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The Clone Stamp tool

From: Photoshop CS6 Image Cleanup Workshop

Video: The Clone Stamp tool

In many respects, the clean up tools within Photoshop that I refer to as the automated cleanup tools because they perform some level of blending are the Go To tools the tools you'll use most often for your image cleanup work. That includes for example the Spot Healing brush and the Healing brush. But sometimes you might want to exercise just a little bit more control over the pixels as they're being placed. And for that I'll typically use the Clone Stamp tool. The Clone Stamp tool is a very basic cleanup tool in Photoshop. It simply allows you to copy pixels from one area of an image and then place those pixels by painting into another area of the image. Let's take a look at the basic use of Clone Stamp tool, I'm going to go ahead and create a new layer, I'll click on the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel.

The Clone Stamp tool

In many respects, the clean up tools within Photoshop that I refer to as the automated cleanup tools because they perform some level of blending are the Go To tools the tools you'll use most often for your image cleanup work. That includes for example the Spot Healing brush and the Healing brush. But sometimes you might want to exercise just a little bit more control over the pixels as they're being placed. And for that I'll typically use the Clone Stamp tool. The Clone Stamp tool is a very basic cleanup tool in Photoshop. It simply allows you to copy pixels from one area of an image and then place those pixels by painting into another area of the image. Let's take a look at the basic use of Clone Stamp tool, I'm going to go ahead and create a new layer, I'll click on the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel.

That's the icon with the blank sheet of paper on it, and then I'll double-click on the name of that new layer and I'll just call it clean up. I'll then choose the Clone Stamp tool from the toolbox. The keyboard for the Clone Stamp tool, by the way, is the letter S as in stamp and then I'll take a look at the settings on the Options bar. I'll click on the brush popup and I'll set my hardness to a value of around 50%. And that helps to prevent the problem that you can see in either extreme, if the brush is too hard then you're going to see an obvious painting line, but if the brush is too soft then you might see some ghosting effects within the image.

So I generally start at 50%. We'll leave the blend mode set to normal, so that we're simply copying pixels from one area of an image to another. And I'll leave the opacity set to 100% so that we're completely removing blemishes for example. The aligned check box is actually one of the more interesting ones. Let's say for example, that I want to remove this swimmer off in the distance from the image. I could simply choose an area that should be my source of pixels, and then cover them up. Well, let's do that in the other direction, just so that we can get a better sense of the aligned option. I'm going to choose the swimmer as my source.

And I'm going to move over here and paint, and that will draw another swimmer. If I move up over onto the horizon line here, you might expect to get another swimmer, but in fact we'll get a copy of this boat, and that's because I have aligned the source and the destination. If I turn off the aligned checkbox, and then, once again choose that swimmer as the source, then anywhere I paint I will get another swimmer. Now the problem with repeating the same object over and over is that obviously it can start to become very clear to the viewer that you've duplicated something. In many cases it might not be terribly obviously but many viewers will still sense that there's some sort of pattern, some sort of texture that's not quite right in the image.

The solution is in theory to use the aligned check box. But I actually recommend taking an approach where it won't really matter whether or not aligned is turned on. That approach involves always selecting a new source anytime you're going to paint. So if I want to remove the swimmer, I'll select a source area that seems to be a good match. If I want to remove the boat, I'll choose a specific area that seems a good match there. And no matter what clean-up work I'm doing, I will always choose a new source each time I paint. I'll go ahead and undo those last few steps so that I get back to my original image with just the clean-up layer added.

I also want to make sure, on the options bar, that the sample option is set to all layers. This is what enables me to work on the clean-up layer, but copy pixels from down below. So I'm working with layer-based, non-destructive workflow. I'm not touching those background pixels at all. Turning this option on will cause Photoshop to ignore the effect of adjustment layers for the pixels that you're cloning. And that's very important so that the pixels that you're copying with the Clone Stamp tool are not effected twice. Once when you copy the pixels and a second time after they have been painted onto the clean up layer.

That takes care of our overall settings. The basic use of the Clone Stamp tool is quite simple. We point to an area that represents a good source. So let's assume we want to remove this swimmer. I might choose a source of pixels over here to the right of the swimmer. I'll then hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh and click on that area. That designates that position as the source of pixels that I want to use. I can then move my mouse out over the swimmer, as needed I can adjust the brush size. The left square bracket key on the keyboard will reduce the brush size and the right square bracket key will increase the brush size.

And then I can simply click and drag just a little bit to paint over that area, replacing the swimmer with different pixels. Obviously the fundamentl operation of the Clone Stamp tool is pretty straight forward, but making things work well can be a little bit of a challenge. It's very important to choose the best source possible in terms of the pixels you'll be copying, but also alignment can be an issue. Let's take a look at the boat on the horizon for example. If we assume that we want to remove that boat, we need to make sure that the pixels we copy will not only match but that they'll also blend in and align with the horizon. The matching part is probably the biggest challenge, frankly If I go too far to the left you can see the sky is brighter there, too far to the right the sky is darker.

I might come over to the left side of the image to try to find a source that will match a little bit better. I'll go ahead and set that as my source. I'll hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh. And I'll click on that area in order to choose it as the source. However, I still need to address the issue of aligning the pixels as I paint them. If I paint too far down, my horizon doesn't match and if I paint too high obviously it won't match either so I need a method for being able to align perfectly. And there's actually a very good feature that allows me to do that.

If we click on the Clone Source button on the Options bar, we'll get our Clone Source panel. Now quite frankly, I don't use most of the settings here because in most cases they're really not all that helpful for typical clean up operations. But one thing that can be very, very helpful is a Show Overlay option. Now I usually find that a little bit distracting. Let me show you how it works. I'll move the Clone Source panel over to the side here. And I'm going to hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh once again to set a source. And now, wherever I move my mouse, you can see an indication of the pixels that are the source, in other words, what I'll be painting in a particular area.

Now, this allows a couple of things. First off I can align at horizon pretty well, but I can also get a pretty good sense of wether or not those pixels are going to blend in with the destination. That looks like it might not be quite bright enough, but maybe if I move it over here, and use a slightly large brush. Then I'll be able to do some cleanup work of my cleanup work in just a moment. I'll go ahead and resize the brush, I'll enlarge it a little bit, and right about there, I think, looks pretty good. I'll try to make sure that I don't click until I have the mouse lined up with that horizon.

I think right about there will do the trick, so I'll go ahead and click. And you can see that I've replaced the boat, but not exactly perfectly. Let me show you a method we can use to help improve our results in this type of situation. I'm going to turn off the Show Overlay check box on the Clone Source panel and then I'll go ahead and close that Clone Source panel. And then on my cleanup layer I'm going to do a little bit of cleanup work. I'll choose the Eraser tool, and then I 'll move my mouse out over the image. I want to make sure I'm working with a soft edge brush. I'm going to set the hardness down to 0% for the Eraser tool, and then I can adjust the size of the brush as needed, once again with those left and right Square Bracket keys. And then I can paint in the image to erase pixels on my cleanup layer. I'll go ahead and erase quite a bit here so we can see the boat being revealed again, and then I can undo as needed.

I'll go ahead and take a couple steps backward there, so that you can see the pixels once again. I'll turn off the background image layer as well, so you can see I'm essentially just taking a chunk out of the clean up work that I had done. In this case that's going to be especially helpful for the water here, because the pixels over on the left side of the image really don't match as far as the water. So I'll go ahead and erase those areas of the image. And then I'll use a larger brush size, and do just a little bit of blending with that Eraser tool. Just nudging up against the area. Looks like I'm revealing the boat just a little bit, so I might need to do some additional cleanup of that boat in a moment.

But you can see that that allows me to blend in that sky. I can then work to match things up a little bit better, I'll go ahead and switch back to the Clone Stamp tool. And I'll choose a new source, something that's just a little bit brighter than the area I had selected previously. And I'll once again turn on my Show Overlay option, and somewhere right around in there. You can see that I can adjust the position, and in this case I think I'll go a little further to the left, right about there. And then I'll turn off that Show Overlay option, close the Clone source panel and I'll do a little bit more erasing here just to do some additional blending of the image.

And then I'll do just a little bit more blending. I'll reduce my brush size here and erase with a soft edge in order to blend some more portions of that sky. So in this way, we can continue fine-tuning our work here. Of course, we could also use a Layer mask in conjunction with our clean-up layer if we wanted to. That's something that I'll use in situations where I need a little bit more control, but often times just working carefully will allow you to produce a good result. And keep in mind we can always perform more cloning in order to repair certain areas.

So I'll go ahead, for example, and blend this area in a little better. Or I could always use a different tool, for example, the Spot Healing Brush tool in order to blend some of that work together so I get a more seamless cleanup for the image. So while I would certainly suggest that the Spot Healing Brush tool, for example, is going to produce more seamless results in many situations. The clone stamp tool can be very, very helpful in terms of some of the controls that it provides, while you're copying pixels from one area of an image to another.

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Photoshop CS6 Image Cleanup Workshop

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