Retouching with Cloning Tools: Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of the Retouching with Cloning Tools series, you learned what cloning tools are used for and the differences between each tool. In this part of the series, you will follow a step-by-step tutorial to learn how to remove power lines (or other unwanted objects) from an otherwise beautiful photograph.

Photo by Navid Baraty
Photo by Navid Baraty

This particular image contains distracting power lines on the left side of the stylish building, but the photo is oriented in such a way that simply cropping them out would look strange. Fortunately, there is plenty of white sky near the power lines to work with, so it will be easy to do some retouching using the cloning tools. Feel free to follow along in Photoshop and practice with your own image!

Beautiful Building

Step 1:

Open the image in Photoshop. Press Ctrl+Shift+N to create a new layer. Name the new layer “Retouch.”

Retouch Layer
Press Ctrl+Shift+N to create a new layer.

Step 2:

Press J to active the Healing Brush Tool. This tool is represented by an icon that looks like a bandage. Right-click the icon and select “Healing Brush Tool.” Select “All Layers” from the Sample drop down menu at the top of the screen.

Select Healing Brush Tool
Right-click the icon and select “Healing Brush Tool.”
Sample All Layers
Select “All Layers” from the drop-down menu next to “Sample:” .

Step 3:

Zoom in on your image (Alt+Scroll) until you can clearly see the power lines. Hold Alt and click anywhere in the sky area to define the sample. Click-and-drag to draw over the power lines. Stop drawing right before you get to the edge of the building (if you go all the way to the edge, the healing brush tool will try to blend the sky with the edge of the building). After you are finished, the power lines will be most gone; however, miscolored blobs will have replaced them.

Healing Brush Tool
Alt-click to define the sample area, and then draw over the power lines.
Stop before you get to the edge.
If you draw over the area at the edge of the building, it will end up looking like this. Instead, stop right before you get to the edge.
Healing Brush Tool
The left side of the photo should now look like this.

Step 4:

Right-click the Healing Brush Tool icon and select the Patch Tool. Draw around the dark blobs to make a selection, and then click-and-drag to an area of white sky or clouds to sample the new area. Release the mouse. Repeat this step until all of the blobs are gone.

Patch Tool
Right-click the icon and select “Patch Tool.”
Patch Tool
Draw a selection around a mis-colored area, and then drag the selection to an area of sky or clouds.

The only trace of power lines that remain on the photo now are the ones closest to the building. In order to prevent the smart tools from including the building the sampling, we need to force Photoshop to only take into account the area of sky behind the building. The easiest way to to this is to make a selection that only contains the sky and the leftover power lines.

Leftover Power Lines
Only the bits of power lines to the edge of the building are left.

Step 5:

Press W to activate the Quick Selection Tool. Click inside the area of sky. Click again in other part of the sky. Keep clicking until the only the sky and power lines are selection. If you make a mistake, Alt-click to subtract the mistake area from the selection.

Quick Selection Tool
Press W to activate the Quick Selection Tool.
Sky Selection
Make a selection of the sky or clouds. Include the power lines in the selection.

Step 6:

Press S to activate the Clone Stamp Tool. Alt-click anywhere in the sky to define the sample area. Draw over the power lines until they are completely gone.

Clone Stamp Tool
Using the Clone Stamp Tool, Alt-click to sample the sky, and draw over the power lines inside the selection to make them disappear.

Here’s the final image.

Final Image

By Melanie Mayne

Melanie Mayne is a writer, hobbyist photographer / graphic designer, and avid gamer. She has a BA in Humanities with a minor in English Writing and has written articles for, RantGaming, eHow, Search Sciences LLP, and American Diversity Report. Find out more about Melanie by visiting her personal website.


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