One of my very favorite and often used tools in Adobe’s Lightroom editing program is the clone tool.

I love how it can very quickly clean up my images and add a bit of polish.

The clone tool is found in the develop module in LR, just under the histogram and above the basic panel. It looks like a circle with a small arrow extending to the right of it.

How to use the clone tool in Lightroom and Photoshop by Elicia Graves

It takes a little bit of practice and use to understand the best images for LR clone tool work, but once you get the hang of it you might find yourself addicted to that little circle. Today I’m going to discuss how to transform an image.

How to use the clone tool in Lightroom and Photoshop by Elicia Graves
Go from this...
How to use the clone tool in Lightroom and Photoshop by Elicia Graves
To this.

As I was culling my images from the beach, I was drawn to this image of the four children playing together but each headed in their own direction. I also liked their colorful swimsuits against the neutral sand, the glimmering reflections and the foggy background.

That said, there were a lot of small distracting elements within the frame.

I decided that I wanted to crop in using a 5×7 ratio, leaving the children centered. This removed some of the distracting elements on the left hand side of the frame.

How to use the clone tool in Lightroom and Photoshop by Elicia Graves

My image was starting to look better already, but I found my eyes wandering the frame and landing on the people in the background, the blemishes in the otherwise smooth sand, and on bright spots in the hills above the beach in the background.

The Lightroom clone tool was about to become very handy.

After a quick color edit, I grabbed the clone tool by clicking on it with my mouse, and positioned it just over the blemishes in the sand, making sure my circle was just larger than the area that I was about to clone. You can use the sliders to adjust the size, or use your [ ] keys on your keyboard to make the clone tool smaller or larger.

Once you have the right size for the area you want to clone, click the clone tool over the intended portion of the image, and LR will determine an automatic match for the area that you are cloning.

Sometimes LR chooses an area that is perfectly acceptable, but I generally like to determine the clone source myself by grabbing the clone source circle and moving it within the frame until I’m satisfied with the area to be used.

It’s important to pay attention to your depth of field and any patterns or lines that could be disrupted or need careful matching when determining the clone source. In the screenshot below, you can see my varied size and use of the clone tool, resulting in a much cleaner final image.

How to use the clone tool in Lightroom and Photoshop by Elicia Graves

Although the LR clone tool is an excellent editing tool, it does have its limitations. The circular nature of the tool makes it difficult to clean up areas that lie directly behind a person or lie next to a straight line. In the following image, I cleaned up some small blemishes in LR, and then moved to Photoshop to remove the surfer that was just behind the father’s neck.

How to use the clone tool in Lightroom and Photoshop by Elicia Graves

To edit the surfer out of the image, after completing my LR edits, I pulled the image into Photoshop. I created a duplicate layer by pressing command J on my iMac (control J on windows). Next, I selected the patch tool (shortcut J). The patch tool can be found with the healing brush tools.

How to use the clone tool in Lightroom and Photoshop by Elicia Graves

I then zoomed into my image at 100%, and carefully outlined the shape of the surfer with my patch tool. Once I had the area selected, I clicked my mouse over it and moved it to the left of the surfer in order to choose my clone source.

How to use the clone tool in Lightroom and Photoshop by Elicia Graves

When I was happy with my clone source, I hit command D on my keyboard (control D on windows), and this deselected my patch tool and replaced the surfer with the clone source. I used a soft brush at an opacity of 15% to do some light clean up around the father’s neck, and with that I was done with my cloning.

The final image results in a clean portrait of father and son with fewer distracting elements that allow the viewer to focus on the subjects.

How to use the clone tool in Lightroom and Photoshop by Elicia Graves