Travel bloggers sometimes use content-aware fill to remove unwanted tourists from a photo at a popular tourist destination. Photo editors can use content-aware fill to get rid of blemishes on a model’s face or take power lines out of an otherwise perfect sunset photo. If you’re trying to learn all of the photo editing pro tips out there, discovering how to use content-aware fill is a great place to start or continue your journey. 

Understanding the Adobe Content-Aware Fill Tool

The same image of a girl with shoulder-length brown hair sit side by side. On the right, the girl’s skin is free from blemishes, unflattering shadows and fly-away hairs. 
Still from Skillshare Class Photo Editing in Adobe Photoshop: Using Check Layers to Retouch Portraits by Daniel Nwabuko
Photo editors often use Content-Aware Fill to retouch photos.

If you’re currently editing portraits in Photoshop, you might be here to learn how the content-aware fill tool can remove unwanted elements like flyaways, wrinkles, and acne. There are a lot of different ways to retouch photos using Photoshop including dodge and burn and the clone stamp tool, but the content-aware fill tool is a newer tool that uses pattern recognition to very seamlessly remove unwanted elements. 

This editing tool is one of the more advanced options available. If you’re wondering if this is something you can use on Procreate vs. Photoshop or on other photo editing tools like Lightroom, just know that you won’t be able to find an exact replacement. 

How Does Content-Aware Fill Work?

Adobe’s exact content aware fill algorithm isn’t public information but, as a general overview, the content aware fill tool works by analyzing the pixels located on the edge of your selection. It searches for certain patterns among three main areas including: 

  • Color
  • Structure
  • Texture

Then, it will find similarly colored, structured and textured pixels in the photo to fill in the space you’re looking to replace. If you wanted to remove a few bystanders from the background of a photo of you and a friend, Photoshop would use the pixels from other parts of the background to fill in the part where the bystanders originally were. 

Using Content-Aware Fill in 6 Easy Steps

Once you have Photoshop open and you know what picture you want to edit, it’s time to work a little Photoshop magic. As you walk through the following steps to using content-aware, remember that it might take a few tries to get your final product perfect. You might even try using the tool on a few easier practice pictures before getting into more complicated ones. 

1. Open Your Image

Start by opening your image in Photoshop. If you’re still not sure what photo you want to use, try to choose one with a simple background and without too many overlapping elements. This will help make things easier as you learn how to use the tool.

2. Duplicate Background Layers

Any changes you make to your photo will be permanent so if you don’t have another version of your photo saved elsewhere, you should duplicate the image before getting started. Having a duplicated image in the background can also be helpful if you decide you want to start over after making a few different mistakes.

3. Select the Area You Will Fill

Adobe Photoshop is open to an image of a variety of multi-colored objects including writing utensils, legos, washi tape, and tomatoes. The creator is selecting an orange roll of washi tape. 
Still from Skillshare Class 5 Advanced Adobe Photoshop Tips: Photo Editing Beyond Lightroom by Tabitha Park
Notice how this creator isn’t overly picky with how perfect her selection is.

Next, use the lasso tool, or your selection tool of choice, to select the area you want to fill. If you’re removing an ex-partner from a family photo, you just need to roughly select the outline of the person. The selection does not have to be perfect, but be careful not to select anything you don’t want to remove. 

4. Use the Content-Aware Fill Tool

Now, right-click within the selection you just made and click on “Content-Aware Fill.” Depending on which version of Photoshop you’re working on, this will either make your selected object disappear or show a preview of what your current Content-Aware Fill selection will look like if you select the changes. 

5. Check the Result

Either on your photo or in the preview pop-up, check and make sure you like the result. With more complicated images, you may need to use other tools to achieve a seamless transition between the object you want to remove and the rest of the photo. You can also adjust your selection by clicking on one of the Lasso tools in the left Toolbar and then clicking on the Expand button a few times, which can be found in the Options bar at the top.

6. Save Your Project

Once you feel confident with your final image, it’s time to save your project. To do this, you’ll go to File and then select your desired Save As command. 

Different Tools for Great Results

Adobe Photoshop is open to an image of red writing utensils lined up next to a few red legos. Three of the little red legos are selected. 
Adobe Photoshop is open to an image of red writing utensils lined up next to a few red legos. Three of the little red legos are selected and now moved to the right. 
Still from Skillshare Class 5 Advanced Adobe Photoshop Tips: Photo Editing Beyond Lightroom by Tabitha Park
This creator used the Content-Aware Fill Move tool to move three red legos from one part of her photo to another. 

The classic Content-Aware Fill tool isn’t the only way you can fill objects and areas with Photoshop. Sometimes you might want to move your selection rather than just filling it in. This creator made a collage and she wanted to move a few small, red legos and she was able to do so using the Content Aware Fill Move. Here are the different content fill tools you might find helpful in Photoshop: 

  • Patch: The Patch tool was specifically created to remove unwanted elements from a photo. It has a Content Aware Fill option that will seamlessly blend your selection with the rest of the photo. 
  • Move: With the Content-Aware Fill Move tool, your selection will remain the same and the hole left behind will be filled using the Content-Aware Fill algorithm. You can then move your selection anywhere you desire without having a gaping hole in your final photo. 
  • Selection: While you can use the Lasso tool to select the desired object or area of your photo, you can also use the Select Subject, the Object Selection Tool, and the Quick Selection Tool. After using one of these selection tools, you can right click and select “Content-Aware Fill” to start removing your object. 
  • Workspace: The Content-Aware Workspace is where you can further manipulate your selection. You’ll have access to a live, full-resolution preview and be able to adjust settings like opacity and color adaptation. 

Edit Your Images Like a Pro with Photoshop

You’ve discovered the power of Content Aware Fill and now know how you can use the tool to eliminate and add elements to your photos and graphics. As with any new skill, use the next few weeks to practice the tool and its different capabilities until you get a strong handle on it. If you need even more guidance, Skillshare has the best class selection for learning to master Photoshop like a professional.

Written By

Calli Zarpas

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