Friday, October 7, 2011

Creative Cloning in Complex Situations—10/10/11

Patti Thompson Published in Tip Of The Week
Creative Cloning in Complex Situations—10/10/11
This Article Features Photo Zoom
I’m a cloner. What can I tell you, it’s one of my favorite tools in Photoshop. I clone out spots from sensor dust, stray hairs on foreheads, zits and blemishes… You name it and I’ll clone it. I use the clone tool on almost every image I create. It’s probably my favorite retouching tool of them all.

Maybe that’s because cloning works fairly simply. Option-Click on one spot in an image to define a starting point from which to clone, and then paint away elsewhere image to duplicate the pixels from the starting point. There are lots of options with the clone stamp to make it extra powerful and give it amazing functionality. But there are times when the clone tool falls short—namely, when working with a subject that has a strong perspective.

If I’m looking down the length of a building, for instance, its lines may stay straight, but the perspective will still make them converge at some hypothetical point in the distance. (Imagine train tracks running to the horizon, for instance.) This theoretical point is known as the vanishing point. And if I want to clone something from a part of the building in the foreground to a part of the building in the background, a plain old clone stamp just won’t cut it—the perspective will be all screwed up. But if I use Photoshop’s Vanishing Point filter to clone in perspective then I can get back to cloning just the way I like. Here’s how it works.

Open up any image that has strong lines leading toward a vanishing point. It need not be an architectural image, though these are the most common opportunities to use the tool, and they’re an ideal way to illustrate the process. (It would work equally well, though, on people shots. For instance, cloning a crowd from foreground to way back on the horizon would be an ideal use of the Vanishing Point filter.) With the image opened in Photoshop, click Filter > Vanishing Point to open up the filter window. Here, you’ll be greeted by a simple interface with nine tools on the left and a tool tip to help in the top of the window. The first step requires the second tool, and the only one currently available: the Create Plane tool. That’s the tool that will allow you to define the perspective in the photo, and it works pretty intuitively.

First click on a corner of your plane (say, the top right corner of the building). Then click the remaining three corners of that plane—bottom right, bottom left, and top left corners. Your plane is now defined and marked with a grid. Should you need to edit the grid, the first tool (the Edit Plane tool) will allow you to click and drag to make adjustments that ensure your plane is accurate. As long as it follows the general dimension of the structure in the image, you’ll be fine.

With the plane active, you’ve got a couple of options before you get to cloning. You can use the marquee tool inside the plane, where it will conform to the correct proportions and perspective. This is a great way to select and isolate an area to work.

Alternatively, you can just start stamping. As you would in any image opened in Photoshop, you alt- (or option-) click to define a starting point for the clone stamp, then click and drag to paint the newly cloned area. What’s great about cloning in the Vanishing Point filter is that the program automatically adjusts the brush size depending on its location in the grid—making it larger or smaller to perfectly match the appropriate perspective.

The other tools available within the window are simply there to help you navigate (the hand and zoom tools) or to let you select colors to paint with a perspective-controlled brush on the grid. But the real power in the Vanishing Point filter is the ability to clone in perspective. Never again will you curse while attempting to retouch a brick wall or a window, or even a strong leading line that runs toward the horizon. Photoshop’s Vanishing Point filter really does take a complex task and make it very simple and practical to achieve.
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