View Full Version : [Award Winner] Photoshop: Using the Clone Stamp tool for better Brush work

10-03-2009, 11:45 AM
As anyone who has made brushes in Photoshop has doubtless learned, you cannot make a two-toned brush. That is, if you make a tree brush and try to overlap two strokes with it, the tree beneath will show through the one on top. The reason for this is that Photoshop's brushes are a greyscale image where black pixels are completely opaque, white pixels are transparent, and grey pixels are translucent. This allows you to paint with the brush in any color you want, but it prevents you from using it to make nice isometric mountains and forests:


Obviously, that brush is just a hack job I made for the purposes of this tut, so don't complain about its lack of quality. Anyway, when you use a brush in the way Photoshop intends, you get results like those on the left. I intend to show you how to make the same brush give you what appears on the right.

The first thing to do is to create or load your brushes. If you're only going to use them for a single map, it isn't really necessary to save the image as a brush, but it is handy if you want to do more than one map in a certain style. I won't cover that, since there are loads of brush-making tuts out there already.

The next thing is to create a palette area in your document from which you can sample the brushes. You can do this in a separate document, but it's easier if you do it in the same doc you're working in. Go to Image > Canvas Size... (Alt + Ctrl + C). Set your Anchor Point to one of the sides of your existing canvas. This will cause the new area to appear on the opposite side of the one you clicked.

You want to expand the width (or height, if you set your Anchor Point on the top or bottom) enough to hold the brushes you plan to use.

Now you should have a transparent section to one side of your canvas. Make a new layer to hold your palette, and drop a single stroke of your bush in that area, like so:

You'll notice that the tranparency checkerboard grid is showing through the mountain. If you move the layer over your existing map, you'll see the map's colors and lines showing through it. This tells you that if you just layer the brush over itself, the copies underneath will show through. So the next step is to paint white behind the brush as a mask. Make a new layer and put it beneath the palette layer, then just paint in white where you want the brush to act as a mask.

Here I've moved my sample over onto the map to illustrate how the background no longer shows through:

Now, grab the Clone Stamp Tool (S), make sure that the "Sample" box shows "All layers," and the "Aligned" box is unchecked.

"Current layer" only takes the sampled pixels from the layer you're currently working on, which would force you to constantly change back to your palette layer to pick a new brush. "Current and below" samples from the layer you are working on and all the layers beneath it, which will work if you place your palette beneath your working layers.

"Aligned" causes the sample point to remain in the same place relative to the cursor after your first click, which is handy for making textures but not useful for what we're doing. Turning it off ensures that your sample point stays put.

10-03-2009, 11:53 AM
Change the size of the clone stamp so that it contains only your mountain ( [ and ] ) and make sure the Hardness is set to 100% (right-click and move the Hardness slider).

Alt-click in the center of your mountain. Since you're set to sample all layers, you'll get the black and grey of your normal brush, the white underlayer, and transparency around it.

Create a new layer to hold your mountains and change its blend mode to multiply. This will allow the background to show through, but the white will still mask out the mountains beneath!

For best results, you'll want to make several different variations of your mountains, but since they're all stored in that palette area to the side of your document, when you want to change to a different mountain, all you need to do is to alt-click the mountain you want to use, then stamp away.

The clone stamp can also be used to take bits from one image and stamp them into another, so if you want to keep all of your isometric mountains and trees in a single document that you use for every map you make, you can just keep that image open to one side and sample from it instead, saving you the time of prepping the palette inside your working doc.

edit: Remember to work from top to bottom when using isometric stamps. This will ensure that they layer properly.

10-03-2009, 12:57 PM
Ever since you mentioned Clone stamp I've been trying to get it to work right with no success. I'm very glad that you made this tut to explain it all. Nice job.

11-26-2009, 11:20 PM
Thank you so much for this! This was much needed information!

11-27-2009, 04:46 PM
You know, I never thought to try something like that. Great idea, Midgardsomr! Duly repped.


11-27-2009, 07:32 PM
I'm glad it helped!

12-07-2009, 07:29 PM
Midgard> I have so been planning to do that in the end. Sit down and create a really nice big pallette of "standard icons" for a style and then use them mercilessly. Thankyou for confirming this and I'll try work on a GIMP Version for the rest of us...

12-08-2009, 05:13 AM
Ok so i'm playing around with this idea, and I'm running into an issue. the way the clone stamp works is that when you alt-click to define the source point, any brush strokes/stampings are relative to that position, and moves as you move. So from what i'm discovering, you need to redefine the source point after every single time you make a placement.

I'm finding this method to be just as much work as doing them all manually in the first place, especially when trying to place in multiple items.

is there something I'm missing?

12-08-2009, 09:13 AM
That's what I asked myself, too.

12-08-2009, 10:48 AM
Uncheck "Aligned."

That's one problem with settings that stick--when you're writing a tutorial, you sometimes forget what the defaults are.

Adding that step to the tut...

12-08-2009, 12:08 PM
aaah, there it goes.

that will be a tad more useful. I hadn't thought to check off that one.

if you want to cycle through several types of mountains/hills/whatever, looks like you would still need to redefine after every stamp, but this is gonna make forests an absolute joy :)

and after working with it a bit more, I'm finding the redefine after each placement to be not as annoying as it was the first few time. It's just getting into a rhythm. Having them in a separate file certainly helps, plus I found having them all at a standard distance/within a certain sized box helps, then i can drop guidelines so I can click the brush in the exact center easier each time.

12-08-2009, 08:15 PM
Just as a side note, I was all excited figuring I could use the scatter properties for the brushes to slap trees all over heck and back.

Apparently the additional brush properties still use the positioning relative to the initial alt-click. So yeah, still gotta place everything one click at a time.

12-19-2009, 12:21 AM
I am not sure if I gave the proper credit but I used this technique for my Empire of Galladorn map with the brushes from Ramah's Vaniya map. Thanks a bunch for this!

09-02-2010, 06:19 AM
I am not sure if you mentioned this, but it might be helpful for some of the photoshop folks: You can actually define up to five different sources for your clone stamp, and switch between them by clicking the buttons in the brush menu rather than clicking back on the image. This is helpful if you don't want to have to keep the clone sources on the screen.


09-02-2010, 12:00 PM
and if you wanna go even faster - you can go to keyboard shortcut > palettes > clonetool and set shortcuts for them :)
And remember, where you clone from doesn't have to be in the same image as where you clone too :)

09-02-2010, 12:07 PM
Awesome! I never knew that was there! Rep to you both.

err... Rep to one of you. Apparently I repped tilt recently.

09-02-2010, 02:33 PM
well, its the thought that counts ;)

12-03-2010, 05:07 PM
My rep mallet recharged, so tilt got what was coming to him.

12-06-2010, 04:41 AM
*lol*... thank you for remembering - much appreciated :)

06-27-2011, 07:50 PM
Do we have this in Gimp? I don't really understand that clone stamp thing, it's weird.

06-27-2011, 08:25 PM
It functions basically as a copy machine shaped like whatever your brush is shaped like. It will copy all layers if you choose or just one and also works between images (which is how I use it - copy from one and paste/click in another). It also preserves any transparency on a layer. So that's how that goes, not sure if Gimp has something like it.

06-27-2011, 08:37 PM
Yes, GIMP does have this feature. Here's the GIMP documentation (http://docs.gimp.org/en/gimp-tool-clone.html) describing how the clone tool works, and here's a little tut (http://www.ehow.com/how_2153072_use-clone-tool-gimp-freeware.html) from ehow on the same subject.


06-29-2011, 09:57 AM
Thanks for the explanation Midgard. :)

Why can't there just be such a thing as "gradient brushes" and this would be a non-issue....?

Is there any way to combine brush with the clone tool? Two things come to mind:
- I would like to use the Brush Shape Dynamics.
- I would like to have a continous flow (ie, not press the mouse button for every tree/mountain/whatever).

I tried, but couldn't get it to work.

06-29-2011, 01:03 PM
A gradient brush is sort of an oxymoron in Photoshop terms. You wouldn't be able to change its color, so then it's not a brush; it's a stamp. I do wish that Photoshop had some kind of image pipe like the Gimp, or even something like the Symbol Sprayer from Illustrator.

You have access to the brush palette with the Clone Tool selected, but it won't do what you want. The size and shape of the clone source will remain the same, and painting a stroke will move the clone source, also. But you could jump into Illustrator and use the aforementioned Symbol Sprayer to get something close. It might take some jiggery-pokery to create a vector symbol that will mesh with a raster map, though.