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Photoshop Has Four Different Healing Brushes Now… Here’s How to Use Them



Photoshop 2015.1, released earlier this month, has a surprise that wasn’t promoted very well — you had to go digging to find it: the new version introduced a new real-time healing brush algorithm. When I came across it, my eyes lit up.

Adobe says that “some customers prefer the behavior of the older healing brush algorithm,” and the company has published instructions on how to reactivate the original healing brushes. You’ll need to save a new .txt file to your Photoshop settings folder named “PSUserConfig.txt,” containing just the text “LegacyHealingBrush161” followed by a 0, 1, or 2 (depending on which legacy brush you want to use).


Here’s a run down on the differences of the 4 different healing brushes available now:

Healing Brush #1: “LegacyHealingBrush161 0”

This is the “Photoshop CC 2015 real-time algorithm with real-time user interface feedback”. What the heck does this mean?

The first one on our list is the default healing brush that came with Photoshop CC2015 before the most recent update in December 2015. When CC2015 was released, it came with a “live” healing brush, which basically meant that it started healing as you started brushing away your blemish. Even before you told Photoshop what area you wanted to heal completely, it started generating a preview that kept adapting as you kept on brushing.

So if you had a large blemish, it would start really smudgy and then be clean once the entire area was selected. The main difference is that before this live brush, Photoshop would wait to produce the results until you brushed over an entire area. It made more sense this way because the results can be trippy if you are new to it. It has a steeper learning curve if you have bad habits of not selecting an entire area properly before moving on to the next. But the positive side is that the engine is instant.

No more waiting for it to finish. It’s a different engine than the classic healing brush that we’ve always been used to, but I personally don’t think the results are as good. The other downside is that after multiple layers, it becomes slow processing all the adjustment layers below it in the preview. Here’s an example of this brush:

Healing Brush #2: “LegacyHealingBrush161 2”

The “Photoshop CC 2015 real-time algorithm with no real-time user interface feedback.” Say what? What’s this jibberish?

If you like the way the old healing brush works but want it faster, this would be a good solution. Okay, so hopefully you’ve used, seen, or understood the first one. Now, you’ve probably also used the healing brush in any other version before CC2015 since the inception of the healing brush. What this basically means is that if you like how fast the new healing brush is, but want it to work the same way as the old healing brush in that it waits for you to completely cover the area you are working on before generating the results, you can have both options!

Why? Because it takes the new CC2015 engine in regards to how fast it is, and disables the ability for it to start showing you the results “live” as you kept on brushing.

So it acts exactly like all the other healing brushes before it AND the results are instant. The downside is that it still operates on the new healing brush engine so the end result is a little different. Honestly, as I said before, I don’t think the results are as good, but if you have a slow system, it works really quickly and it’s good enough for areas that aren’t incredibly complex.

Healing Brush #3: “LegacyHealingBrush161 1”

The “Photoshop CC 2014 and earlier healing brush algorithm (i.e. Legacy), non-realtime user interface feedback.” Lega-what?!

Okay, so this is just the healing brush as it has always worked! Basically, this turns off all the fancy new options and makes the tool work how you’ve wanted it to all along. Done!

Healing Brush #4: 2015.1 Standard Healing Brush

The fourth healing brush is the one that just came with the CC 2015.1 update. It’s basically an evolution of healing brush #1 with a feature called “diffusion.” Here’s an official explanation page with examples.



So you have a setting from 1 to 7. This diffusion slider lets you tell the healing brush how to blend with the surrounding pixels. From experience, setting it to 4 and 5 makes it blend like the old healing brush. So you can get the speed of the “live healing brush” with the accuracy of the healing brush as it’s always worked!

The downside is that, like any live healing brush, it starts healing right away so you have to be sure you select the entire blemish completely or you will definitely notice a smudgy area if you’re not careful. But it improved the “all or nothing” issue the live healing brush had.

About the author: Pratik Naik is a photographer, high-end retoucher, and instructor. He offers his professional services through Solstice Retouch and his training through Retouching Classes. You can find more of his work and writing through his blog, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. This article was also published here.