Precise Cleanup

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Today’s Question: Is there a way to precisely align my cleanup work in Photoshop? For example, when I need to clean on a horizon line, it is important that my cleanup work be aligned with that horizon.

Tim’s Quick Answer: For precise cleanup work in Photoshop, I recommend turning on the “Show Overlay” checkbox in the Clone Source panel. This will cause the source pixels to appear within your brush cursor, so you can easily align those source pixels in the destination area you are painting the cleanup into.

More Detail: The Clone Source panel in Photoshop includes a variety of options related to the source of pixels being used for cleanup tools where you can select a source manually. That includes the Clone Stamp and Healing Brush tools, for example. When you need to be precise with these tools, I recommend turning on the “Show Overlay” option.

If the Clone Source panel isn’t currently visible, you can choose Window > Clone Source from the menu to bring it up. In addition, the applicable tools include a button on the Options bar that will bring up this panel.

I don’t consider most of the options in the Clone Source panel to be especially helpful in my typical workflow. But the Show Overlay option can be tremendously useful. Admittedly, I do find that having this option enabled can be a bit distracting, so I only turn it on when I actually need it for precision painting with a cleanup tool.

To view the overlay showing source pixels you need to have the Show Overlay checkbox turned on, and you need to have sampled a source area by holding the Alt/Option key on the keyboard while clicking in the area of the image you want to use as the source of pixels for your cleanup work. At this point, your mouse pointer that shows the brush shape will display the source pixels within that shape. This enables you to very precisely align the brush before actually painting into the image.