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The cloning process explained

From: After Effects Apprentice 13: Paint, Roto, and Puppet

Video: The cloning process explained

Before we cover all these various clone options, let's just review how cloning basically works. Just like in Photoshop, you find an object that you want to clone. I press the Option key on Mac, Alt key on Windows, and click to set the origin point. If this is the first time I've clicked in the Layer panel, I may be just bringing the panel forward. So let's click again just to make sure I am setting the origin point. When I release the Option or Alt key and move to another area of the layer panel, when I start painting, I will clone that element.

The cloning process explained

Before we cover all these various clone options, let's just review how cloning basically works. Just like in Photoshop, you find an object that you want to clone. I press the Option key on Mac, Alt key on Windows, and click to set the origin point. If this is the first time I've clicked in the Layer panel, I may be just bringing the panel forward. So let's click again just to make sure I am setting the origin point. When I release the Option or Alt key and move to another area of the layer panel, when I start painting, I will clone that element.

But if I want to repeat elements, I just Option+click on them and repeat that. Now since I didn't spend any time setting the size of my brush, if I pick a large element, I will have to do a little work to duplicate that item. With my layer selected, I will press the shortcut to reveal the paint strokes and that's two Ps in quick succession. Each stroke I've painted appears in the Timeline. When I select Clone stroke 4, I can see in the Layer panel, how my stroke was actually drawn.

So I can delete that stroke, or I can click on Paint, press Delete and that will delete all the strokes I have created so far. So let's start again. If I make my brush large enough to include that entire image, I can simply Option+click to set the origin point and then with one click, I can repeat that element and that can be very handy, but remember I am also including a lot of the background when I do that. In this case, I have a simple white background. So while this technique might be handy, if I was repeating let's say stars in a black sky where I don't mind how much background I pick up, having a large brush may not work for every case.

Let's say I was repeating a bird in the sky. I might not want to just Option+ click this bird and repeat it, because I would be including a lot of the background when I clone and if you ever look at an image of the sky, it's likely that there's a gradient involved, it goes from dark to light say. Or it changes color. So let's zoom in on this bird here and let's say I wanted to actually clone this bird. I probably want to make a very small stroke. I can Option+click to set my origin point, but I will also turn on this very handy feature called Clone Source Overlay.

When this is enabled and I go to Paint, I will see a ghost image of what I am about to clone and because I have my Options set to Aligned, I can start and stop and it will keep the same Offset. As soon as I click with my mouse, it will lock in that Offset. At the moment, I am only offsetting in the horizontal axis, I am not offsetting vertically. It wouldn't really matter how much of the background I picked up because it's likely the sky would be the same if I just moved to the left or the right.

But let's say I wanted to clone higher or lower in the sky. In that case, I would want to select the bird I want to copy, and get a very small brush. Let's say I get enough just to make the body for now and then I could make it even smaller to get some of the elements and notice that because I have my Options set to Aligned, I can stop and start as many times as I like. However, I am making multiple strokes. I think you get the idea.

Remember, if you do make a mistake and you pick up some of the background and you can see the difference, you can press Command+Shift to erase in Last Stroke Only mode. Of course, you want to set the size of the eraser to match the size of your cloning brush. And we'll go back to get up to 100% and let's select the Paint effect again and delete it. So let's talk a little bit more about Aligned and Clone Source Overlay. Let's make my brush a little bigger. Let the Clone Source Overlay as active.

As I move around the Comp, I can see exactly what I would be cloning. I can see the original image and I can also see an offset of that. However, I find because Clone Source Overlay is set to 50%, it's sometimes hard to tell which are the original objects and which ones I would be cloning. So I like to set this down to a much lower value, somewhere around 15%. Now I can tell that this is the overlay and this is the original image. So as I move around, I might decide to clone up here.

If I want to reset the offset, I just Option+click again and then wherever I first start to click, that will be the new offset. If you're familiar with cloning in Photoshop, you know there are two methods of repeating the sampled area; Aligned, where the first stroke you make, determines the offset for subsequent strokes and Not Aligned where every stroke starts from the same origin point. Sometimes, I prefer to work with Aligned turned off. When I disable that, instead of an Offset, you see a value for Source Position.

So if I Option+click on this mark here, that will update the Source Position. Now wherever I move, it's like that little mark is stuck to my cursor. So I can place one here, place another here and another here and so on. So depending on what you're doing, you will need to make a decision of whether your cloning is aligned or not aligned. If you ever need to reset the Source Position, you can just click it and you could also scrub these values. As you scrub the values, you'll see it appear as an overlay and that also applies when you're in Aligned mode.

You can zero out the values, then scrub the Offset parameter or you also see an overlay of the image. In the next movie, I will show you how the Clone Presets work.

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