Sometimes you’ll snap a photo that’s perfect but for one or two minor details. Maybe a freak gust of wind caused a tuft of hair to stand on end, or perhaps an innocent passerby strolled into the edge of the shot just as you pressed the shutter button.
In situations like these, cloning can come to the rescue. With just a few strategic sweeps of the mouse, unwanted photography quirks can be quashed.
The good news is that you don’t need any image-editing expertise to benefit from Photoshop Elements’ brilliant Clone Stamp tool. Indeed, you’ll be able to master it in just a few minutes.
Step 1: Select the Clone Stamp tool
The procedures explained here apply specifically to Photoshop Elements 11, but earlier versions of the program work in a similar way.
To begin, select the Clone Stamp tool either by clicking the stamp icon or by tapping S, which is the keyboard shortcut.
Step 2: Choose the right source area
Cloning works by covering up an unwanted part of a photo with a nearby ‘good’ part – this is known as the source.
Picking the right source is important. The source should be a very similar colour and texture to the target, which is the area of the photo that you wish to cover up. With a beach photo, for example, an unoccupied area of sand could be used as the source to erase interloping holidaymakers.
To set the source, hold down the Alt key on your computer’s keyboard and then left-click on the appropriate area of the photo.
Step 3: Don’t squint – zoom
For best results, zoom in so that only the target and source areas are visible in the editing pane.
Click the magnifying-glass icon (or just tap Z on the keyboard) and then click the plus (‘+’) symbol to increase the zoom level. Alternatively, once the Zoom tool is selected, just click and drag the selection area over the relevant area.
If necessary, use the sliders at the bottom and right-hand side of the editing window to centre your workspace on the appropriate area.
Step 4: Pick the right brush
Select the Clone Step tool again and decide whether the current brush type and size is suitable for the touch-up work that you need to do.
Remember that the brush strokes will be drawn from the graphics at the source area. We’d suggest that the brush size source be set a little smaller than the target area, as this will allow you to work more carefully.
Choose a suitable brush from the Brush dropdown menu in the Clone Stamp panel. If you need to fine-tune the width, use the use the Size slider to the right.
Set Opacity to 100%, and Mode to Normal.
Step 5: Work slowly, from all sides
Once the source is set, the Clone Stamp tool’s brush will use the source area as its output stroke, so you can paint over the target using the graphics from the source area.
Just click and move the brush gently over the target area. Note that the source area isn’t static: it follows the movements of the main brush, at the same fixed offset as your first stroke.
Unless the target area is very small, it is unlikely that a single source area will be sufficient. In our beach photo, for example, the sand to the right of the unwanted holidaymakers doesn’t match the shingle to their left.
We’d suggest working from at least two sides, selecting a new source each time.