Using the Clone Tool in Gimp

September 29, 2009

I apologize again for the lack of posts, but now that we’re back from vacation and starting to get back into the swing of things, things should get back to normal soon.

A few weeks ago, I posted this photo on my flickr account and mentioned that, among other things, I had cloned out some power lines. Flickr user LostInLifeAgain (who has been playing around with minimalism lately, you should check it out!) asked if this was something I was going to cover on, and to that I say: Great idea!

Let’s start by looking at the unedited photo:

Nice Power Lines.

Those power lines are pretty obvious. I could just crop them out, but then you’d lose the effect of the plants swooshing in from the side, I liked have some negative space there. That’s where the clone tool comes in. The idea behind the tool is that you pick a spot on your photo – I’ll call it the sample spot – then start painting over another part of your photo using the sample spot. The unique thing about the clone too is, though, that it doesn’t just keep repeating that sample spot. If, while painting, I moved my cursor down, my sample spot would move down, too. This is nice because in this case that allows me to keep the natural gradient of the sky. However, it can also be frustrating because if I pick a sample spot too close to my power line, it’s very easy to start painting over my power line with power line.

I know, it doesn’t make sense. I read so many things about the clone tool and was very confused until I started actually playing with it. So, let’s do that. The clone tool looks like a stamp in your Toolbox:

The Clone tool

Notice once you select the tool, you have all the same options as you do with the paintbrush tool. I’m going to pick a brush size that’s about the same size as the wire I’m trying to clone out. I like to zoom into my photo at this point to see what I’m doing better, and to really see the size of my brush.

In order to select your sample spot, you must hold down Ctrl while clicking on the photo. I’m not going to admit how long it took me to figure that out. Notice when you do that, your cursor changes. I can’t figure out how to take a screen capture while I’m holding down Ctrl, so just pretend in this screen capture that my cursor looks like the cross-hairs and not the one with the circle with the line through it. Anyway, I’m going to select a spot right up next to my wire:

Selecting a Sample Point

After I pick my point, I start painting over the wire. Notice that as I move down the wire, my sample point moves with me:

Painting over Power Lines!

As I move down and to the left, my sample point moves down and to the left. Did you notice, too, that there’s still some wire showing? That’s because my sample point was so close to the wire, that if I went too far to the right, the wire would start showing back up again – because remember, as I move to the right, my sample point moves to the right, and if you look back up to where I took my sample point, the wire was directly to the right of it.

In order to fix that, I’m going to take another sample point (remember, by holding Ctrl down while I click), just to the right of the wire (once again, just pretend I’m holding down Ctrl in this screenshot [on a side note, does anyone else use SnagIt and know how I can get this screen capture with Ctrl held down?]):

Picking another Sample Point

Now I paint over the line again and – Presto! – it’s gone!

Oooh, where'd it go?

Annoyingly, I had a lot of power lines in this photo to clone out. But when I was done, I ended up with this:

No Power for You!

Hard to tell this photo was taken in a parking lot now, isn’t it?

If you’re wondering how I got the beachy feel of the image posted on flickr, I’ll tell you a secret that has nothing to do with the clone tool. Remember the Split Tone Plug-in? Create a duplicate layer and then run the plug-in with the default settings. Your duplicate layer will be desaturated, but turn the visibility of that layer off. Do the same with the blue shadow layer, and then play with the opacity of the golden highlight layer to warm up your photo. This is a fun thing to try with photos taken during the Golden Hour to give them that extra bit of warmth. If I use these settings:

Post Split-Tone Layers

I end up with this final photo:

A little bit beachy

In the image on flickr, I think I actually kept in the blue shadow layer, just with a low opacity. Other times I’ve used this trick, having the opacity of the golden layer at 100% was way too much. You’ll just have to play with it for each image to see what works best.

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Filed under: Photo Editing
  • mommymirage

    Wow ! Loved the explanation of the clone tool. Wish I'd read it earlier in the week since it took me about half hour to figure out how to clone the two trees from the front of this ( log so they now look like they're growing from behind. Ofcourse I didn't figure out that the control point moves with the strokes until I was done with the first tree lol !

    I loved your idea about the beachy feel to the split tone too ! For me, THAT was a valuable lesson for the day. Thank-you !!!

  • skydvr

    re: snagit - use delayed capture? Trigger the delayed capture then go into your window and hold the ctrl key until the capture happens? I don't have snagit, so I can't test it, but I know snagit can do delayed captures...

    Thanks for the cloning info - definitely going to put that to use....

  • Thank you! I've been using SnagIt for years and never saw that delayed capture before. Just tried it, and it worked like a charm :)

  • Luke

    Thank! Your explanation of the clone tool has made me want to go and try it.

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