that means there’s a lot fewer tools to learn and navigate through in the process.

Spot Removal Tool. It’s the second icon from the left.

tool bar

What is it used for?

The spot removal tool is very versatile. It can be used to remove dust spots, dirt, distractions, and skin blemishes just to name a few. Basically, it can be used on any small spot or flaw that needs a little touching up.

Selecting the Tool

To select the spot removal tool, click on the icon in the tool bar. A faster way to select tools is to learn the keyboard shortcuts. In this case, the keyboard shortcut is “Q”. You can see the shortcut for any of the tools just by hovering over the icon.

spot removal tool

Settings and adjustments

Once you’ve activated the tool, a small panel opens under the tool bar. The top of the panel contains two brush options: Clone or Heal.

brush options

  • Clone – Makes an exact copy of the pixels in one location and copies them to the destination. Works well when reproducing patterns and textures.
  • Heal – Blends the pixels from the sample location with the destination. Works well for removing dust spots, blemishes, and imperfections or areas with color gradients.

Below the brush selector, are three different sliders that modify how the brush applies adjustments.

sliders

  • Size – Adjusts the size of the brush. Alternatively, you can use the “[” and “]” keys or the scroll wheel on your mouse to increase/decrease the size of the brush.
  • Feather – Adjusts how hard or soft the edges of the spot are blended with the surrounding area.
  • Opacity – Adjusts the opacity of the effect. Works well when you just want to lighten an area and not completely replace it.

The bottom section of the panel contains three additional buttons.

bottom panel buttons

  • Switch – Turns the adjustments made with the spot removal tool on or off. Makes it easy to see what’s been changed.
  • Reset – Reverts all changes made with the spot removal tool.
  • Close – Close the tool. Clicking the tool’s icon or using the keyboard shortcut will do the same thing.

Applying Changes

Find a spot in your image that needs to be repaired. when you click on an area, Lightroom will automatically choose a second location to sample from.

The two example images below show to places where the spot removal tool can be useful.

The image on the left has several skin blemishes that can be touched up and the image on the right has a large sensor dust spot in the top of the image.

example 1

  • To navigate around the image while you have the tool selected, hold down the space bar and pan around the image.
  • To move either circle, click inside the circle and drag it to a new location.
  • To adjust the size of the circle, click on the outer edge and drag to increase or decrease its size.
  • To delete an adjustment, the Spot Removal Tool must be active. Click on the circle to select it and hit the delete key to remove it.

The image below shows where the spot healing brush was applied.

example 2

After just a few quick touch-ups, both images look much improved.

example 3

Also: If you’re using Lightroom 5 or newer, the spot removal tool isn’t limited to retouching spots. You can click and drag a selection to “paint” larger areas of the image.