The Photoshop clone stamp tool simply allows you to duplicate a picture or even just a part of an image. Using the clone stamp tool, designers and creators of all levels of proficiency can copy and hide objects using pixels with ease.

Using a combination of components and steps featuring a destination, a source, and a brush, you, too, can master the clone stamp tool. 

Finding the Clone Stamp Tool 

Before you can administer the clone stamp tool, you have to know where the clone stamp tool is. You can find the clone stamp tool located on the left-hand side about midway down in the photo editing software. The clone stamp tool lies between two brushes and looks like its namesake. 

When you choose the clone stamp tool, you’ll be given two options in a drop-down menu: the clone stamp tool and pattern stamps. Today, we’ll be dealing only with the clone stamp tool, so that’s the one you want to click. 

photoshop menus

Photo by Chris Harrison Licensed Under CC BY-SA 2.0

How to Delete Objects with the Clone Stamp Tool

One of the most common uses of the clone stamp tool in Photoshop is to cover up a section of a snapshot as if to delete it entirely.

With the help of the clone stamp tool, this classic yet innovative feature, you can do things like hiding blemishes on portraits, cover up tattoos, remove objects blocking an important component, or crop out logos. 

Open the Photo

Your first and simplest step in this process will be to open the photo you want to edit. You can do this by selecting the File button and choosing Open. As a shortcut, you can also press Ctrl+O on your keyboard, or Command+O on your Mac.

Find the file you need and open it into your project.

Depending on the size of your picture, you may need to zoom into the spot you want to remove, just to help you with accuracy. Otherwise, you’re ready to start using the clone stamp tool. 

Highlight a Cloning Source

At this point, you already know where to find the clone stamp in the program. If you need a refresher, jump back up to the first subheading in this article. Once you have the correct clone stamp icon selected, you’re going to highlight your source.

Also known as the source area, this is the part of the shot that you want to implement to cover the unwanted portion of your picture with the clone stamp. The key to this step is finding a part of the photo that will blend well. For example, if you want to remove a tree from the background of a landscape photo, you might designate the surrounding sky as your source.

Once you have determined the source you want to use, hold down the Alt key, and specify it. You have successfully highlighted your source. 

Choose your cloning source

Paint Over Unwanted Object

Once you have highlighted your source area, you can release the Alt key for your next step. You can now paint over the unwanted object in your photo using the clone stamp tool. Simply click and drag the clone stamp over the portion of the picture you want to get rid of.

In performing this motion, you will be painting your source area over the unwanted object with the clone stamp —i.e., the sky from our example over the tree blocking the view.

During this step, you will realize how crucial it is to highlight the right portion of the picture with the clone stamp tool. That’s why zooming can be extremely helpful; from afar, it may look like you’ve highlighted a blue sky. However, once you start painting, you might come to realize you clipped in a white cloud or the edge of a mountain – and that won’t look good. 

Paint over the unwanted object with your clone stamp

Steps for Healing Skin Blemishes with the Clone Stamp Tool

Thanks to intelligent software and its various technologies, we can achieve flawless looking skin—even if it’s just in a photo. Using the clone stamp tool in Photoshop, users can remove skin imperfections like moles, blemishes, and wrinkles. 

Healing skin blemishes with the clone stamp tool
  1. Duplicate the Photo’s Background Layer: When making significant edits on a photo with the clone stamp, you should always work within a new layer. So, the first step you should take when trying to cover up a skin imperfection in a photo with the clone stamp tool is to create a duplicate layer of your photo’s background.

    To duplicate the layer, highlight it within the Layers panel on the right of your interface. Then, choose Layer, followed by Duplicate Layer. You can also choose Duplicate Layer from within the “More” menu within the Layers panel.

    Once you do either of the above steps, you can name your duplicate layer and hit “OK.”

    You can also create a duplicate later and skip the naming step by selecting the layer and dragging it over to the New Layer icon at the very bottom of the Layers panel.

    Finally, you can achieve the same result by using the shortcut Ctrl+J on a Windows PC or Command+J on a Mac.
  2. Choose a Clone Source: Remember where the clone stamp tool icon is and how to pick it up? Now that you have created your duplicate layer to work in, you’re going to pick the clone stamp tool in Photoshop once again and put it into action to choose your clone source, just as we discussed earlier.

    After zooming into the spot where the blemish is located, look, and find a section of pixels that’s clear and free of any marks or pimples. This is the area you want to use as your clone source. Operate the clone stamp tool by holding the Alt key and selecting a clone source that closely matches the skin tone where the blemish is.

    If you’re dealing with several locations or blemishes with the clone stamp tool, be sure to redo this step with different areas of skin and brush size options so as not to obviously repeat patterns.
  3. Choose Brush Mode Option: Slightly different from removing just any object with the clone stamp tool, when you’re working with blemishes and skin, you want to make sure that your healing brush tool’s softness is set at zero. Additionally, it should be set to normal mode.

    As far as opacity goes with your healing brush tool, we recommend leaving it anywhere between 10% and 30%, but this is something that you can toy around with as you learn and work with different subjects and skin tones with your healing brush tool.

    There’s a good chance you will have to fight through various combinations of opacity and healing brush size before you get it exactly right, so have some patience. The goal is to have the skin end up looking as natural as possible, and that takes some time and effort.

  4. Paint Over the Blemish with the Brush: Finally, your last step is to use the clone stamp tool in Photoshop to paint over the imperfection. Once you have nailed down your opacity-size combo and selected just the right source, you can release the Alt key.

    Use the mouse, still on the same clone stamp tool, and drag the clone stamp over the blemish part of an image. Doing so will use the clone stamp to cover it with the identified portion of clear skin, covering the mark and revealing a newly flawless complexion. 
Clone stamp tool options

What is the Healing Brush?

Both the healing brush and the spot brush complete similar actions to what we just learned about the clone stamp tool, but they demonstrate a slightly less precise method and work best for small blemishes, scratches, and other marks on an image. 

Healing brush tool

This brush works by using the photo’s pixels around a blemish to cover up the imperfection, cloning it with the rest of the background. For example, you could use it to quickly and easily cover a small, round pimple. To do so, one would simply touch the brush, adjust the size and blending mode, and smooth over the imperfection. 

When using this tool, you can also implement sampled mode, which is even more similar to the cloning. In sampled mode, rather than brushing directly over the blemish, you would start in the area near the imperfection. This essentially chooses a source, like with the clone stamp, and continues it to cover to blemish. 

The spot healing application works in almost the same way as the healing version, except that it doesn’t need a source area. This tool is more intuitive in that all you have to do is select a blemish or paint over a space, and the software configures the pixels and draws from the whole snapshot to blend. 

When using the spot icon, you can use one of three modes: proximity match, create texture, and content-aware. 

The proximity match will draw its source from the surrounding color, blending away the mark or blemish based on the neighboring pixels. 

While proximity match will automatically blend using existing pixels, the create texture mode generates new texture patterns in an instant to fill in where you have removed an object. 

Finally, the content-aware mode uses built-in intelligence to decide which option is best for your situation, preventing you from having to decide between the proximity match and create texture modes. 

How to Match the Light and Color

Composite photos are awesome for when you have a great shot that’s missing an element or two, but the trick to a truly beautiful composite photo is matching your light and color pixels with objects that didn’t originally go together. 

In fact, that’s usually the reason behind many editing fails. People may not know the light and color don’t match, but they can clearly see that a person wasn’t actually standing on a mountaintop because it just looks off. 

Lighting and Texture

So, at this point in the clone stamp process, you should have already cut out your object or person and placed them onto your background. Since the shot is actually made up of two separate photos from different times and locations, they probably don’t match each other. 

Before making any changes, make sure you’ve created a new layer to work in. Once you’ve done that, you can pull up the Curves panel and start messing around with the light settings on your cut photo. 

This step might take a little time and practice, but stick to this main concept: if your cut out picture is brighter than your background, darken it. If it’s too dark, lighten it. Simple. 

While you’re adjusting the light levels, you can also try applying a texture to both the background and the cut-out object. Doing so can help make them look more like they belong together since they will have a unified texture. 

Curves adjustment levels

Adding Filters

After changing both the lighting and the texture, you might find that the color of your photo is still off. One of the best ways to match your color tones while using the clone stamp tool is to choose the Filter menu, scroll down to Blur, and pick Average. This will come up with the average color of the background pixels of your picture, and you can apply that to your added element. 

To do so, create another new layer filled with the average color. Then, position the color layer over your added picture and hold the Alt key. Move your mouse between the two layers and click the arrow to apply. Now your added picture has the same average coloration of your background, making it more realistic and believable. 

Additional Tips and Techniques for Mastering the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop

The clone stamp tool in Photoshop has been around since the beginning, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to master. The ultimate key to success with the clone stamp tool is practice, practice, practice. However, there are some critical points to remember that can help you use the clone stamp tool:

  • Always create and work within a new layer
  • Zoom in closely on portions that you’re removing
  • Remember to set your size and hardness, adjusting for pixels as needed
  • Clone without adjustment, making your adjustments like brush size afterward
  • Be careful to avoid making obvious patterns with your source areas
  • Follow along lines for accuracy
  • Try to avoid linking sources directly adjacent to unwanted objects
  • Accept that the process may be messy and mistakes will be made
  • Use the mirror function if helpful 
  • Initiate adjustment layers to alter cloning areas

By following these tips and practicing the steps listed above, you can become a master of cloning in Photoshop with the clone stamp tool.