Today’s Question: I’m working on improving my understanding of the Clone Stamp tool in Photoshop, including the options on the Clone Source panel. But I can’t figure out what the “Auto Hide” option does. I’ve searched and searched, but every explanation I can find pretty much just says that “Auto Hide” will automatically hide the source, which doesn’t really explain much of anything. I’m not seeing any effect! What am I missing?
Tim’s Quick Answer: For typical use with a photographic image, the “Auto Hide” checkbox on the Clone Source panel won’t have any visible effect for the Clone Stamp tool. That is because under normal circumstances you are painting the same pixels that would otherwise be previewed. But if you alter the behavior of the Clone Stamp tool, such as by reducing the Opacity setting or changing the blend mode on the Options bar, you will see that with “Auto Hide” turned on the “Show Overlay” preview will hide when you start painting.
More Detail: The “Show Overlay” checkbox for the Clone Stamp tool can be found on the Clone Source panel, which in turn can be brought up by selecting Window > Clone Source from the menu bar. With the “Show Overlay” checkbox turned on, your mouse pointer will show a preview of the pixels that will be painted with the Clone Stamp tool, based on the source of pixels you have selected.
This option can be tremendously helpful when you need to align the source pixels into the destination area with precision, such as to maintain alignment of textures in the photo.
The “Auto Hide” option will cause the overlay preview to be hidden as soon as you start painting with the Clone Stamp tool. However, as noted above, under normal circumstances this translates into hiding the pixels you are painting while at the same time showing you the pixels you are painting. In other words, there is no visible effect with the “Auto Hide” option turned on compared to when it is turned off.
However, that is only because the preview and your painting will be a perfect match with each other. If you reduce the Opacity on the Options bar for the Clone Stamp too, the “Show Overlay” preview will be presented at full opacity, while the actual painting you perform will appear at a reduced opacity. In this scenario, having the “Auto Hide” option turned on will cause the “Show Overlay” preview to appear at full opacity when you are not painting. Then, when you start painting the full-opacity overlay will be hidden, and you will only see the painting you are performing with the Clone Stamp tool appear at the reduced opacity. The same concept applies to other settings that alter what you are painting with the Clone Stamp tool, such as the blend mode option.
What this all means for most photographers is that you can pretty much ignore the “Auto Hide” checkbox. But it may also be helpful to understand the specific behavior of this option, in the event it is ever useful for the specific cleanup task you’re performing for an image.