It is of my humble opinion that the wide majority of Adobe Photoshop users don’t use nearly enough of the tools that are available to them. While I can’t be absolutely certain of this statement, I’m fairly certain. My own history demonstrates this as well as the histories of many friends of mine who have used this application. This is a shame too because most of the tools that aren’t used are actually very simple to get a grasp of.
Back in the beginning of my training, I can remember avoiding the entire center section of tools that exist in the left vertical toolbar. Perhaps I didn’t need them or perhaps they were there but I didn’t know how to use them. Either way, for years, I avoided them like the plague.
One of the tools I wish I had taken the time to learn about is called the Clone Stamp Tool. If memory serves, at one point, I attempted to see what this tool did and I got lost in a whole lot of nothing. I made a mess of things and decided that I should keep on wondering about it because I knew it was too advanced for my limited needs. Today, I know that wasn’t true because, as you’ll see below, this wonderful tool can be a lifesaver under the right circumstances.
If you’ve never used the Clone Stamp Tool before, you’re in for a treat. It’ll take just a few minutes to explain how it works and then you can let your imagination run wild with the possibilities. It’s pretty intense and fun at the same time.
In today’s post, I’m going to quickly demonstrate how to copy a tree in a winter’s field using this tool. I’ll make a direct copy of the tree and then explain a few tips that can make your life a lot easier if you decide to undertake something similar.
The Idea Behind the Clone Stamp Tool
Here’s what the Clone Stamp Tool does. It uses a brush to take a sample of a specific area of an image. Then, it remembers that sample and allows the user to place it anywhere else on the image. When the user does that, they have the ability to paint a larger and larger area, so a duplicate (or clone) area begins to form. The reason this tool is confusing for many who don’t know how to use it is because they’ll oftentimes take a sample unknowingly and then paint all over the place in wonder of what in the heck they’re doing. When they realize the process isn’t intuitive, they abandon the tool in its entirety. Trust me, this is an easy tool that you’ll have a lot of fun with. For the remainder of this post, I’ll graphically describe what I just wrote above.
Some photos are better than others when it comes time to use this tool. The reason I chose the one below is because there’s a wide open area next to the tree I plan on duplicating. That open area is perfect to create the clone.
Clone Tool Settings
While there are numerous ways to set this tool up in the options bar, a few particular settings are important and very popular. The two options I’d like to focus on here are the Aligned option and the Sample drop-down options.
For these two options, I’ll let Adobe explain in their own words:
Aligned – Samples pixels continuously, without losing the current sampling point, even if you release the mouse button. Deselect Aligned to continue to use the sampled pixels from the initial sampling point each time you stop and resume painting.
Sample – Samples data from the layers you specify. To sample from the active layer and visible layers below it, choose Current And Below. To sample only from the active layer, choose Current Layer. To sample from all visible layers, choose All Layers. To sample from all visible layers except adjustment layers, choose All Layers and click the Ignore Adjustment Layers icon to the right of the Sample pop‑up menu.
Think of it this way; if the Aligned box wasn’t checked, I could take a sample of the tree in the photo above. Then, I could make one duplicate of the tree and then another and another after that. There would be no end to my madness. When I check the Align box, I am limited to one tree. No matter what I do, just one iteration of the tree can be made, even if I let go of my mouse button and try to paint again.
Regarding the Sample drop-down, I always choose Sample All Layers. The reason for this is simple. When duplicating objects in my files, I can easily sample from a lower layer and paint the object on a new layer that I created above that image layer. This way, no matter what I do, I can’t screw up the original, making the process non-destructive. You’ll see more of what I’m referring to below.
I’ve already discussed Flow and Opacity in previous posts, so I’ll leave them alone. Those are easy to understand anyway.
Choosing the Clone Stamp Tool
The first thing I’m going to do here is to create a new layer to make the copy on. So, I’ll head down to the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and click. This will create a new layer right above the background layer that contains the photograph.
Next, I’ll select the Clone Stamp Tool from the left vertical toolbar.
Finally, I’ll head up to the options bar and choose a brush size and change the hardness so it’s very soft. I’ll also check the Aligned check box and set the Sample drop-down to All Layers.
The brush size I chose measures about one inch on my computer screen, or one fifth of the width of the object I’d like to copy. For more information about brushes and how to set them up for use, please read through this post:
Now I’m ready for work.
Making a Copy of the Tree
To take a sample, I’ll need to hold down the Alt key on my keyboard. After I do that, the brush I chose will turn into a crosshairs. Once that happens, I can hover over the center of the object and click my left mouse button. Now, there’s something very important here to be cautious of. When sampling, be sure to have the layer you want to sample from selected in the Layers panel. If not, and if you have the empty layer selected, you won’t be actually sampling anything. Don’t worry, you’ll learn this lesson fast after you don’t sample anything a few times by mistake.
I just took a sample of the tree and moved my mouse to the right, where I’d like to begin making my duplicate.
At this point, all I need to do is to select the empty layer in the Layers panel to draw on and draw the tree. As I’m doing this, I’ll see the tree appear on the right and the crosshairs move around the area I’m copying on the left. Eventually, with a little care, I’ll see a duplicate of the tree.
And I’ll also notice that the copy of the tree is on its own layer, so I didn’t disturb the original at all.
I want you to think about what just happened for a moment. Not only did I just duplicate an object by using the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop, I could have just as easily covered up an object with something else by doing the same exact thing. I could have moved the tree or made it disappear all together. This is a very versatile tool that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Fixing the Area by Masking & Selecting
You may have noticed that there is some discoloration around the branches of the tree. There are a number of different ways to remove the darker sky so the lighter one shows through. You can use the Eraser Tool or, more preferably, use a mask and the regular Brush Tool. I’ll leave the masking and brushwork up to you, but I will lead you to a nice resource on the topic. It’s a great post I wrote a while back. More precisely, scroll down to the Masking with the Brush Tool section to see what you can do with a situation like this.
Personally, in this case, I’d use the select by color range feature because there really is a distinct color difference between the lighter background and the darker sky of the area I brought over. I don’t have to worry about mixing the branches of the tree in there because they’re a different color as well. To learn how to take advantage of this feature, please read this post:
Or, you could just use the Magic Wand Tool to select and delete any area that’s off color. If you did that, you might end up with something that looks like the photo below.
If you do decide to use the Magic Wand Tool, this is the post you’ll definitely want to read. It’s really thorough.
After you fix up the color issue, you’ll have a nice duplicated tree on its own layer with the original layer undisturbed. Perfect.
I know this topic can be sort of complex. I tried my best to stay focused and to not stray off into other areas. Basically, take away the idea that you can clone, move or hide different areas of an image with the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!