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Photoshop Now Offers 4 Variants Of Healing Brush | Here’s What They Are & How To Get Them

By Kishore Sawh on December 9th 2015


Are you one to stand in the way of progress? I think not. It may be our most ‘human’ quality, the need to relentlessly move forward. Actually, maybe it’s not human, but rather an evolution. Either way, in its pursuit of advancement, Adobe seems to be trying to push out new things all the time, even when they may not be ready. I don’t know if I can actually fault them for this considering any mover and shaker tends to preach that the most important thing for positive change is just to start. I believe I recall Sir Richard Branson saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the key differentiator between those who succeed and those who don’t, is that those who do begin before they’re entirely ready.

Anyway, what this means for Adobe is that they’re racing new tech before the tech can walk, and that’s made picking at them easy since it’s all low hanging fruit. We’ve seen it with Lightroom mostly, but aside from the noise of discontent with Lightroom, there have been some Photoshop issues also with their latest releases. You can see the mess they’ve made of the Liquify tool in this post from just days ago, and now there’s something else.


There’s a ‘Healing Brush’ issue. Well, there has been an issue since an earlier update to Photoshop, which saw the healing brush engine changed to work quite differently than we’d been used to. It’s been dubbed as a ‘live’ healing brush that began to ‘heal’ as you began painting over the area to be healed. Prior to this in older versions, the change wouldn’t appear until you’d finished with your selection, but that’s not the case anymore.

Oh it sounds good, and I’m not entirely sure that it isn’t given the immediacy of the feedback to be honest, but it took a bit of getting used to, because as it wasn’t waiting for the selection to be made in full, it wasn’t essentially correcting the area based on all the selection, so it initially would look a bit off, and then more complete once the selection was done. You sort of just had to trust that it would look ok at the end.


Of course, there were many that didn’t care much for the change, some claiming it slowed down their workflow (likely due to a less powerful system), and others just didn’t like the results. Personally, I hadn’t been bothered by it too much, but in an effort to please the masses, Adobe has released some options for everyone, effectively giving us access to 4 variants of the healing brush. Here they are:

Healing Brush As Per Photoshop update 2015.1
If you’ve done the update, this is what you got ‘outta the box.’ It is a healing brush that does have the ‘live’ view healing, but can be tempered with a ‘Diffusion’ slider marked from powers of 1 to 7. Essentially, what this means is you get to control the level of healing of the area. To be honest, I haven’t used this very much yet to comment, but I am so used to the old ways I’ll probably stick with it.

LegacyHealingBrush161 1:
Photoshop CC 2014 and earlier healing brush algorithm (i.e. Legacy), non-realtime user interface feedback.

This is supposed to be a throwback to those who want the healing brush to function as they’ve been used to in past generations of Photoshop, without the new engine, and without real-time feedback.

LegacyHealingBrush161 0:
Photoshop CC 2015 real-time algorithm with real-time user interface feedback.

This is the brush that came standard with Photoshop CC 2015 prior to the latest ‘.1’ update. It’s the one I spoke of in the intro to this piece, where you’ve got live view of healing where it doesn’t wait for you to make your entire selection, and it does not have a diffusion option.

LegacyHealingBrush161 2:
Photoshop CC 2015 real-time algorithm with no real-time user interface feedback.

Alright, this is arguably the most interesting option and the one I currently have set. It effectively is using the same engine, which should assist with speed theoretically, but does operate more like healing brushes of yore, where you make your selection, and then it goes to work.

The argument against it, however, is that it seems to actually just delay what it shows you ‘live’ and is actually doing the ‘healing’ live anyway, so the results may be the same as they have been in my experience. As I’ve said, I’m not much bothered and I haven’t seen much of a difference on the few files I’ve worked on for it, though some higher end retouchers have given word that it’s not quite as good.


Anyway, there you have it. If you want to switch from the default brush to any of these, here are the instructions as per Adobe’s site:

Follow these steps:

  1. Install the Photoshop CC 2015.1 update.
  2. Use Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac OS) to create a plain text file.
  3. Type the text:
    LegacyHealingBrush161 1 into the text file for Photoshop CC 2014 and earlier healing brush algorithm (i.e. Legacy), non-realtime user interface feedback
    LegacyHealingBrush161 0 into the text file for Photoshop CC 2015 real-time algorithm with real-time user interface feedback
    LegacyHealingBrush161 2 into the text file for Photoshop CC 2015 real-time algorithm with no real-time user interface feedback
  4. Save the file as PSUserConfig.txt to your Photoshop settings folder:
    Windows: [Installation Drive]:\Users\[User Name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CC 2015\Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 Settings\
    Mac OS: //Users/[User Name]/Library/Preferences/Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 Settings/
  5. Restart Photoshop. The changes will take effect.
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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Mark Romine


    I forgot about your last comment so sorry for the delayed response.

    How can I make the comments that I make about PS? Because I’ve been using it since 1995 (and that does not go back to the beginning of PS), pretty much every day since then. During that time I’ve have spoken with and shared experiences with dozen upon dozen of photographer friends who have been using it since then too. I’ve also listened to and watched a boatload of PS experts use and teach PS for several genres of photography. I’ve been well immersed in the world of PS for a long time. Having said all of that, I still don’t consider myself a PS expert, not even close but I do have a pretty good idea of how it is being used by photographers. I am a full time working professional photographer, have been for far too long to even remember how long it has been. Basically, I just know these things.

    As far as Windoze goes, I can’t help you there. Pretty much have hate every version of it and I try to avoid it at all costs.

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  2. Mark Romine

    Frankly I don’t like paying for something regardless of how inexpensive it may be. Especially if it either does not work, work correctly or I find out after I have purchased it that I can in fact live without it. I hate wasting money. So much stuff in PS CC is cosmetic or automated worthlessness that it is not worth upgrading to even if it was free. PS is an extremely powerful and mature piece of software that I can never use all of it’s features. After all, there is only so much stuff that I want to do to my photos. There is no other feature that I need or want. I don’t need four variants of the healing brush. Who does? To me this kind of stuff is being added to justify charging for a subscription. The last big thing that Adobe did to PS that I really got excited about was adding 64 bit architecture so that it would run faster on my Mac. That was significant! But that was back with CS5 or something.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Mark, from what you’ve just written, I gather that you aren’t exactly the target market. Whilst you may not find these features helpful, I guarantee you many of us do. Sure you could stay in PS4 and work with it, but those who do this for work don’t have the time and $9.99 a month for the abiltiies seems small. Keep in mind too that the subscription plan allows many more people to get the software (legally) than ever before.

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    • Mark Romine


      I’m a full time working photographer who has been using PS for 20 years now. Every day. So when I say there isn’t anything in CC that is of value to me I and mu business can assure that I know. That’s also true for the vast majority of photographers out there. They have just bought into the Adobe hype. The beautiful thing, I haven’t spent any money on PS since the release of CS6.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      It;s very hard for me to agree with you here Mark, though not that we need to agree. If you’ve found what you like and it suits you that’s great. I think it’s impotant to keep in mind too, however, that PS is just for photographers, and this is something photographers often forget. So it’s not all tailored to us.

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    • Mark Romine


      I realize that it is not just for still photographers. But that is the perspective that I’m talking about. And no, I’m not looking for everyone or even anyone to agree with me. Just voicing an option. Someone above made the point that people are always complaining about the price as if they can’t afford it. For many of us it has nothing to do with the affordability but rather the value you are getting back for the subscription rate. Right now I see nothing there that I will really benefit from and I believe that to be true of most other still photographers too. Maybe in another year or two it might have something worthwhile for me and then it will be worth jumping on board. But right now it is a lovely piece of software that does more than everything I need.

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    • Kristian Hollund

      Sorry, I don’t really buy your argument that you are just voicing your opinion. I see that opinion on all posts regarding CC, it’s like a personal vendetta. Now I realize you may not intend it that way, but you make it look like all photographers work the same way you do.

      There are many tools in the “normal” workflows with layering and non-destructive workflows that are vastly improved since CS6 that I like to compare with since that’s what I used mostly before CC. Look at the release notes. I agree though that there have been a few bumps in that road, last version was for me slow in startup, but there’s also billions of hardware and software combinations, we don’t all use Macs.

      And I think Kishore brings one of the biggest arguments for their business model, it’s affordable in a way that makes it less likely to be pirated. I doubt they’ve had more legal users of Photoshop than they do lately.

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    • Mark Romine


      Well I wasn’t trying to sell you anything. :) Just because you see the same opinion that I am voicing does that somehow make mine any less sincere?

      Regarding the matter of improving non-destructive editing. Adobe may have improved that with the CC version of PS but I would argue that like with so many of the improvements with CC they are very minimal and in most cases really do little for improving the final product and in reality not necessary. Adobe has got you and so many others believing that they are necessary, they want you to believe that they are necessary so that they can continue to sell their products. If you work smart within PS you can work in a non-destructive fashion going way back to the days before any of the CS versions of PS. PS CS 6 with it’s smart layers provides more than enough non-destrctive editing for all but the most unique of situations. In fact the vast majority of us don’t even need that. But Adobe has got you to believing that you do. The sad part of all this, is that new people coming into the market have no other option but to buy CC or perhaps a few limited stand alone editions on eBay.

      Regarding Adobe’s reason for selling PS as a cloud model. Well that’s all good for Adobe to protect their interests but that doesn’t improve my position the customer. Look, the CC model makes me pay for improvements that I do not need or do not want. 98-99% of that stuff that they are putting into PS I don’t need. But I would have to continue to pay for them if I want to be able to use PS. Suppose I have no work for 4-10 weeks in the winter, guess what, I still have to pay Adobe for the privilege of having PS sit on my machine even though I’m not using it.

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    • Kristian Hollund

      I have no issue with your opinion being different than mine, but you are constantly repeating things like “That’s also true for the vast majority of photographers…” and I wonder how you know that. I have no idea what a wedding photographer is doing with Photoshop I must admit, but I know plenty of workflows that are better because of PS upgrades. Maybe not life changing, but improved for sure.

      I am no professional photographer, but when I talk about how much I like Windows 10 I usually don’t say that every developer feels the same as me. Pull that out of your arguments and I’m fine with us disagreeing with the usefulness of CC’s upgrades. My opinion is that you just don’t know the tool well enough or just use a very thin part of it, which is fine, but no reason to preach your opinion on people that use it differently while still calling themselves photographers :)

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  3. Bill Bentley

    All the issues with these new features is getting old.

    This is not a fly by night company trying to get their new game noticed in the App Store. Working professionals actually use this software for their livelihood, no? No new feature should be implemented in a full release before it has been thoroughly beta tested. This is basic stuff Adobe. Quality vs. quantity. Stop frustrating your customer base in the name of progress.

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    • Kristian Hollund

      The world would never go forwards if they didn’t implement new ways of doing something. The amount of people spending 4 hours every day doing something in an ass backwards CS4 way all over the world are numerous, and it doesn’t make sense. But I do it too, it’s human nature, we need to be forced out of habit to find new and better ways to do stuff.

      Also, not as a reply to you, but I also happen to think Photoshop/Lightroom is really affordable for photographers as a subscription (in most markets), so I really don’t get all the complaints it gets on every article here. If you aren’t earning enough that that is a tiny amount you probably should find another job, no offense.

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    • Bill Bentley

      I’m all for progress Kristian, but it appears Adobe needs to beta test their upgrades more thoroughly before releasing them. This should be true for any company whether it’s Space X or Adobe.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      I think between the two of you guys you cover the intelligent arguments for each side here. Kristan, I agree CC is incredibly affordable and also that we mustn’t let the fear or imperfection the first time round stop forward movement.

      That said, Bill, I speak with Adobe directly and I told them something similar, that really most of us would like to have fewer MAJOR problems than more frequent updates. This brush issue I didn’t find major, but the Liquify problem….

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  4. Mark Romine

    Correction PS CC

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  5. Mark Romine

    Adobe, give me a reason to update to PC CC

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