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Removing Dust, Lint, and Debris Using Built-In Photoshop Tool

Today I want to share a quick tip on cleaning up lint, dust, cat hair, and things like that from clothing or other areas of your photo. I'm super picky, and even if the image is a 5x7 and the dust may not even show up on the print, I like to fix things like that on my large files anyway. You never know when the customer may come back later and order a wall portrait from that file they only previously purchased a 5x7 from, and I don't want to have to go back in and re-retouch the image.

Something like today's tutorial only takes a few seconds to do, so I always do it regardless of chosen output size or medium.

Traditionally, healing or cloning is used for small pieces of dust, but there’s a much faster way and it’s built right into Photoshop.

Here’s How to Do It

  1. First, make a copy of your working layer (command/control-J)
  2. Go to Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches...
  3. Adjust settings to remove the desired areas from photo, while not over-blurring the rest (this is the key). In other words, start with none, then raise the settings until it barely removes the unwanted dust from your photo.
  4. Apply a layer mask to that new layer and invert.
  5. Using a white brush, paint only over the areas you wish to correct.

As with everything like this, there are multiple ways that can accomplish the same task. I like this one because it’s literally made specifically for this, and it works well.

Other Non-Traditional Uses

The Dust & Scratches filter can also be used for other things as well. Try it on studio backgrounds with some small wrinkles, and even outdoor settings, like sidewalks with dirt or small debris. This underused tool is pretty valuable when used properly and not overdone.

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Emmanuel Vivier's picture

Simple and fast! wow thanks

g coll's picture

Great tip. My (similar) method:

>Dust & Scratches
>Adjust settings as Bill mentions above
>History palette - set history state to where you have applied Dust & Scratches
>History palette - go back one step before Dust & Scratches
>Use History Brush - change blend mode to 'Darken' to remove white dust, 'Lighten' to remove black dust
>Brush away
>Paint noise back in if necessary

Michael Steinbach's picture

Judging by the sheer amount of clicks.... my way is MUCH faster. Hit J, use the healing brush on areas to be cleaned up, done. Wow, wasn't that fast! 😏

Bill Larkin's picture

Yes, that works when there's not a lot of stuff to clean up. In this particular image, there was a few hundred pieces of hair, lint and dust to clean up, would have been 300 or so strokes of healing... hence much more work.

Jordan Pinder's picture

I never realized that this filter was there, I'll definitely be trying it out soon. Thanks for the tip!

Jonathan Barge's picture

I do allot of food photography and product/product editorial-type photography. No matter how many times I polish and clean some items there are still dust spots and small scratches that pop up, not to mention some backgrounds just can't be cleaned up very well or easily and this tip has blown my mind, I usually use the healing brush technique but this will save so much time on specific images where there are lots of spots. Another hidden photoshop gem, there are always so many ways to do things!