How To Manipulate Images With The Photoshop Clone Stamp Tool

Jennifer Farley

From teaching Photoshop over the last few years, I can say without a doubt, that the Clone Stamp tool is the one that beginners enjoy using the most. And why wouldn’t they? It is great fun removing people from your photographs, adding bits from other pictures and filling in missing parts on damaged photographs. The Clone tool is a vital element in the retoucher’s toolbox. So how does it work?

The Clone Stamp tool samples pixels from one area of an image and copies them to another part of the image. You are literally using a paint brush to paint pixels from part of an image onto another par. You can use any brush tip or shape with the Clone Stamp tool, allowing you to control very precisely the area that you are cloning to and from. You can also sample from one image and apply the clone in another image, as long as both images are in the same color mode.

In this simple example, I’m going to remove a butterfly from a tar macadam background, but the concept is the same with any image you choose.

1. Open up your image in Photoshop.


2. Select the Clone Stamp tool (clip_image001).


3. On the tool options bar, open the Brush pop-up palette and select a medium-sized brush with a medium soft edge. For this example, I set the brush diameter to 200 pixels and the hardness to 50%. It’s a good idea to use a soft edge brush, otherwise you will see a very hard line where the cloning takes place.


4. Then, make sure that the Aligned option is selected.


Now you need to set up your sample point in the area in the area you want to duplicate and clone to another area. When you select Aligned in the options bar, it means you will reuse the most current sampling point no matter how often you stop and resume painting. When Aligned is deselected, you’ll reuse the same sampled pixels every time you paint.

5. Move the Clone Stamp tool pointer to the dark area on the left side of the butterfly. Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) and the pointer appears as target crosshairs. Click once to set that point as your sampling point. Release the Alt or Option key.


6. Click and drag the Clone Stamp tool over a small area of the butterfly’s wing. As you drag the wing will start to disappear as it is replaced with the pixels you’re sampling from another part of the image. The crosshairs that appear to the right of the Clone Stamp tool indicate the source area of the image that you are replicating as you drag.


7. Release the mouse button and move the pointer to another part of the butterfly wing. The crosshairs maintain the same spatial relationship to the Clone Stamp tool pointer that they had when you made the first stroke. This is because you set the Aligned option when you were setting up your brush.

8. You can reset your sample area anytime by holding down the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) key and clicking once. You will need to do this several times to completely remove the butterfly, and don’t forget to resize your brush as you go. Keep cloning until you have removed the side of the butterfly on the dark side of the tar macadam.

9. Reset your sample point and work on the white side until you have cloned “out” the other side of the butterfly. To finish the area where the butterfly sat, take samples above and below.


And that’s it. Don’t be afraid to keep resampling as you work through your cloning. If you do a lot of cloning, you’ll find using the shortcuts become second nature very quickly.


Is the Clone Stamp Tool an important part of your workflow?