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When To Use The Clone Stamp VS. The Healing Brush Tool

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Feb 04

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Clone Stamp VS Healing Brush Tool

We get a lot of people asking us what the difference is between the healing brush tool and the clone stamp. While they both have similar uses, there is a difference in how these tools get the job done.

Both of these tools let you select a sampling point. This is the part of the image you want to keep, and paint over distractions and blemishes. The clone stamp paints a complete copy of whatever you select. However, the healing brush tool keeps the highlights and shadows of wherever you’re painting and only paints the color of your sampling area. This makes the clone stamp much more suitable for areas with defined edges, since the healing brush will only blur the color and you’ll end up with messy, smudged edges.

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  • Anastasios

    Here is one of my latest images that I edited just earlier today. I used both tools to fix the skin wrinkles and the various tiny spots.

  • Helen Davies

    Ahhhhh, you make it sound so simplesssss :) I will definitely be trying this now!

    “Git on out of here!” I always wait for that :) XX

  • Zoha

    So helpful.

  • 753moni

    Hey, i’d like to ask you a little question. I understand this difference between healing brush and clone stamp but there’s something i’ve been using (in Paint Shop Pro, but it’s basically the same). Rather than a healing brush for the texture i sometimes used a clone stamp with less opacity, hardness and density, and it worked quite well for the texture. In this episode you show how to use the healing brush vs full clone stamp (full hardness, opacity, and density). But how can i choose better between a healing brush and an adjusted clone stamp? Thank you

  • Aaron Nace

    Good question. I tend to avoid using the clone stamp tool at a lower opacity because it can create “blurry” areas that are a mix of different textures. If you don’t have a problem with this I think your method will work for both situations! Thanks Monica!

Episode Transcript

Today I’m going to answer a question a lot of you guys probably have.  The differences between when you use a clone stamp tool and when you use a healing brush tool in Photoshop. [Music]  Hey guys, welcome to Phlearn, my name is Aaron Nace, you can find me on Twitter at aknacer.  Today we are bringing you some really cool things; some differences between using the clone stamp tool and the healing brush tool.  You guys probably know what each of the tool is, but it can be a little bit fuzzy at times, when you should use one tool as opposed to the other one.  Today it’s all about that. We're going to focus on how to use each tool and then I’m going to show you guys when to use one tool versus the other one.  Let’s go ahead and get into Photoshop, we’ve got a lot to do and it’s a good start to the week.

Here’s our image.  Today we're actually working on an image we shot of Kelsey a couple weeks ago, just an awesome, fun time.  We grabbed a light bulb, it’s always fun to use a prop when you're doing a photo shoot.  We just grabbed a light bulb, we had her hold it and we had a fan that was blowing her hair everywhere and we just said “Have fun, pose with it and look cool.”  This is a really good image to show you guys the differences between the two tools.

First thing we're going to do is let’s go ahead and create a new layer.  We're going to start off with our healing brush tool, and then we're going to move on to our clone stamp tool.  Let’s just zoom into a hundred percent and … sorry Kelsey this has not been retouched yet, but your skin is great for the most part. So, we’ll just take care of a couple of little areas that everyone has.  I have them, you have them, we all have little spots on our face.

We're going to use our healing brush tool first.  I’m on a new layer. What you want to be able to do is right here at the top. If you select current layer it’s not going to do anything.  You start painting and it basically just tells you there’s nothing on this layer.  What you want to do is either select current and below or all layers. Usually I select current and below.  It will select this layer but it will also select the layers beneath it as well.

With the healing brush tool, let’s just zoom in a little bit more.  Basically you create a sample point.  To do that hold down the alt key or the option key and you want to sample an area and click.  Hold alter option and then click with your mouse or if you guys are using a pen like I am [inaudible 00:02:13], click there with your pen.  When you let go you're going to start painting in a new area just like this and you let go and it’s going to do a decent job letting it in.  Let’s just choose a brush that’s slightly softer.  You want to choose a brush that’s about the same size as the actual area you want to paint in.

Let’s go over here and we’ll do the same thing.  Holding down alt or option, click sample up there and then we'll just paint over that little spot and you can see when I let go it basically just erases the spot.  You can see the before and the after with those, pretty simple really. Let’s go to another spot and we’ll show you guys the healing brush tool … sorry the clone stamp tool.  Now we're in the clone stamp tool.  Again, we can choose current and below as what we want to paint.  It’s going to select this layer and the layers below.  What we're going to do, again, just the same thing; is holding down alt or option.  We're going to click over here in this area, and now I’m going to paint in that area.  Alt or option and we're going to paint in this area.

You might be seeing, as of now it’s like well, those kind of do maybe the same thing.  Here’s the big difference.  Let’s just go ahead and delete this layer, we’ll create a new one. The healing brush tool, what it does is it takes the texture from the area you sample and it takes the color from the area that you paint and then it mixes those together.  The clone stamp tool basically just does a direct copy.  I’m going to choose an area right up here and this is going to be a good choice to actually show you guys the difference between the two.

Here’s the healing brush tool.  Let’s say I want to get rid of this guy and I don't sample up here, maybe I sample over here.  It’s going to take the texture from where I’m sampling.  Hold alt or option, sample there and then you can paint over there.  You can see, it doesn’t really look good, but when I let go, it’s going to take the color from around this area and try to merge it back into the area you're actually painting.  It’s going to take this texture and put the color right over there.  We can just try it again right up there.  I’m going to take this texture, paint it in there and when I let go it’s going to take these colors around there.

If I’m using the clone stamp tool and I hold alt or option over here, sample that point and I start painting in and I let go, it doesn’t blend it in anymore, it’s a direct copy, there is no more blending in.  You might be thinking to yourself, well, why don’t you just use the healing brush tool all the time?  That’s a really good question, but there are times when you don’t want to use the healing brush tool.

If you're doing simple little things like this like getting rid of little spots on someone’s face, the healing brush tool more often than not is the correct choice.  When you want to use the clone stamp tool is whenever you have an edge, whenever you're getting close to edges.  To show you that, we're going to go right down over here to where she’s holding this chord, it was an actual light, it’s plugged in and everything like that.

Let’s say we want to get rid of this chord.  The healing brush tool, it’s like okay, I want to get rid of that thing. Let’s just go ahead and sample with the healing brush tool outside of here and start painting in right over this area.  It might look good to start off with, but when I let go, now you're going to see why we don’t want to use the healing brush tool.  The healing brush tool, because it samples all the colors from everywhere around where you paint and kind of like blends them together.  If you have an edge right where you're trying to paint, it’s going to kind of blur that edge together as well. It’s trying to take this color and this color and kind of blend them in together.   With the healing brush tool, that’s just not the tool you want to use.  That’s an extreme case right there.  Let’s just say you're close to someone’s eye or something like that, you want to get rid of a little spot. It’s going to do the same thing.  You can see it’s kind of like blending that and you’ll wind up getting something that really doesn’t have any detail.

What we want to use in that case is the clone stamp tool.  Grab your clone stamp tool and then sample your color and you can paint right up to your edge. Keep in mind, it’s not going to try at all here to do anymore blending.  We're going to use our paint clone stamp tool and there we go.  All the way to the edge and when I let go, it’s not going to try to do any more blending which is exactly what we want.  Sometimes you can use these tools in conjunction with each other, because often times you really do want the healing brush tool to be able to just take the colors that surround it.

What I would recommend doing if you are going to be doing that … working with edges … is use your clone stamp tools to take care of your edges here and then you can go back to your healing brush tool. Then let’s just heal brush all this away.  There we go.  When I let go you're going to see it’s going to take the colors from all the way around that and it’s going to do exactly what its job is. It’s going to get rid of that.  When I’m going to go back to the edges, we're going to switch to the clone stamp tool here again and I’m just going to clone stamp some of the area that I actually want.  There we go we're starting up here. You don’t have to make this perfect.  You can come back and use the healing brush tool back over top of it.  Whenever you guys are working with edges; that’s a really good time to use the clone stamp tool as opposed to the healing brush tool.

The patch tool is basically like a giant healing brush tool.  You can use the patch tool as well; it’s just like a larger version of the healing brush tool.  There we go.  Let’s say we wanted to clean this area up, that would be a good time to use the healing brush tool to kind of like clean these edges up, because it’s going to come in here and kind of blend all those together for me.  That’s what it’s used for.  We're going to take care of our edges with the clone stamp tool and then, now that we don’t have really any edges to worry about, we can go in here and I can paint all this away with the healing brush tool. It’s going to do a really nice job when I let go.  I’m just blending all of it in except for this area which you're going to have to go over again.  It’s not a big deal, but generally I’ll take care of all the way from one side of an edge to another side of an edge. Then you can just healing brush in between them and you don’t have to worry about texture or color or anything like that. If we're going to do a crop, you can see we did a really nice job of getting rid of that using the clone stamp tool for the edges and the healing brush tool for the inside.  We'll just go in.  I’ll show you guys, this is going to be really quick.  If it’s someone’s face like this, again, you want to grab the healing brush tool, sample a color or a texture rather, that’s similar to the area you want to paint and if it doesn’t look good really at the first pass, don’t worry about hitting undo because you can just healing brush over top again.

You can see this is I’m working at about the pace that I would normally do a little bit of clean up and the healing brush tool is really great for these areas where you do have nice large patches of skin.  You can kind of go, hold down alt or option, sample these points and kind of go to work.  It does it very quickly and for the most part it just does a great job.  Don’t worry about using this tool on the edge. Anywhere where you don’t have edges, this is going to be the perfect tool for the job and it’s going to be very quick and easy.  You can see here are the before and after.  Taking care of those little spots really didn’t take too long and it’s perfect.  Now you know how to deal with edges, both close to the edges and far away from the edges.  Clone stamp tool, use with the edges and the healing brush tool, don’t use with the edges. That’s it guys, pretty easy.

Two tools I’m sure you guys know how to use them, but now you know how one tool should be used in the opposition to the other tool.  Thanks so much for watching Phlearn guys, I hope this helped you out and I can’t wait to see your beautifully retouched images without any fuzzy edges because you know when to use the clone stamp tool now.  Thanks a lot guys and I’ll Phlearn you later.  Bye everyone.

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Random Tips

You can change the size and hardness of any brushes by holding ctrl+option on mac and move the mouse with left click in Photoshop. On windows it’s option+right click.