Photoshop Selections - Content Aware Tool


New to CS5 is the Content-Aware Fill option.  This lets Photoshop analyze the contents of the image to figure out what the image would have looked like if the unwanted object or area had never been there. But even with its new Content-Aware abilities, the Spot Healing Brush is still best suited for smaller areas that we can easily click on or paint over. Content-Aware Fill, on the other hand, lets us repair or replace larger, more complex areas, and even multiple areas at once, simply by drawing selections around them and letting Photoshop do the rest!

The image to the right has a couple of areas that need attention.  Firstly, we'll 'get rid' of the unsightly brown pole in the centre of the image.

The traditional way to remove the post would be with the Clone Stamp Tool, but let's see if the new Content-Aware Fill option in Photoshop CS5 can make the job easier for us. As always, we'll first press Ctrl+J to create a copy of my image layer so we're not making any changes to the original.
To use Content-Aware Fill, we first need to draw a selection around the object or area we want to remove or replace. Since the post is a simple, straight-sided shape, I'll use the Polygonal Lasso Tool, which is hiding behind the standard Lasso Tool in the Tools panel. To access it, I'll click and hold on the Lasso Tool until the fly-out menu appears, then I'll select the Polygonal Lasso Tool from the list: As it's a simple object we're trying to select, zoom in and do a simple click-around as in the image above.
In Photoshop CS4 or earlier, all we could fill a selection with was a solid color or pattern, but with Content-Aware selected in CS5, Photoshop can now examine the contents of the image and try to fill in the selected area with actual image detail, as if the object we're removing never existed!

With the selection made, go to EDIT...Fill and, in the dialog box that appears (right), make sure 'Content-Aware is selected in the Use: window.

Click OK.

Just like that, the post is gone! Photoshop CS5 did an outstanding job of removing it and filling the area with image detail as if the post had never been there, and all I had to do was draw a selection around it and choose Content-Aware from the Fill dialog box. Is it 100% perfect? Not quite. The top of the sign looks a little strange, and a couple of areas look like a repeating pattern, but what we're left with now is nothing more than a quick clean up with the standard Healing Brush or the Clone Stamp Tool rather than having to put in a lot more time and effort by doing it all ourselves.

There's another distracting object of some sort in the bottom right corner of the photo that I'd like to remove, so I'll use the standard Lasso Tool this time to draw a quick selection around it:

With the object selected, I'll go back up to the Edit menu and once again choose the Fill command. When the Fill dialog box appears, I'll again choose the new Content-Aware option. Finally, I'll click OK to exit out of the dialog box, and Photoshop CS5 does another great job at removing the object from the photo, filling the area with new image data:

If you don't like the results after running Content-Aware Fill, simply undo it by pressing Ctrl+Z then running it again. You'll get a different result each time.

Don't forget, whenever using any of the selection tools such as Marquee or Lasoo, the Options bar at the top of the screen allows you to add 'feather' before you select, which may help - depending on the image.

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