Complex Cloning Using Luminosity Masks

Cloning in Photoshop can be complex, time consuming, if not at times near impossible when we’re working along highly detailed edges. This tutorial uses luminosity masks to control the areas being effected to help with some complex cloning issues.

This tutorial uses a previous version of our luminosity panel, the techniques are still relevant with our current panel.

Video Duration: 9:59

There are many methods available to clean up areas in an image. Each of those tools has their advantages and disadvantages. This tutorial doesn’t discuss all of the options available, instead I focus on a particularly difficult situation. I remove a very messy and distraction clump of cloud that is sitting against the tree line. 

With the clouds up against the tree line there is no conventional method of removal that will make this job easy. You could clone out the majority of the sky using traditional methods, then zoom in on the tree. This method has the potential to work, but would be very time consuming, and it likely would not look natural. There is an alternative method, that isn’t widely known, and that is to have a loaded selection while cloning. 

As we are aware from making adjustments, having a loaded selection stops you from working outside the selected area. The same theory applies to cloning. By having a loaded selection, we limit the area that can be affected to that area. When we combine this with luminosity masks, we have the ultimate control. 

Making The Luminosity Mask Selection

Making luminosity masks selections around trees and in particular tree branches can be very difficult. This is caused by the lighter tones and the way the light reflects off the bark of trees and even the leaves. Because this can be difficult, I use a slightly different method when making my luminosity mask selections. In this tutorial use a few steps. 

  1. Select a lights luminosity mask, because I want to make a selection of the sky and it’s in the light tones. 
  2. Adjust the black point of the mask to darken the tree and branches. Then adjust the midtones to slightly lighten the sky. I do not adjust the light area of the mask to much, or I will lose the branches. This is where the difficulty lies in making a selection around trees. 
  3. Put the completed selection on to an adjustment layer to complete the mask modification through dodging and burning. Note, this step is no longer required in the latest version of our panel, these tools are built in. 
  4. Then select the mask by hold alt or option and clicking on the mask. Now you can use the dodging and burning tools built into Photoshop to adjust your mask. Be very careful as you work around the branches, ensuring you don’t remove them as you dodge the light sky. 

Cloning With a Loaded Selection

Now that we have an accurate selection of the area, the once complex cloning job has been made much easier. To complete the cloning job, I now:

  1. Create a transparent layer to do my cloning on. 
  2. Load up my luminosity mask selection by pressing CMD (mac) or CTRL (pc) and left clicking on the mask. 
  3. Hide the marching ants from the selection by pressing the show / hide button on the panel. If you don’t have the panel it’s CMD + H or CTRL + H. 
  4. I then start removing the cloud through cloning, not having to worry about trees because of the luminosity mask selection.