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Photoshop: The Clone Stamp Tool

The 'Go-To' Tool for Repair Work

By Damien Andrews

Often, photographs have errors in them. Other times, photographs can be dramatically improved by either removing something from the photograph or adding something to it. Photoshop has tools designed for performing these tasks. In my opinion, the Photoshop Clone Stamp tool is unrivaled in its ability to assist users with these tasks. Take a few minutes to learn how to use the Photoshop Clone Stamp tool, and you'll be able to rapidly repair or alter photographs quickly, easily and precisely.

Photoshop Clone Stamp tool Basics
The Clone Stamp tool is readily available on the Photoshop Tools Palette, along with its sister tool, the Pattern Stamp tool. If you are not using the Text tool, simply hit the letter "S" to make the Clone Stamp tool active. When the Clone Stamp tool is active, you'll have several options to choose from in order to make the tool work better and faster for your specific task. The primary options are: brush size; brush shape and style; mode; opacity and flow. You can also set the Clone Stamp tool to emulate an airbrush. While you're working with the Clone Stamp tool, you can quickly enlarge or decrease the brush size by typing either the "[" key to make the brush smaller or the "]" to make the brush larger. Repeat the key until the desired size is achieved.

Photoshop Clone Stamp tool settings
Good, basic settings are as follows: Brush: round, 10 pixels • Mode: normal • Opacity: 100% • Flow: 100%. Leave the airbrush option unchecked. Be sure to check out all the options in the dropdown Brush options area. There are hundreds of brush size/style combinations.

To make your corrections more slowly, reduce the opacity and/or flow of the Clone Stamp tool. For better blending with the original photograph, use brushes with feathered edges or oddly shaped brushes.

Using the Photoshop Clone Stamp tool
The Clone Stamp tool is very easy to learn to use, and will give good results even when used with basic settings. But some experimentation with brushes, flow and opacity will yield absolutely perfect results. Start by making a copy of your original picture. This is done quickly by dragging the layer down to the Create a New Layer icon and releasing it. Click the 'eye' next to your original to make it invisible. Now make the copy layer your active layer.

Place the brush (cursor) on the spot you wish to use to repair the bad spot, hold down the ALT key and left click once. Now place the brush over the bad spot and again, left click once. Photoshop will duplicate what you selected with the ALT key depressed onto where the brush is now located.

Please note: With the ALT key depressed while clicking, the Clone Stamp tool selects the area immediately under the brush. Then, when the next click occurs, Photoshop records the distance and angle from the spot where the Clone Stamp tool picked up the repair area (using ALT) and ALWAYS uses that same angle and distance to make its clones – until you again store repair data with the ALT key. So: if you use the ALT key to pickup an area 1" right and 45° up from the spot to be repaired, no matter where you move the Clone Stamp tool and click, Photoshop will get the clone data from 1" right and 45° up away. This means that to repair multiple areas of a photograph, the ALT key command must be used multiple times to ensure the proper portions of the photograph are cloned. (This is really a very simple concept to learn, it's just awkward to write.)


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