Subtract with Remove Tool


Today’s Question: After reading your answer about the Remove tool in Photoshop I decided to give it a try, since I didn’t even know it was there. I noticed on the Options bar there are buttons for add and subtract, but the subtract button is disabled. Is it supposed to do something?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The subtract button for the Remove tool is available if you turn off the “Remove after each stroke” checkbox, and it enables you to subtract from areas you have marked for cleanup with the Remove tool before actually applying the cleanup to the designated area.

More Detail: By default, the Remove tool in Photoshop performs cleanup work on an area as soon as you paint a brush stroke on the image, in the same way the Spot Healing Brush tool performs cleanup after every brush stroke. However, you can change this behavior if you prefer, such as when you want to carefully paint over a relatively large object you want to remove from a photo.

If you turn off the “Remove after each stroke” checkbox on the Options bar for the Remove tool, you can paint using multiple brush strokes to define the area you want to clean within the image. This includes the option to use the add and subtract features for the brush. By default, the Remove tool is set to the add option. However, you can click the subtract option (or hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh) to subtract portions of the area designated for cleanup, which will erase the color overlay that indicates the portion of the image to be cleaned up.

With the “Remove after each stroke” checkbox turned off, to apply the actual cleanup you’ll need to click the apply button (it has a checkmark icon) on the Options bar. To the left of the apply button is a reset button you can use to remove the overlay so that none of the image is marked for cleanup.

Note that I covered the Remove tool (and all the other image cleanup tools in Photoshop) in “Image Cleanup in Photoshop”, which is Chapter 2, Lesson 3, of my “Photoshop for Photographers” video course. You can learn more about this new comprehensive video course on the GreyLearning website here: