Cloning with the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop Elements
Say that you want to duplicate an element in your image. That’s easy enough, right? Make a selection and copy and paste it into the new location. That works fine most of the time.
But what if the element has a shadow behind it, next to it, above it, or below it? You face the dilemma of having a hard edge on the copied element because the shadow (called a cast shadow) is cut off by the selection outline. You could feather the selection, but then you have to make sure that the copied element blends realistically with the background. What a pain.
The better method is to clone the element by using the Clone Stamp tool. It’s quick and easy, and no one will know that only one element was there originally.
Believe it or not, you can also reach for this tool when retouching imperfections, such as scratches, scars, bruises, date/time stamp imprints from cameras, and other minor flaws. In fact, that used to be one of its major functions.
In some retouching instances, it does a decent job, although the arrival of the Healing Brush and Spot Healing tools has relegated the Clone Stamp tool more to the pure cloning functions and less to the hard-core retouching jobs.
The Clone Stamp tool works by taking sampled pixels from one area and cloning (or copying) them onto another area. Follow these steps to clone an element without any genetic engineering:
Open an image and choose the Clone Stamp tool from the Tools panel in Expert mode.
In the Tool Options, choose a brush from the Brush Preset drop-down panel and then use the brush as is or adjust its size with the Size slider.
Select the Blend mode of your choice in the Tool Options.
Selecting a mode such as Difference, Multiply, or Color can produce some interesting special effects.
To make the clone more or less opaque, use the Opacity slider or text box in the Tool Options.
To make your cloned image appear ghosted, use an opacity setting of less than 100%.
Select or deselect the Aligned option, depending on your preference.
With Aligned selected, the clone source moves when you move your cursor to a different location. If you want to clone multiple times from the same location, deselect the Aligned option.
Select or deselect the Sample All Layers option.
This option enables you to sample pixels from all visible layers for the clone. If this option is deselected, the Clone Stamp tool clones from only the active layer.
Optionally, click the Clone Overlay button.
Select the Show Overlay option, if desired. Applying an overlay can be useful when cloning subjects that need to be in alignment with the underlying image. Adjust the Opacity to your desired percentage. Select Clipped to have the overlay clipped, or contained, only within the boundaries of your brush.
This makes it a lot easier to clone exactly what you want. Select the Auto-Hide option, which, when you release your mouse button, will display a ghosted preview of how your cloned pixels will appear on the image. While you’re painting, however, the overlay will be hidden. Select Invert Overlay to reverse the colors and tones in your overlay. This setting can also assist you in aligning areas.
Alt-click (Option-click on the Mac) the area of your image that you want to clone to define the source of the clone.
Click or drag along the area where you want the clone to appear.Credit: © iStockphoto.com/Pinnacle Marketing Image #1426264
While you drag, Elements displays a crosshair cursor along with the Clone Stamp cursor. The crosshair represents the source you’re cloning from, and the Clone Stamp cursor shows where the clone is being applied. While you move the mouse, the crosshair moves as well. This provides a continuous reference to the area of your image that you’re cloning. Keep an eye on the crosshair, or you may clone something you don’t want.
When you successfully complete the cloning process, you have two identical objects.
If you’re cloning an element, try to clone it without lifting your mouse. Also, when you’re retouching a flaw, try not to overdo it. Clicking once or twice on each flaw is usually plenty. If you’re heavy-handed with the Clone Stamp, you get a blotchy effect that’s a telltale sign something has been retouched.
Save the image and close it.
Here are a few additional tidbits regarding the Clone Stamp tool:
Use the Clone Stamp tool to fix simple flaws. To clean up a flaw that’s pretty straight, such as a stray hair or scratch, Alt-click (Option-click on the Mac) with the tool to define the source. Then click at one end of the straight flaw and Shift-click at the other end. The cloned source pixels cover up the flaw.
Pay attention to the origin point for sampling. Depending on what you’re cloning (for example, when covering up a flaw), if you keep sampling from the same point without ever varying it, the area you’re cloning starts to look like ugly shag carpeting. Or, at best, it starts to appear blotchy and over-retouched.
Zoom out once in a while to check how your image looks overall. Doing so helps you avoid those funky clone-stamp repetitive patterns and blotches.