Paint.NET Clone Stamp Tutorial

Use Paint.NET to Remove Parts of a Photo

This is an introductory Clone Stamp tutorial for Paint.NET users, showing you how to use the Clone Stamp to remove unwanted items from a picture. The Clone Stamp, as its name suggests, clones pixels from one part of an image and applies them to another area. It is basically a paint brush that uses another part of an image as its palette, rather than a solid color. Most free pixel-based image editors have a similar tool, including GIMP and Serif PhotoPlus SE.

The Clone Stamp can be useful in many situations, including adding items to an image, but I'm going to show you how it can be used to clean up a photo.

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Open a Photo

You will need to choose a suitable photo among your collection and then go to File > Open to navigate to the photo and open it.

I've selected a black and white shot of one of our new kittens. It's nothing special, but it does have a few blemishes, including some paint spots on the tiles, which makes it a good candidate for showing how the Clone Stamp tool can be used to improve an image.

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Zoom In

Before attempting to get started with the Clone Stamp tool, it will make life a lot easier if you zoom into the image to make the areas that you want to work on clearer and easier to see. In the bar at the top of Paint.NET's interface, just below the menu bar, are two magnifying glass icons. Clicking on the one with the '+' symbol will zoom in a few increments.

When you're zoomed in close like this, you can either use the scroll bars to the left and bottom of the window to move around the image or select the Pan tool (the hand icon) in the Tools palette and then click directly on the image and drag it around.

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Select the Clone Stamp Tool

Selecting the Clone Stamp tool from the Tools palette makes the tool options available in the bar above the document window. You can then select a Brush width setting from the drop down menu. The size will be dependent upon the size of the area you want to remove. After setting a width, if you drag your cursor over the image a circle will display around the cursor cross hairs showing the selected brush width.

When the width is suitable, you need to select a part of the image that is visually similar to the area that has the blemish you wish to remove. You select the area to clone by holding down the Ctrl button and clicking your mouse button. You'll see that this marks the source area with a circle the size of the Brush width.

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Start Cloning

If you click on the accompanying thumbnail image you will open a larger version and in that you should be able to see that I placed the center of the source area directly on the border of part of the pattern on the floor tile. Although the blemish is only on the darker area and I could have set my source area on the darker area only, I may have found myself accidentally over painting part of the lighter area. By setting the source area on the border, I can place the Clone Stamp brush on the border next to the blemish and then click and paint over the blemish. You should be able to see where I started painting by looking at the larger image.

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Check Your Work

Once you've cloned an area, stop to take a close look at the result. If you click on the thumbnail, you'll see that the paint spot has now been removed. However if you look more closely, you may make out that a pattern of pixels from the source area has now been repeated where the paint was. Although this will probably not be obvious in this image, you should be aware of the problem and know how to deal with it.

One way to hide this problem is to over paint some of the cloned area again using another source area. I'm also going to reduce the opacity of the Clone Stamp while doing this so that pixels from two different areas become blended together ensuring that this area is unique and not a direct copy of any other pixels.

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Clone Again

To reduce the opacity, if the Colors palette isn't already open, go to Window > Colors. Now, ensuring the drop down menu in the top left of the Colors palette is set to Primary, click the More button and then drag the Transparency – Alpha slider to the left. With that done you can close the Colors palette if you find it interferes.

Now you can hold Ctrl and click on the image in a new source area and paint over part of the area that the paint spot was previously removed from. This time, depending on how far to the left you moved the slider, you will find that it may take several steps to over paint the existing pixels.

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Look for More Blemishes

When you're happy with the first blemish, you can look around your image looking for more areas which need improving and use these techniques on those areas too. You will probably find that different areas require brushes of different widths. Remember that using a semi-transparent brush can give more subtle results, especially if you use more than one source area. This can ensure that you don't have repeated patterns within your image, which can be a sure fire giveaway that someone has been at work with the Clone Stamp tool.

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If you compare the final image with the very first one, you should notice a few areas of difference between them. The differences are fairly subtle, but the final image is an improvement over the original with far fewer blemishes and imperfections.

This Paint.NET Clone Stamp tutorial will hopefully have whetted your appetite and encouraged you to take a look at some of your photos and see how you can make them even better. These techniques can not only be used to remove items that were captured in the original image, such the paint spots in this example or the mark on the kitten's front leg, but can also remove dust spots that may be the result of a dirty lens or sensor.