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When to heal, and when to clone?

In this article, we’ll look at when to use healing vs cloning for treating problem areas in photos.

As photographers, we inevitably run into situations where our photos can be somewhat ruined by a presence of unwanted objects such as power lines, random by-standers, birds, dust spots, you name it!

Examples of unwanted elements

We know it’s often impossible to work around those obstacles whilst shooting, so let’s turn to Affinity Photo 2 and look at two of the most interchangeably used tools for fixing problem areas such as these: the Healing Brush (including the Inpainting Brush) and Clone Brush tools!

Heal vs Clone

In short, both healing and cloning work on the basis of sampling, usually from areas adjacent to the problem region. Here’s the catch though; cloning is a better choice for objects you’d like to either duplicate or remove completely (think: copy), whereas healing is recommended for more complex areas that include some sort of texture, varied colours and levels of tonality.

Example of an area with hard-edge tones (A) and mixed-tones (B)

As you experiment with the two tools for healing/inpainting and cloning more, you’ll be able to judge when to choose one over the other. You’ll also notice soon enough, that these tools can (and sometimes should) be used in-tandem to get the desired result.

Healing/Inpainting and Cloning in practice

Here’s an example of a photo where we’d like to remove the houses on the left to distract us less—they seem detached from the ones nearby and thus create a left-heavy scene.

Starting image with somewhat distracting elements

We’ll start with the Clone Brush Tool by sampling from the nearby grass area (/Alt-click, Mac/Windows, respectively) and then painting in gently to replace the houses. We do this on a new pixel layer with Current Layer and Below setting selected on the context toolbar.

Sampling and cloning

Once done with cloning, we switch to using the Healing/Inpainting Brush tools as we encounter a challenging area where the houses hide behind the tree’s branches.

This is where we’d like to take the advantage of colour and texture blending to avoid hard edges and visible differences. These two tools take into account the texture (from where we sample) and colours (from where we paint) and mix them together.


Here is the image with the problem areas removed—much more pleasing to the eye.

Final result

As always, remember that healing and cloning can be performed using both Affinity Photo 2 desktop and iPad, thus not limiting you to one platform and allowing you to continue your edits on the go.