How to use the cloning tool in Photoshop – Part 1

Tip by bikegypsy on November 12, 2017

Retouching images is one of the most popular uses for Photoshop. The term “Photoshopped” is widely use in the media to talk about an image that has undergone major retouching. The majority of retouching is performed to correct small imperfections in an image. This can be due to various details in the photo that need some kind of improvement, like getting rid of imperfections in the skin or something as simple as dust on the camera sensor – which is a very common problem – that appears on the image and needs to be eliminated. For this type of retouching, Photoshop experts use a method called ‘cloning.’

‘Cloning’ allows you copy a particular part of an image a paste it somewhere else. This task can also be performed in a continuous stream, meaning that an entire portion of an image can be cloned gradually as you proceed progressively with the cloning.

To clone, we use the Clone Tool, which is one of the most widely used tool in Photoshop. Note that cloning is a two part process: copying and pasting.


1. In the tool bar, the Clone Tool is represented by a rubber stamp, similar to the ones used by border officers to stamp passports.

2. After selecting the Clone Tool, you can give the cursor one of two appearances: either in the normal appearance — which will give you a cloning circle based on the size you choose — or in target appearance, which is performed by pressing on the Caps Lock key. In the latter, your cursor will look like a target symbol that has a fixed size, contrary to the normal mode.

3. Parameters. The next step will require you to set the working parameters of the Clone Tool. There are a series of parameters that you may use but there 3 major ones. These are the size of the cloned are, the softness of the edges of the area and the opacity. We will see the more complex parameters in the Part 2.

4. Size and softness of the Clone Tool. For this, access the tiny window at the top left corner of your Photoshop window where numbers with a circle on top are shown. This will open a panel where you will be able to edit these 2 parameters. This will most certainly require some trial and error; you can just set any value in order to begin.

5. Opacity of the cloned area. The opacity tab is located a bit further right of the size tab, but is easy to spot as it has the “Opacity” written on the left of it. When clicking on it, a slide bar will appear allowing you to change the opacity.

6. Decide what part of the image needs corrections and pick an area you could clone in order to bring the improvements you want to make. For example, if the task requires you to make a scar disappear or appear less obvious, choose an area of the skin which is nearby and is smooth. Usually, areas nearby area closer in color, tone and contrast and therefore make for easier cloning.

7. Copying. You are now ready to begin with the copying phase of the cloning. Press on the Option key; this puts the cursor in copy mode. Now, bring your cursor over the area from where you will clone and while in copy mode, left click on your mouse. This signals to Photoshop where is the starting point in the cloning process. You can now release the Option key in order to put your cursor in paste mode.

8. Pasting. We will now proceed to pasting. Photoshop has kept your cloning start point in memory and you can proceed to paste anywhere on the image. Begin in small steps and assess your work as you go along. If you judge that you have make the wrong choice, click undo and reset your brush parameters. If you want to go back several steps, you can go back in your History as detailed here.

9. Adjusting. Like previously mentioned, this task will require a few attempts in order to get your parameters right. Adjust the brush size, softness and opacity based on your previous results and continue testing until you get the desired results. Cloning takes a few tries before the image detail looks natural.

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