Cloning out (or in) an object in Photoshop is generally one of the first things that new users tries out

It's probably because what the tool does (moving pixels from here to there) is both amazing and fun  For some reason users seem to like removing an eye or adding a third eye - heck - I did it as well.

The tool is used to either remove something from a picture or move something within a picture or move something from one picture to another or move something from one layer to another.

This is an example of a distraction being removed ...

cloning cloning
Original Background Removed

Tool Options

Cloning successfully is more than just setting a source point and blasting away.  

Brute force is seldom successful and generally looks bad.

This tool has pressure sensitivity built in when you have a Wacom Tablet installed and this makes all the difference as you will see.


From left to right, these are the options ...

Brush Tip Shape - you can use any brush tip and some may produce better results than others. The Tool will react to pen pressure meaning it's dynamics can be set in the brush palette.  In most, but not all cases, it is best to have a soft edge brush to prevent hard lines where the brush has been used.

Mode - generally will be Normal but in some situations other brush dynamics can be used. When glamorizing an image it may be useful to change the dynamic to either Darken or Lighten.

Opacity - if the brush palette is set to Opacity (darker strokes with more pressure on the pen) then this setting can remain at 100%.  There are times, however, when it may be useful to lower the opacity to insure that the cloning stroke is very understated - low opacity and work the same area many times.

Flow - specifies how quickly paint will flow.  A low number will apply less paint and a larger number will apply more.

Aligned - when this is checked the sampling point follows the brush around the screen even when the Wacom pen is lifted or the left mouse button released.  When it is not checked the initial sampling point is selected each time the pen is lifted or the left click released.

Use All Layers - this is a great option - just add a new layer above the original image and clone to the layer rather than on the original.

Using The Tool

Cloning is more than just setting a source point and blasting away.  Brute force is seldom successful and generally looks bad.

This tool has pressure sensitivity built in when you have a Wacom Bamboo or Wacom Intuos Tablet installed and this makes all the difference as you will see.

Stuff you need to know about ...

Source Point - this is where you are taking information (pixels) from to put them somewhere else.  The source point is set by ALT-Clicking or ALT-Tapping if you are using a Wacom Tablet.  When you press the ALT key the cursor turns into a circle with a cross in the middle.

As you are working make sure you change the source regularly and always be very careful that the color of the source is as close as possible to the color of the destination.

Destination - this is where the pixels are going to end up.

CS3, CS4 and CS5

cloningIn Photoshop CS3, CS4 and CS5 you can set up to 5 different source points which reduces the tedium of constantly setting new ones.

The palette also has blend modes (lighten, darken, difference and normal).  The ability to change the blend modes is a great addition.

You can even set an overlay that will show the source point over top of the destination as you work.

In addition the "Use All Layers" check box has been expanded.  

It is now a drop down menu and you can choose Current Layer, Current & Below or All Layers.  This is another nice upgrade in CS3, CS4 and CS5.

How To Clone

Let's take a look at a couple of images ...


The first one has some blemishes and a shiny spot ...

The dark blemish is the first spot to be addressed.cloning

The Source point for this blemish will be just to the left of the destination.  

When you set the Source take a good long look at the colors and textures to  make sure the cloning will match, as closely as possible, the color and texture of the area after you have finished.

A soft edge round brush will work well most of the time.

Do your cloning to a new layer and make sure "Use All Layers" is checked.  This makes it easy to throw out mistakes (not that you will make any).

Zooming in a lot is generally a good idea.

When you are using a Wacom Bamboo or Wacom Intuos tablet make sure the Brush Dynamics are set to change opacity with pressure.  

With a mouse lower the master opacity down to about 25%.

Once everything is set Alt-Click to set the Source, move your brush over the area to be removed (or added) and start painting.  With lower opacity the spot will gradually disappear creating seamless strokes.

This is the same patch of skin after some low opacity cloning.

The dark blemish went quickly but the shine and the blotchy skin took a little longer.

When working on the shiny parts of the skin the blend mode of the clone tool was set to darken.

The end product was a bit too - well - clone looking so I added some noise Filter > Noise > Add Noise. The Mode was set to 1.0, the Distribution set to Gaussian and Monochromatic was checked.

This patch of skin looks rather bland in isolation (like this) but as part of the whole image it looks fabulous.


Do you have any antique pictures of your family or anything that is meaningful to you that are in need of some TLC?  

Generally, the problems with an old photo include ones that can be handled by cloning dust spots, scratches and even tears.

Here is part of a really interesting scanned picture with some obvious flaws.

Dust spots and something that looks like a scratch at the bottom make this the perfect candidate.

For this exercise the foreground will be the lighthouse and the background will be, well, everything that is not the lighthouse.

This is important because a couple of the defects are falling right on the boundary between the foreground and the background so a lot of care needs to be taken when working in those areas.

So choose a starting point, zoom in, select the source and start working.

Because of the damage at the edge of the lighthouse using a hard edge brush is the best choice.  

cloningThe cloning on this took about 15 minutes.  It was done with a small, hard edge brush.

  1. The Source was changed many times throughout the exercise and depending on where I was working Aligned was checked and unchecked often.

  2. The brush on my pen was set to change Opacity with pressure and very light pressure was used so that the damaged areas were removed slowly.  If you keep the brush at full Opacity you will often see the tell tale lines of a poor cloning job - so back off the Opacity.

  3. There was a lot of zooming in and out to work and then to inspect the area just worked.

  4. The background in this picture is the ocean and a busy, cloudy sky.  It's important to be aware of something like that. The reason is that if a dodge and burn layer is added it's really not a good idea to clone out parts of the background that's not a damaged area.

  5. If you are using a Bamboo or Intuos tablet you can try light tapping of the pen on the destination.  At low opacity the tapping pen gradually replaces the destination information with the source information and the result is smooth and seamless.

Image To Image

You can also move something from one image to another.

Here are a couple of images - a city scene (which was a scan of a picture and a real mess which took a lot of cloning to fix) and Tabitha in her little flying wading pool.

cloning cloning

To go from image to image ...

  1. Activate the image that will be cloned and set the Source by Alt-Click or Alt-Tap (with your Wacom pen).

  2. Active the destination image, add a new layer above the background layer, select the spot you want the image to go and start paining. My image to be moved (Tabitha in her little flying wading pool) was saved as a .png file so there is no background.  If you are taking something out of a messy background you will have to make sure you can see the Source image so you can stay in the lines you have set for yourself.

  3. An alternative is to select the area you want to move, promote it to a new layer and clone from that layer.  If you do this remember to turn off Use All Layers.

It is as simple as that - and here is Tabitha placed on a new layer on the City picture.


Because the Tabitha picture has no white background I could have just copied and pasted it into the city picture but it's not nearly as much fun and this is, after all, a cloning tutorial!

Go Tabitha!

The Video

Cloning Video

Page Links


Using The Tool

CS3, CS4 and CS5

How To ...

Image to Image


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