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Photography Tips - Post Production
Lightroom 4 Healing and Clone Tools

Continuing our series of Lightroom 4 tips, we take a look at healing and cloning. The healing and clone tools are a powerful way to make localised adjustments to your images by removing unwanted features. This could be anything from blemishes on skin to taking out unwanted guests in the background of wedding shots.

What are the Healing and Cloning Tools?

You will find the healing and clone tools in the ‘develop‘ module in Lightroom 4. Just like the adjustments brush from a previous article they are located in the top right hand corner. These tools are identified by a circle with a line.  Whenever you activate them the options palette appears. You will be shown two sliders, brush size and opacity. The brush size is self explanatory while the opacity controls how intense the adjustment is. You can either use this tool in heal or clone mode and this gives you two ways of achieving the same desired effect depending on what situation you find yourself in. Neither tool is completely automatic but the clone tool needs more manual input to make exact changes.

In this example, imagine that you have been given a brief from a makeup company. The shots are mostly flawless but they must be perfect before sending them off to the designer. We are going to remove a few blemishes and anything else that could appear to be anything but flawless. First lets look at the clone tool.

How to use the Clone Tool.

When using the clone tool, you need to identify the area that you want to change. The clone tool takes one part of the image and copies it exactly over the part that you select. Take this example, the model is stunning but there are a few marks or freckles that the client wants removed. The clone tool does exactly what it says on the tin. When you click on the part that you want to clone out a circle appears. This is your target area. Then decide on the area that you want to overlay on the blemish, this will be your source area. You choose the source area by clicking again and another circle appears. You will notice a line joining the two circles and you can move either circle by simply clicking and dragging them for more precise adjustments.

As an extra tip, if you find the circles and line distracting simply move your curser away from the photograph and they will automatically disappear. If you are completely unhappy with the changes and you want to start again just press the delete key (backspace on a PC) and they will disappear in a puff of smoke.

How to use the Healing Tool.

The healing tool works a little differently to the clone tool. Instead of making an exact copy of the source area, the heal tool copies the texture and automatically looks around the target circle for tones and colours. This is fantastic for removing blemishes but can cause a bit of a headache if the area that you want to repair is close to a piece of clothing or hair. The healing tool might sample a bit of an unwanted area and blur the edges between it and the part that you want to clean up.

Lightroom 4 Killer Tips.

When you spend some time with the healing and clone tools you will realise just how straight forward the process is. So Seamless has put together a few quick fire tips for making your editing as efficient as possible.

On both the healing and clone tools you can adjust the size of the brush using the bracket keys. Use the left bracket ( [ ) to make the brush smaller and the right bracket ( ] ) to make the brush bigger. This is most useful if you hover one of the circles over the spot that you want to adjust and use these shortcuts to get the exact size of the area that you want to change.

If you have already created a healing circle you can still change the size of the circle by moving the cursor to the edge of the circle and click and drag.

You can keep track of exactly what changes you have made to an image by using the backslash key ( \ ). By pressing this you remove all the adjustments that you have made so you can see the master file. To return to your work in progress click the backslash key again.


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