The Clone Tool, not just for removing zits

The Cloning or Stamp tool.

One of the most common tools that everyone picks up on for “fixen’” photos is the Clone or Stamp Tool. This handy tool is most commonly used for those pesky little problems like zits, moles, and stray hairs. All you do is just select the tool, (looks like a rubber stamp in the tool bar) move your cursor next to the problem, hold down the Alt (Option Mac) which changes the cursor to a cross hair and click. This will be the area where the Clone tool will copy from pixel by pixel to over the problem. However there are ways to make this tool more efficient and with more control.

More Control

First the clone tool can work on a blank layer giving you opacity control and a nondestructive method of retouching. Make sure that at the top of the workspace on the menu bar you have change the menu box to Sample all Layers. This will let the Clone Stamp select the pixels on the layers below your blank layer.. That way if you want to reduce the effect when you cloned over all the problems you go to the opacity slider on the layer pallet and pull it back till you get the look you want. For example while it is a good idea to clone out zits people with moles or scars may not them removed because that is just not the way they look. You can clone over them removing them then go to the opacity slider and go to 70% or so reducing the look of them without really removing them. Kind of like using concealer makeup.

Clone tool for copying from one image to another.

You may not be aware of it but you can copy from up to five different images or sources with the Clone Tool. What this can mean is if you want to bring in objects or people from other images just create a blank layer, go to the other open image, pick a source area and click, go back to the image you are working on and making sure you are on the blank layer start cloning the other image. With it on it’s own layer you can transform and move it around and with a simple layer mask on that blank layer to clean it up.

Now if you want to use objects or people from more than one image go to Window>Clone Source for the Clone Tool panel. At the top of it you will see five Clone Tool icons with the first one depressed. To get another source just depress one of the other stamps and sample. When you want to use the other source just click on the icon for that source.

Bonus Tip for CS3 users… When CS3 came out when you used the clone tool and had the preview checked it would be a pain because it would overlay the image with a faded image of the source. Many of us unchecked this feature. However with CS4 and CS5 the overlay image was just within the brush size making it much easier to use and to line up the cloning like over bricks or a face.

Special Retouching with the Clone Tool.

Brush size: So if you want to really save time and look like a power Photoshop user here is tip for you. First when you pick your brush for the work you want it just big enough to cover the problem (zit, mole or wrinkle) and with a soft edge. This will give you a nice blending effect when you click. Also by having the brush the correct size you won’t need to be going back and doing more work to clean up your cleaning up. Also small corrections blend in better than large workovers. Remember you want you Photoshop work to not be noticeable. Also many times when I use the clone tool I will reduce the opacity of the tool to 70% when I am working on the face of a subject. I want the work to blend and if I need more I just click a couple of times.

Working on problem areas: Bags under the eyes and stray hairs and even some wrinkles are some of the most common repairs needed on a close up. Here is a fast and easy repair. Once again create a blank layer but change the Mode of the tool. If you have something dark on a lighter surface (Bags or Hair on a light background) change the mode to Lighten. What this will do change the action of the tool from a straight clone to only effecting the darkest part of the area.

For example bags under eyes. Blank Layer, Change the Mode to Lighten, reduce the opacity of the tool to about 50% and pick a source near the bag but not an area with makeup. Make the brush size just larger than the tallest part of the bag (going up and down) and click and drag over the bag. Do this a couple of time till the bag is cleared. Do both eyes on this layer then start to reduce the opacity of the layer till you just get a hint the shape under the eyes. You’re done and it will have the texture and look of a real person.

This will also work on stray hairs the same way. Alt Click on the part of the background near the hair and paint over it. If you go into the person’s head or don’t like the look you can use the eraser on this blank layer to remove your cloning. This way you don’t start back at the beginning. Just cleaning up a few parts. Also don’t be afraid of changing the source. Sometime you will need more than one source to correct a problem.

If you change the mode to Darken then you can take care of those hot spots on foreheads and cheeks.

Speaking of Hair: The cloning tool is great for thin or fly away areas. Just pick a source and with the brush at 85% clone over (Not comb over which is another lesson) and the hair will just blend in.

Well I guess that is enough for a Friday Quickie, Enjoy.


Bill G.

The Digital Fieldguild to Photography and Photoshop

10+ hours
if (isMyPost) { }