How-To



Monday, March 23, 2009

Power Cloning


Instead of wrestling with tools that only can do part of the job, try this technique to clone color while maintaining the all-important texture in your image

This Article Features Photo Zoom

power cloning
Photoshop provides many tools for cloning, the process of cleaning up small imperfections before printing. Dust on the sensor, contrails in the sky, twigs protruding into the frame or a cigarette butt in the scene are examples of things a photographer might choose to clone out. Several tools are provided in Photoshop to make easy work of these situations. The Rubber Stamp tool, the Patch tool, the Healing Brush and the Spot Healing Brush are the usual choices.

These tools do a great job of changing pixel color to match the surrounding area so that the spot is no longer visible, but they also tend to change the texture of the area. While this can be mitigated somewhat by choosing the right area to sample with the Rubber Stamp, Patch and Healing Brush tools, sometimes keeping the underlying texture intact and changing only the color is what works best, especially if the area is larger than a few pixels. There’s no specific tool to do this in Photoshop, but it can be accomplished in a relatively simple manner with only a blank layer and the Brush tool.

Figure 1
In this image of a slot canyon in the Colorado Plateau, you can see a close-up section where a pivotal area (circled in red) had just enough color difference to slow the eye down as it prepared to jump off into other parts of the scene. The texture of the area was perfect, but the color wasn’t quite right.

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power cloning
Figure 2
To correct it, the Patch or Healing Brush tool could have been tried, but because they create their replacement color from adjacent pixels, the edge shared with the background area would bleed orange into the correction. Figure 2 shows the results of attempting to use the Patch tool. The orange color and the less-than-perfect edges are obvious. The texture also has been changed, but might be passable.


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Figure 3
A better way to facilitate the color change is by adding the right color in a new layer over the texture that’s already present. The Brush tool is used to do this. Because the Brush tool can be finely controlled, even with a computer mouse, blending the correction into the scene is both easy and accurate.

However, before describing the procedure, it’s important to set up Photoshop to make the process work correctly. First, select the Eyedropper tool from the Tools palette.

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