Photoshop Clone Stamp Tool

Step-by-step tutorial on Photoshop's Clone Tool and Clone Source palette.

Photoshop Clone Stamp Tool Tutorial

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Clone Stamp Tool & Clone Source Palette

As with many of Photoshop's multitude of features, there are several ways to accomplish the same task. This Photoshop tutorial is designed to instruct on the proper use of the Clone Stamp Tool (S) which is used for duplicating pixels from their sampled area. Photoshop's rubber-stamp clone tool is a rather crude instrument which should be used carefully to avoid the stepped-effect or step-effect (above, center) which is a dead giveaway of cloning. Used correctly, this tool can totally replace a large area with new pixel information.

To repair, rather than replace pixel information, the Healing Brush can be a more elegant solution, mimicking the underlying color, luminosity, and tone of the underlying area. The healing brush also has the added advantage of not repeating detail, avoiding the obvious stepped-effect of the Clone Tool, but it cannot repair or replace large sections of pixel information.

Photoshop Clone Tool Sample

the above sample photo shows the correct use of the clone tool to eliminate an unwanted object. By sampling the photo in an area that is as far away from the repair area (yellow circle) as possible, you will avoid an obvious "stepping" effect (see: center photo at top of page). Try to sample areas (white 'sampling' cursor) that have similar lighting, color, and detail. In addition, work with a small brush size to avoid blurring and the stepping effect. If you have used a larger brush size to replace large sections there may be some blurring around the repaired outer edge. To fix this, use a smaller brush size and sample from a completely different area so that there is no obvious repetition.

With proper, and limited use the cloning tool you can produce acceptable results, although there are better ways to achieve the same end - See: Using the Lasso Selection Tool tutorial for cloning objects in order to replace large sections of background information.

Photo Retouching with Photoshop's Clone Tool

CS-CS2 Users: If you are using Photoshop CS or CS2, create a duplicate layer from the background by typing the key-commands 'Command>J,' or using the pull-down menu located in the Layers palette window. You can make your changes to this layer, then fine-tune the blending with the layer below using layer opacity.

CS3-CS5 Users: If you are using Photoshop CS3 or later you have a new option for cloning pixels. To use this feature new go to the "Sample" pull-down menu on the upper menu-bar and select "Current & Below" or "All Layers." This will make your changes on the top layer while sampling from the bottom layer. By using this feature you can experiment on a separate layer and edit or discard your changes it they are not satisfactory.

Using Photoshop's 'Clone Source' Window

Open the "Clone Source" palette window by scrolling to Window>Clone Source from the top menu-bar. By using the Clone Source palette window, you can have predefined sampling areas that you can go back to over and over again, without having to resample an area. The Clone Source window also gives you control over the opacity of the duplicated area (as you would in the Layers palette) and the ability to invert the cloned area. Sampling offset is controlled by entering the X and Y coordinates, given in pixels from the source.

Photoshop Clone Source Tool Window

Use a harder-edged brush to clone because the soft-edged brushes tend to create a blurry and undefined area where the brush edge overlaps to surrounding area (explained above).

Remember to take your sample from an area that is as far from the working area as possible, carefully choosing similar background features, with similar tonal and color characteristics. I like to sample from multiple ares so that you are not repeating one specific sampled area in its totality. This makes the repaired area seem less obvious and duplicative.

Clone Tool & Healing Brush Sample

Before (insert) and after samples of a photo that was retouched using Photoshop's Clone Tool and Healing Brush

For final touchup of your image, use Photoshop's Healing Brush Tool (J) for removing small imperfections such as camera lens dust, stuck pixels, and imperfections on the subject. This brush will sample the area surrounding any anomaly, averaging out the pixel data to remove the blemish.

Note: The following hardware and software was used in this tutorial: An Apple Mac Pro desktop computer, a Wacom Intuos 6x8 drawing tablet and Adobe Photoshop CS-CS5 photo editing software.

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