How to Use the Clone Tool in Photoshop

I do not claim to be an expert in many areas. In fact, I can sadly only think of one and it involves cloning photographs. That classifies me as seriously uncool, doesn't it? Years of cloning the fat off slabs of meat and sizes off pizza packaging and flies off bread is the reason I have obtained these skills that you must be supremely jealous of.

Way back a long time ago, during the years when I worked my butt off creating Super Kmart ads, I hated cloning. I hated retouching photos. I hated creating ads. I guess when you do something day after day for months and years on end, with constant tight deadlines and loads of stress, you're bound to form ill feelings.

Now that I am long separated from those headache-inducing years, I am quite thankful that I can clone fat off a rump roast. Or garbage off my lawn. Or dried food off my little boy's shirt.

Cloning is usually the last thing I do to a photo, and I do most of my cloning in Photoshop. My typical photo-editing process goes like this: main photo adjustments and cropping in Lightroom, followed by minor tweaks, eye enhancement (if applicable) and any needed cloning, all in Photoshop.

In this photo, I have everything edited to my liking with the exception of eliminating the garbage from the lawn and the food smudge from Elijah's shirt.

See? Garbage and a smudge. I'd rather not have either of these things invading this cute photograph.

First I click on the Clone Stamp Tool on the tool bar (or hit S on keyboard).

And I make sure my separate layer specified for cloning is selected on my Layers palette.

When the Clone Stamp Tool is selected, options for opacity, flow and alignment appear under the drop-down menus at the top of the screen. I want 100% opacity and flow because I want to completely clone over the garbage. And this is just a personal preference of mine, but I like to clone non-aligned. To do this, I uncheck the Aligned button (I believe it is checked by default). This just means when I release my mouse and click again, the sample will restart from the original selection spot that I designated. I like to do a lot of resampling, so I prefer doing it this way.

When I am ready to clone, I hold down my Alt key and the below cursor appears over my photo. This indicates that it is ready to read information from the exact location that I want sampled. So, I hold down the Alt key and then I simultaneously click over the location that I want to sample from.

I release both. When I click again, I am cloning. The circle below is my Clone Stamp Tool. The + is the location the sample is being taken from, that I designated with my initial Alt-click.

Like I said, I like doing a lot of resampling because it makes the cloning look more believable. Here I am seeing the need for a resample, so I Alt-click again in my desired location.

I clone over the rest of it, and now the yard is garbage-free!

I zoom into the smudge (most likely yogurt) on Elijah's shirt.

Once again, I sample with an Alt-click. Determining where to sample from is something that I have learned over time. It's not something that can be easily explained, and I know this because I have been sitting here for fifteen minutes trying to think of a way to explain it. You will need to determine which patterns and shades should be replicated. The only way you will learn this is through trial & error and experience. Mostly experience.

After a bit of cloning, another resampling is needed so I Alt-click in another location.

I finish off the rest of the food smudge and then eliminate a few other pieces of shirt lint.

I zoom out to make sure the cloning looks natural.

Much better! A lawn sans garbage and a clean-shirted little boy. Thank you, Clone Stamp Tool, you have saved yet another of my images.