An advanced Photoshop cloning technique — cloning through a tonal gradient.
In my last blog post I described a still life shot I made of a book. In doing the shoot I had to use clamps and other aids to get the pages to behave as I wanted. I knew this would be a problem later, but because I believe fully in the magic of Photoshop, I was confident I could fix the image. When I began processing the image however, I found that fixing it was problematic. After some effort I found a way to do it — in a way I thought was somewhat ingenious, and in a way which I had not seen in any of the dozens of Photoshop books I have read, nor in any of the hundreds of video podcasts on Photoshop I have watched. Following I will describe it.
The below image shows where a clamp is partially visible holding the book pages down (the red jaws of the clamp are holding pages down, while another page overlays the clamp). Note that this is a 400% view and represents only a small portion of the overall image, but nonetheless, is still important because if poorly repaired it would stand out. I needed to eliminate the clamp. But, in attempting to do so I found the patch tool and healing brushes did not work adequately, nor did the content aware fill. Trying to clone in a repair looked bad because it had to be applied over a changing tonal range. It was proving to be a problem.
After experimentation I found the following method worked. First, I identified on the image a tonal transition range in which I planned to do the repairs. When I first did it I used slivers of Post-Its stuck onto my monitor to show the boundaries, but for you, the reader, I show it with red arrows.
I then created two new layers at the top of the layer panel, identified as Clone A and Clone B. Working on the Clone A layer from left to right, I cloned in through the transition area a consistent tone/texture as found to the left of the transition area as seen below.
Next, I hid the Clone A layer by clicking on it’s eye icon and targeted the Clone B layer to work on. I did the same thing as above in cloning in tone/texture, except this time I worked from right to left.
To finish it off, I turned back on the visibility of Clone A, then on Clone B created a layer mask. On the mask I applied a black/white linear gradient horizontally through just the transition area (I have never fully mastered the gradient tool and half the time get it backwards, but when I do, I find it easy to reverse the gradient by hitting Cmd/Ctl-I). And, voilà!, it is fixed.