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Tools: The Clone Tool
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Tools: The Clone Tool
Created by: Prof

This series of tutorials is oriented toward helping those new users of PSP 9 to learn the basics of this great graphic program. The tutorials are written to introduce the basic features, tools and palettes and build upon one another. Also, the tutorials may be used as a reference for using particular tools, palettes and features of PSP.

Photo Enhancement Tools

In this next series of lessons we will explore tools that usually are used to enhance and fix defects in photographs, though these tools can also be used on any graphic. For the most part each tool is quite easy to use. Some have few options while others have more options to create very useful and interesting results as well as make photographic enhancement a pleasure.

Most of these tools have very similar options. Thus, mastering the various options for a given tool will certainly provide good learning for other tools. Most of the options (seen in the Tool Options palette) deal with shape, size, hardness, step, density, thickness, rotation and opacity of the brush used. Other options are more tool specific.

The tools we will be exploring in this series include the Clone tool, the Color Replacer tool, the Scratch Remover tool, and the Retouch tools (Dodge, Burn, Smudge, Push, Soften, Sharpen, Emboss, Lighten/Darken, Saturation Up/Down, Hue Up/Down, and Change to Target).

Purpose and Goal of this Tutorial Series

The basic goal is to explore how to use each of the tools to enhance and/or fix photographic defects. Note as stated above these tools can also be used on any graphic creation.

  • Clone tool – removing unwanted areas (this tutorial)
  • Scratch Remover tool – fixing scratches and tears
  • Color Replacer tool – a quick and easy way to change colors
  • Retouch tools – each of these tools changes the photograph in a particular way. Rather than reproducing the description of each of these brushes, use the Help File: Go to Help || Help Topics, then click on the Index tab, and enter "Retouch Brushes: Description". You will get a table with the description of what each brush does.
Download File Download File
There are three pictures in the zip file on the left. They are from the pdphoto.org a royalty free photo web site. Unzip the file into a folder of your choice so that you can then open them in PSP.

Clone Tool

The Clone Tool

The Clone tool is used to remove unwanted areas of a photograph (or any other graphic) by copying adjacent areas over the unwanted object blending into the background of the photograph. With the various option settings the blending process can be seamless, producing a quality retouched photograph.


Exploring the Clone Tool

There are two main aspects in using this tool: One is the settings used in the Tool Options palette, and the second is the technique in using the Clone tool itself.

We will explore the settings below. There are two basic ways to use the tool. The first is to drag the tool, the second is to dab the tool (just clicking the mouse). There are times when dragging will work well and times when just dabbing the tool works best.

To use the tool, find an area you want to use to remove (copy over) another, unwanted area. Right-click into that area to copy it and then left-click to paste it over the other area. That, basically, is all there is to using the tool though there are techniques you want to master.


The Tool Option Palette Values

Many of these options are also the ones you will see for most of the tools we will cover in this series of lessons. Also, experience in using this tool (and others) will give you more understanding of what values to set for the various options.

  • Shape – depending upon both the area you are removing and the size of the brush to use, you will choose either the circle or the square shape.
  • Size – brush size can be varied, and the area to remove and its surrounding colors will tend to govern what size brush to use. Sometimes trial and error is the best teacher.
  • Hardness – this value is a key value, and often it will be set to around 50 or less. The lower the hardness the more the edges of the brush shape are blended into the background of the photograph. This effect is due to the way the edges are set to be partially transparent. I often find that a value of at least 50 or less is a good value to use as it does allow good blending into the background.
  • Step – if you drag the brush tip it will paint or apply the copied area every x (= number set) pixels. To drag the brush often suggests a lower value for steps while dabbing the brush the steps do not matter. This value does require a lot of trial and error to get the value that looks good when cloning.
  • Density – density mainly refers to the solid area applied. The higher the value the more dense the application. Often I just leave this value at 100.
  • Thickness – this value will either have the brush tip at full (value of 100) or will reduce it to a thin line (value of 1). Usually one will keep the value at 100. However, on special occasions it can be of use to lower the thickness to between 10-25 with a large size brush to grab a larger area to clone with. However, the default value of 100 is fine for most applications.
  • Rotation – this value is only used if you reduce the thickness of the brush, and most often is left at its default value of 100.
  • Opacity – when you reduce opacity you will raise the amount of see-through from below. In other words, the lower the opacity the better the area below is visible. Lowering opacity to between 80-100 with hardness set to about 50 results in a very good set of values to blend into the background when removing an unwanted area.
  • Blend mode – this value works like the blend mode settings in the Layers palette and is for more advanced use of this tool.
  • Stroke – when this button is activated a new stroke will be applied. Often this option is used in advanced use of this tool.
  • Continuous – by default, this option is unchecked. When unchecked, if the opacity value is less than 100% then each time one goes over the same area, more paint is applied until the area is at 100%.
  • Aligned mode – when unchecked, the same area used will be copied each time you apply the brush. When checked, the area copied will be relative to the source area being cloned. To know which value to use just requires experience. For the most part I find having this value checked works best on the photographs I use for cloning.
  • Sample merged – this value is a more advanced setting and has to do with getting an average of the colors of all layers when it is checked.

Open Image

Open '/tutorial/html/tut9eff/ocean.jpg' of your download file and duplicate the original (Window || Duplicate or Shift+D), then close the original to preserve it. (I recommend this for all photographs or other graphics you open to work with in PSP.)

This picture is an 800x600 pixel photograph of an ocean view. We will remove the clouds from the upper left to illustrate how the Clone brush works. We will also add some additional waves to the left side.


Clone Tool

Removing the Clouds

Activate your Clone tool. For all examples, I am using the square shape because I want to get as close to the water line as possible. The following are the values I used:
– Size = 50
– Hardness = 50
– Step = 25
– Density = 100
– Thickness = 100
– Rotation = 0
– Opacity = 80
– Continuous = unchecked
– Aligned mode = checked

Since I want to remove the clouds, I selected an area (right-click) I wanted to paste over the cloud area, as illustrated.

When dabbing or dragging (by left-clicking) the area with the cursor will have the original area copied to it. In the image on the left, the area being copied is represented by the red 'X'. As you move the cursor (by holding down the left mouse button), the relative distance between the copying cursor area and the red 'X' will remain the same. In other words, as you move your cursor, the red 'X' moves relative to the cursor.

In this example, with "Aligned mode" checked and the type of photograph, one can either drag or dab to remove the clouds. In this example I just dragged the cursor over the clouds and the areas with the red 'X' that moved with the dragging were copied to the cursor, and the clouds were removed.

Notice the wave area at the left of the photograph.

One can also add areas to a photo. In this example I captured the waves and then added them to the area on the left to create a larger area of waves.

Some More Examples

In this picture of the leopard, the upper left corner is something I wanted to remove. I used the same values as above, except:
– Hardness = 90
– Opacity = 100
to get a better look to the cloned area.


In this final example, I used the same values as in the first example. However, when I was cloning out the left side I often captured an area either below that which I wanted to remove or, as in the case of the grass, to capture both the grass and the rock. I used dabbing (just clicking the mouse button rather than dragging) to clone out the unwanted parts.

One could have cropped out the unwanted parts but I wanted to give you another example where you could also clone them out.


Final Comments

Many photographs can be improved by using the Clone tool. Learning how each of the values affects the results will provide you with a great tool to create and fix very good-looking photographs from poor ones.

There will be times when you want to just clone a single area in which case you uncheck the "Align mode" option. There will be times when dragging will work well and there will be times when dabbing works best.

Experiment, explore and work with many photographs. Change the values and see how lower values for Hardness and Opacity can make the blending work very well when fixing photographs.