Advanced Editing

How to avoid the signs of cloning

Learn how to use the clone to to make changes to digital images that no one will notice.

Avoiding the Tell-Tale Signs of Cloning

Good cloning work is something you’ll never get credit for, and that’s the way it should be. Bad cloning, on the other hand, will be apparent and those who spot it in your images will not hesitate to say that something seems amiss.

In the example, the task is to clone out the purple disc and create a seamless transition of the gradient background. Avoid these tell-tale signs of cloning: discs, tracks, blotches and wrong sample.


Clone discsThe outline of the cloned area will be apparent if your brush is too hard. To eliminate the disc effect, reduce the hardness of your brush. A zero hardness provides the softest, most feathered edge.

Another way to reduce the disc effect is to keep your mouse depressed as you pass the clone tool over the work area rather than clicking each time to apply the sample.


clone-tracksTracking will occur when the sampled area intersects with an edge of another image component or an unwanted pattern is repeated in the sampling process.

To eliminate the track effect, resample from an appropriate area with greater frequently.


clone-blotchesAn area resembling blotches of dabbed on paint will be apparent if the sampled area does not match the clone area or when the opacity of the brush is too high to effectively blend the cloned area.

To eliminate blotches, make sure you have a good sample before applying the clone and reduce the opacity of your brush to blend in cloned areas.

Wrong sample

wrong-sampleWhen the cloned area stands out as though it simply does not belong in its surroundings, it’s probably because the sample area was the wrong color or texture.

To eliminate the effects of wrong sampling, sample from a surrounding area that provides the best match or best fit for the cloning task. Oftentimes, this will be directly adjacent to the clone area, but sometimes you’ll want to review the entire image for a specific color, pattern or texture match, depending on the complexity of the cloning task.

Cloned right

Correct cloneWhen done correctly, you can see that the cloning task underway not only successfully cloned out a portion of the purple disc, but also cloned in a flawless continuation of the blue to black gradient background.

Good cloning takes time to master, so make a habit of scrutinizing images for cloning opportunities and practice the technique with an eye toward avoiding these tell-tale signs.

Share your final images with others. If they don’t say anything about cloning, you won’t need to say anything about cloning, either.

Illustrations and text by Dawn Lane. The material is copyrighted. All rights reserved

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.