Sometimes when I’m retouching an image in Photoshop, I need to remove an element of the picture that’s unfortunately on a geometric background. If the element—let’s say it’s a tree branch—was against a blue sky, well, that’s no problem to clone stamp away with a few clicks. But when that tree branch is against a brick wall, and the brick wall isn’t parallel to the camera’s sensor, then you have the problem of a bunch of parallel lines that appear to recede into the distance and converge at some theoretical point on the horizon. This is called the vanishing point. And when you try to freehand edit around a pattern like this, you’re bound to be unhappy with the results, which won’t match the naturally receding appearance of the background. That’s where the Vanishing Point filter comes in.
With the Vanishing Point filter open, select four corners on the plane against which you need to work. This could be the tiles on a kitchen floor or the corners of a brick exterior wall, for instance. You simply choose the Vanishing Point filter’s Create Plane tool. Click each of the four points on a grid to create the plane within which you’ll work. Once it’s created, you can click and drag on the corners to fine-tune, or click and drag on the sides of the plane to scale it up or down, increasing or decreasing the working area. Even if the physical plane you’re mimicking doesn’t continue that far out of the picture, the proportions of the plane sure do. This means that any edits you make inside that plane will mirror the appropriate appearance of convergence, and the pattern you’re working with will remain unbroken.
Once the plane is fully set, click on the Stamp Tool within the Vanishing Point filter, and use it just as you would use the clone stamp regularly in Photoshop. Click on an area to clone and then paint away the offending details. As you do, you’ll see the filter manages to compensate for the perspective and every edit you make fits beautifully against the plane you created. It’s the ideal way to make very clean edits against any sort of receding patterned background. I used it recently to remove a stray rug from a tiled floor from the picture shown here.
If you’d like to take the Vanishing Point filter to the next level, you can create right angles with the Create Plane tool. First, create one plane—let’s say it’s for the north wall of a building. At the edge of the newly created plane that meets another wall (call it, for instance, the east wall), you’ll see a point in the middle of the plane’s virtual grid. Grab that dot and drag, and you’ll watch as a new plane is pulled out of the original. This simple technique allows for some very complex image editing that lets you take your custom retouching to the next level—even around corners.
The best part of the Vanishing Point filter is that it’s smarter than you are. Let’s say you’ve created your plane and retouched within it, and then clicked okay to return to the normal image view, but then you realized you have more editing to do within that original plane. When you reopen the Vanishing Point filter, it will remember the plane you previously created, preventing you from having to redo a time-consuming task. Smart!