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
Figure 10
The green highlights in Figure 9 show other important settings on the Options bar for the Brush tool. The Mode should be Normal and the Opacity should be low—10% to 15% is usually a good starting point. The low Opacity setting means that color can be added incrementally with each pass of the brush over the affected area. This allows the color change to occur more slowly and also permits resampling to produce natural color variation. Finally, to avoid confusion, the Flow value should be set to 100%. This ensures that each time you click the mouse and pass it over the area to be retouched, the brush will lay down 100% of the selected Opacity percentage of the sampled color. This avoids unintentionally laying down additional color with subsequent passes while the mouse is clicked.

Now it’s time to paint. Make sure the blank new layer is the active layer and zoom in on the area that needs to be corrected. To sample a color for painting, press the Alt key (Option key on a Mac), and click on and release a color that best matches what the discolored area should look like. In this image, the rock adjacent to the discolored area was sampled. The “Set foreground color” area of the Tools palette will show the sampled color.

power cloning
Figure 11
To paint, place the Brush cursor over the discolored area. Click the mouse, hold the button down and move it around the area to paint the color into the new layer. It’s important to continue to depress the mouse button until you’ve made one pass over all the places you want to cover. If you unclick the mouse, painting stops. After doing this the first time, a very slight color change should be noticeable in the discolored area.

Sample another adjacent color and again paint over the discolored area. This color will be slightly different than the first color so it will add a little variation to the discolored area. Make the brush smaller ( [ ) to work the edge areas. Continue to repeat this cycle of sampling and painting, slightly changing the area that’s painted each time to create additional variation. When finished, the texture of the discolored area will be unchanged, but the color will blend much better with the surrounding area. By using colors sampled from different locations and varying the brush’s size to stay within the edges, it’s usually possible to achieve a color change that’s a perfect, neutral match to the surrounding area. Figures 12 and 13 show the image and a close-up of the formerly discolored area after painting in the right amount of color. Compared to the original version in Figure 1, the color has changed significantly to blend with the surrounding rock, but the texture is untouched.

power cloning
power cloning
Figure 12
While this technique works great on images with small discolored areas, it works equally well on areas of larger discoloration. Figure 12 is an example. The rock formation looks nice against the high clouds in the sky, but the amount of blue in the shadows on the rocks is too intense.

Figure 13
It would be nearly impossible to Clone, Patch or Rubber Stamp these areas back to normal. Painting color from the surrounding areas into the blue shadows, however, makes it quite easy and natural-looking. The key is to paint the color into a blank layer in which the blending mode had been changed to Color so that natural texture of the area is preserved. Figure 13 shows the results.

Tony Kuyper is a photographer and writer living in northern Arizona. His photography focuses on the light and sandstone textures of the Colorado Plateau. See more of his work at


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