How to Use the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop

Has this ever happened to you? You’re looking at a photo you took with painstaking care and then notice something that shouldn’t be there. What are you going to do? It’s ruining your whole photo!

I’m Cara, a photographer. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. Or simply when I’m photographing clients at the beach, I need to get rid of other people or distracting elements behind them. 

Thankfully, the stamp tool in Photoshop is quite effective for this task. Let’s take a look at how to use it.

Note: the screenshots below are taken from the Windows version of Photoshop CC. If you are using the Mac version, they will look slightly different.

Step 1: Find the Clone Stamp Tool

I found this fun image of these folks jumping on the beach. Those other little people in the background are a little distracting, though. So let’s see if we can’t remove them. 

You can access the Clone Stamp Tool from the toolbox on the left side of your screen. Or, you can just hit S on the keyboard.

Step 2: Duplicate the Layer

Always duplicate the layer before beginning to Ctrl + J (Command + J on a Mac). I’ve named this my Stamp layer.

Step 3: Choose a Brush

Choose a soft brush from the Options bar at the top of your screen. Using a soft brush will help the edits to blend with the rest of the image and look more natural. A hard line would be too obvious. The lower the hardness percentage, the softer the brush. 

You also need to set the brush to the right size. For more complicated clones, you’ll need to constantly change the brush size. To change it quickly hit [ (left bracket key) on the keyboard to make it smaller and ] (right bracket key) to make it larger. 

Step 4: Define the Clone Area and Stamp

The Clone Stamp tool works by copying pixels from one part of the image to another part. Thus, we need to define where we want Photoshop to copy the pixels from. 

Hold down the Alt key and your cursor will turn into crosshairs. Then, click to select the spot you want to copy from. 

For this image, I chose a spot just to the right of this person. Then I painted over the person to make them disappear.

Voila! The person is gone!

A few more clicks and I’ve cleaned up the rest of the image. It’s like magic!

7 Stamp Tool Tips

This was a pretty simple image, but what if you have a more complicated image you’re working with? Here are a few suggestions that will help.

1. Zoom In

Always zoom in on the portion of the image you’re working on. Trying to clone large sections never works out well. Check out our tutorial on how to use the zoom tool.

2. Start with the Small Stuff

If you have multiple objects you want to remove, start with the small stuff. This boosts your confidence as you work. Plus, it will give you more clean space to copy when you’re ready to clone out the big stuff.

3. Avoid Repetition

Sourcing adjacent pixels is usually the easiest way to get pixels that match the right color and brightness. Unfortunately, it can also make it obvious that you cloned something out if it looks repetitive so be careful when choosing your source. 

4. Mirror the Pixels

Mirroring the source pixels can be helpful when you’re trying to avoid repetition or in instances of symmetry. For example, if you want to remove a person from in front of a door, you can source and flip the pixels from the visible side of the door. 

To mirror the pixels, open the Clone Source window by clicking on the clone icon on the right(ish) side of your screen. You can flip horizontally or flip vertically, depending on where you need the pixels from. 

5. Adjustments in the Options Bar

For more complicated clones you may need to make adjustments in the Options bar. For example, to blend skin tones together better, try lowering the opacity and perhaps the flow. You’ll have to clone more times to cover the blemish, but it will blend better. 

You can also hit the dropdown menu and choose which layer(s) you want to source from. 

If the Aligned box is checked, the source point will move with your cursor. Uncheck this box if you want the source point to remain the same. 

6. Adjust the Cloned Sections with Adjustment Layers

If you can’t get the brightness/colors etc. to perfectly match, you can always create an adjustment layer. 

If you followed this tutorial, you’re doing your cloning on a separate layer. This means you can clip your adjustment layer to the cloned layers and affect only that piece of the image.

7. Be Patient

Finally, my last piece of advice is to just be patient. Complicated cloning projects will take time to get them to look right. 

Good luck!

About Cara Koch
Cara fell in love with photography circa 2014 and has been exploring all corners of the imagery world ever since. When she felt limited by Lightroom, she dove headfirst into Photoshop to learn how to create the images she wanted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • guy

    great explanation well illustrated. Beats video for me.