Photoshop CS3′s clone tool adds “Ignore Adjustment Layers”.

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Photoshop guru Jason Hoppe teaches non-destructive retouching techniques in Photoshop. In classes at CreativeTechs he shows many ways to improve your images without overwriting the original image data. Done properly, image quality doesn’t degrade as you make edits, and you retain flexibility when clients come back with later change requests.

Here’s a classic example of those non-destructive techniques in action: We’ve added a separate cloning layer instead of cloning directly onto our image. And we’ve used a color adjustment layer to correct our subject’s skin tone without directly changing our photo’s original colors.

However, you must be aware of a subtle-but-important detail when using a cloning layer on images that have been color corrected with adjustment layers. In this week’s creative tip we’ll discuss that issue, and we’ll show why retouchers know to always turn off their adjustment layers before cloning on an image.

Plus we’ll show Photoshop CS3′s new Ignore Adjustment Layers button that makes life better for Photoshop retouch artists.

The Problem: Double-Hit from an Adjustment Layer.

This is one of those tips where the fix is easy, but the problem itself is a bit harder to explain. So we’ve created an exaggerated example to make the problem more evident.

We’ve started with a stock photo of a wall with aging blue paint. Then we’ve added an adjustment layer with an extreme Hue/Saturation setting that changes our blue paint to red.

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We’ve made a significant change to our image — however following our non-destructive philosophy, the original background image has not been modified. The only addition is a color adjustment layer which can be changed or removed later.

And what if we wanted to create a clone layer for this image? If we start using Photoshop’s clone tool with the color adjustment layer visible, and our clone tool set to “Sample All Layers” we end up cloning with a weird green hue.

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This is the problem we want to avoid: A double-hit from our color adjustment layer.

The first hit happened when our cloning tool picked up all layers, including hue adjustment. So we cloned using the red version of our paint color.

The second hit occurs because our new clone layer sits below our hue adjustment layer. The red of our cloned paint is color-shifted yet again with the hue adjustment — this time into a bright green.

In less extreme examples, such as the daily challenge of cloning out skin blemishes, this double-hit can cause your cloned correction to be a slightly different tone than the skin you are correcting. The results can be subtle, but if you don’t know what’s going on it can cause a lot of frustration when cloning images.

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The Fix: Turn Off Adjustment Layers when Cloning.

The fix in Photoshop CS2 and earlier is to turn off all Adjustment Layers when you are cloning. Retouch artists have done this for years.

In the case of our painted-wall example, we turn off the hue adjustment layer and perform all our cloning while viewing the original blue version of our image.

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You can see that while our cloning layer uses the original blue paint color, it all snaps back to our desired red color when the adjustment layer is turned back on.

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In our skin retouching example, by retouching with the adjustment layer turned off, we can achieve the smooth skin retouching we were expecting.

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Photoshop CS3: Adobe rescues the retouch artist!

Adobe Photoshop CS3 includes a small improvement to the cloning tool that saves professional retouch artists from this perpetual hassle. Look in the Photoshop’s options pane with your clone tool selected.

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In all other versions of Photoshop prior to CS3, your clone tool could chose between sampling from the “Current Layer” or “All Layers.” A new “Current & Below” option was added in CS3 which allows us to easily ignore all layers above our cloning layer.

Photoshop-IgnoreAdjustmentLayers-CS3.gifEven easier, Photoshop CS3 sports a new, unlabeled button that lets you ignore all adjustment layers while cloning. Click the icon to turn this option on and you can easily clone without applying the impact of any color adjustment layers. This single button saves the hassle of tracking down and turning off multiple adjustment layers whenever you need to do basic retouching.

Thanks Adobe!

Question: Why not just put the clone layer above our adjustment layers?

Finally, let’s address the question that comes up in almost every class. Why not side-step this whole issue by putting our cloning layer on the top?

The philosophy of working non-destructively in Photoshop is about building files where future changes can be made easily. Cloning layers are typically created below any color adjustment layers because if you come back a couple days later and want to change the overall color balance of an image, you want to be able to do that quickly from the topmost color adjustments.

If cloning layers are located above our color adjustments, we’d have to change them each time we made an overall color adjustment. So while this approach takes a little more thought, the results are far easier to work with down the road.

Source: This tip is taken directly from Jason Hoppe’s upcoming mini-workshop Photoshop: Cloning Secrets which takes place this Wednesday, October 17th at 9:30 am at the CreativeTechs office. Tickets are $50 each, and seats are still available. We invite any Seattle-area Photoshop users to attend. For a list of other upcoming weekly workshops visit creativetechs.com/miniworkshops.