How to Use the Clone Tool in Digital Image Editors


For many, the Clone tool is digital manipulation. This tool – called the Rubber Stamp tool in Adobe applications – can be thought of as a brush that paints with pattern and texture from another part of the image.

You can use this technique in two main ways. First, you can copy one part of the image to another to hide, or remove objects within a scene. Imagine you have a village scene that would, were it not for some satellite dishes and yellow-line road markings, be quintessentially Victorian. You can use the clone tool to remove the lines, dishes and any other contemporary street features. Second, you can add to or enhance scenes by cloning elements to new positions. You could make a small copse into a forest, for example.

If it is appropriate, you can also clone between images, copying elements from a source or ‘donor’ image to your current working image.

Setting up and using the clone tool is simple. First, select a brush type and size. You can also adjust the opacity of the clone, normally as a percentage. This will determine how the clone is applied: at low percentages the original image will appear through the cloned overlay. At 100 percent the original pixels are obliterated.

Next, you need to set a point, often called the clone-from or source point, from which you will copy pixels. This is not a fixed point, but rather will move in parallel to your painting movements. It is important, therefore, to ensure that there is sufficient appropriate imagery nearby to effect the clone.

Now, when you use the clone tool, assuming that you have set the tool to Aligned, you can paint with the texture of your clone-from area to a new area, obscuring the original area under the brush. You can use the opacity (or transparency) control to alter the opacity of the brush (which is sometimes better if a more suble or less obvious effect is sought).

Aligned or non-aligned?

Clone tools often feature the option of setting the tool as Aligned or Non-aligned. To achieve the effect you want, it is important to check that this option is correctly set. In Aligned mode, the sampling point and the writing point maintain their respective positions as you use the tool: the pair move in parallel even if you release the mouse momentarily. In Non-aligned mode, each time the mouse is released and then pressed the sample is taken from the original starting point, irrespective of the current position of the writing point.

Filed Under: Computers & Technology

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About the Author: Justin Belden is a freelance web & graphic designer with over 15 years' experience. He is also an Avid member of the Design/Development community and a Serial Blogger who loves to help people by sharing interesting and informative tips and trick related to computer and technology.

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