Solution

In this solution, I'm working with a scanned photo that has some obvious dust specks that I'd like to get rid of.

First things first: create a backup of your image layer by duplicating it using Ctrl-J (Command-J on a Mac). In the Layers palette, hide the original image layer by clicking on its eye icon, then select the duplicated layer—this is the one we'll work with.

Dust on scanned image

Select the Spot Healing Brush Tool (j) from the toolbox.

From the options bar, select a brush size that's larger than the specks on the image (I've set my brush to 15px). Click once on a speck—Photoshop will erase it!

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Selecting the Spot Healing Brush Tool

Selecting the Spot Healing Brush Tool

Now, if you had the time and patience, you could use the Spot Healing Brush Tool to erase each speck in the photo individually. However, we're going to speed up the process by using the Spot Healing Brush Tool only on areas where the specks are sparse, and applying a filter to the areas in which the specks are more concentrated.

Erase any obvious specks on your image by clicking on them with the Spot Healing Brush Tool (j), as we did earlier.

After you've erased all of the noticeable specks, examine your image to determine whether most of the remaining specks lie on the darker or the lighter areas of the image.

Using the Spot Healing Brush Tool

Using the Spot Healing Brush Tool

Applying the Dust & Scratches filter

In the Layers palette, duplicate the image layer using Ctrl-J (Command-J on a Mac). Select Filter > Noise >

Dust & Scratches to apply the Dust & Scratches filter to the duplicated layer. The Dust & Scratches dialog box will be displayed. To check if the filter has removed all the specks from the entire image, click and drag the mouse around in the preview window of the dialog box to display different areas of the image. If you're not satisfied, adjust the Radius and Threshold values until all the specks disappear. Click OK to apply the filter.

The result is shown below. You may notice that the image is looking a little blurry, but don't worry about that for now. We're not done yet!

Before filter

After filter a

After filter

Before and after the filter is applied

Use the drop-down menu at the top of the Layers palette to change the blend mode of the filtered layer. Set it to Darken if there were more specks in the darker areas of the image, or to Lighten if there were more specks in the lighter areas. Most of my specks were in the darker areas, so I've set the blend mode to Darken. (If it looks like your specks are evenly distributed over both areas, don't panic! I'll explain how to take care of that in the discussion for this solution.)

Changing the blend mode

This should bring back some of the detail that was lost by the filter earlier. You can use a layer mask for additional detail. Select the filtered layer from the Layers palette and click on the Add layer mask button at the bottom of the palette to add a layer mask, as shown in the example below. Set the foreground color to black, and use the Brush Tool (b) with a soft-edged brush to paint on the layer mask. This will reveal detail from the layer underneath.

Using a layer mask to reveal detail in the layer below

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Using a layer mask to reveal detail in the layer below

Perform a final cleanup on both layers using the Spot Healing Brush Tool. The example below shows the final result of my image after it's been dusted off. No more specks!

Final image, dusted off
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