Aligning Cleanup Work

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Today’s Question: I’m finding it very difficult in Photoshop to clean up blemishes that appear along the edge of an object, in terms of being able to get the pixels I paint (with the Clone Stamp tool, for example) to properly align to the edge. Is there a way to position some sort of “ruler” along the edge to help with alignment? I’ve tried using the grid display, but that doesn’t really help very much.

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is actually a very simple solution to aligning your painting when working with the Clone Stamp tool or the Healing Brush tool in Photoshop. Simply turn on the “Show Overlay” checkbox on the Clone Source panel.

More Detail: The “Show Overlay” option is available for the Clone Stamp and Healing Brush tools, both of which allow you to select a source area within the image to be used for replacing a blemish in another area of the photo. When the “Show Overlay” option is turned on, after you have selected a source area by holding the Alt/Option key and clicking on that source, the mouse cursor will display a representation of the source pixels. You can then use that display to properly align the source pixels with the destination area before actually painting.

The “Show Overlay” checkbox is found on the Clone Source panel. To display the Clone Source panel you can either click the Clone Source button toward the left end of the Options bar after selecting the Clone Stamp tool or the Healing Brush tool, or you can choose Window > Clone Source from the menu.

Personally I find the “Show Overlay” option to be a bit of a distraction, so I prefer to keep it turned off until I actually need it. But when the alignment of pixels for cleanup work is critical, the “Show Overlay” option can be invaluable.