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A Cloning Layer contains the secret sauce that enables painting with a photograph, or any image for that matter. Using Cloning Tool or Presets, source imagery is deposited on the Cloning Layer, utilizing the character of the brush and texture being employed. In this video, we will take a look at how Cloning Layers work as well as what you can and can't do with them. So, here's the basic schematic for how this works. And just to preface this, the reason it works at all, happens to do with the extreme sensitivity of the Mixer Brush to color that is on a layer.
And you can have as little as one percent of a color on a layer and the Mixer Brush will see it and not only pick up that color, but just paint it with full intensity. This was almost considered a bug during the pre-release of CS5, but when I hit upon the way this works and found out how this technique would work, I implored the engineers, please do not remove this, this is like a Northwest Passage. And so, they did keep it in there and essentially what's happening is, the action is taking a copy of the actual color image and it's reducing it down on a layer to 1% Opacity, and that's such light Opacity that it essentially doesn't even look like there's anything on the layer.
Now, that layer by itself wouldn't work because in order to turn down the Opacity to zero, you essentially have to decrease the Alpha Channel's Opacity to zero for that to happen. So now, you've got this 1% of Opacity in the RGB component of the layer, but you now have no reserve of Alpha Channel left, because you've used it to lower down to that 1%. So, what has to happen is, a second layer that is just a normal layer that does have its 100% Alpha Channel intact has to be merged with that image layer.
And so, when you combine the two, you end up with a single layer that has a full 100% Alpha Channel available to be able to show and make visible any painting that you do on that layer. But it also has, in its RGB component, that 1% of image that is nearly invisible, you can see it, especially when you have three of these stacked up. If you really look, you can just see the slightest ghost of the image being created by those three overlapping versions of the image.
But it's so light, it is not useful for seeing where to make positional placements of your brush. And that's where the Reference Layer becomes useful, because that is adjustable and you can make it as opaque or transparent as you want. But it's just this vagary of the Mixer Brush that it's so sensitive to color in the RGB component of a layer, that it's able to paint. And by retaining or giving back to that 1% Image Layer, your are giving it the full Alpha Channel so that just touching that with one of these Mixer Brush set up to be a cloner will actually start painting with it.
So, that's the secret sauce behind how this works.
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