This article is part of our series Photo Editing 101 by Ian Pullen. This series will cover all of the basics of using Photoshop for editing photos. If you’re just getting started with Photoshop or photo editing, or if you’re looking to improve your skills in this area, this series will provide an excellent foundation. If you want to make sure that you don’t miss future articles you can subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook. You can also find the articles that have already been published by visiting the Photo Editing 101 course page.
When Adobe introduced Content Aware Fill to Photoshop, it looked like a little miracle to most users. Where previously users had to spend time carefully painting away details with the Clone Stamp tool, they could now easily make a selection around part of a photo and then with one click replace it.
In theory it sounded brilliant, but in practice it proved to have some shortcomings.
The Problem with Content Aware Fill
You can see in the screen shot above the problem that sometimes arises when using Content Aware Fill. Items that you do not want to be repeated become duplicated, producing some very odd results. In the image, I successfully removed my wife from the photo, but in the process introduced a second, slightly ghostly, poodle into the end result. Even the untrained eye will probably pick up on something being not quite right with that photo. However, there is an easy way to avoid this problem, as I’ll show you.
Duplicate the Background Layer
The first step is to make a copy of the background layer which you can do by going to Layer > Duplicate Layer. You’ll see in the Layers palette that a new layer has been placed above the back ground. If you can’t see the Layers palette, just go to Window > Layers to open it.
Select the Eraser Tool
Now click on the Eraser tool in the tools palette and select a hard edged brush from the drop menu in the tool options bar – you’ll see it in the screen shot above if you’re not familiar with it.
Erase Unwanted Items
Before continuing, you should hide the background layer to make it easier to see what you’re erasing in this step. Just click on the little eye icon that is to the left of the background layer in the Layers palette. You’ll see the icon disappears to indicate that the background layer is no longer visible.
Now click on the Background copy layer to ensure that it is still selected and then use the brush to erase any items in the photo that you don’t want to be duplicated when you use the Content Aware Fill tool. You can see that I erased both of the small dogs and the trailer with the water tank. I also removed all of the fencing from the layer as some of this was duplicated in my first attempt with the Content Aware Fill tool, giving a slightly odd result.
Select the Area to Be Removed
Now you can make a selection around the area that you want to remove from your photo. How you make this selection will probably be a matter of personal choice, but an easy way to do this is with the Freehand Lasso tool – that was what I used in my case. You really don’t have to be too accurate with this step.
Use the Content Aware Fill Tool
Now go to Edit > Fill and change the Use drop down menu to Content-Aware and click OK. Depending on the size and complexity of your image and selection and the power of your computer, this may take a few moments before you see the result, but when finished, you should see the selected area filled in a seamless way. If the result isn’t quite right, you can go to Edit > Undo and try again.
Make the Background Layer Visible
Obviously you’ve now got some odd holes in your photo where you used the eraser, so go to the Layers palette and click the empty space at the left of the Background layer. You’ll see that the eye icon reappears and the background layer is visible again, with the result that you now have your finished photo with the unwanted area smoothly deleted and filled. You can now right click in the Layers palette and click Flatten Image if you want or you could keep your layered PSD file and do a “save as” instead.
See more articles in the Photo Editing 101 series.