Content Aware Fill

This is a very powerful tool which allows you to replace content very effectively. It can deal with both simple and complex replacements.

This tool has two modes of operation. Each will be described below.

In both cases, the first step is to make a selection around the area you wish to replace. I usually use the lasso tool to draw a freehand lasso around the area I wish to replace. Although other selection tools can also be used, the lasso works very well as it creates an irregular shape which is more likely to result in a seamless blend. 

Both methods are described using the same original file, shown on the right.

Method 1

This method is destructive so it’s a good idea to duplicate the layer where you want to make a replacement. If you are working with a Smart Object, the layer will need to be rasterised first. Right-click on the layer and choose ‘Rasterize Smart Object’. Once the replacement has been made, right-click the layer and choose ‘Convert to Smart Object’.

Step 1

Zoom into the area you wish to work with. This an enlargement of the top right-hand corner of the image.

Draw a lasso or lassos around the content which is to be replaced.

Step 2

Select Edit Menu >> Fill. (Alternatively, press Shift f5 and click OK.)

The Fill dialogue will open. This should display Content-Aware in the Contents dropdown.

Leave the other settings as they are and click OK. 

Step 3

The offending content has been replaced.

In many cases, that’s all you need to do. In some cases, you may need to repeat the process with smaller areas selected with the lasso. Remember to press CTRL D to deselect any selections.

Beware! If you have cropped your image with ‘Delete Cropped Pixels’ unticked, you may get some strange results as Photoshop may use content which is not visible because it is outside the canvas.

This method was repeated for other intruding leaves. However, the top left-hand corner was too complex and the replacement was far from perfect. This required a different approach which is described in Method 2.

Method 2

Step 1

Zoom into the area you wish to work with – in this case, the top left-hand corner of the image.

Draw a lasso around the area you want to replace.

Step 2

This time, select Edit menu >> Content-Aware Fill.

The following window will open.

On the left is the original image. The light green overlay indicates the content which Photoshop will use to fill the area you selected.

In the middle is a preview showing how Photoshop will fill the area. 

On the right are the settings for this tool. In many cases, these can be left untouched.

Step 3

Photoshop hasn’t made a great job, so new areas of content have been selected for the replacement. Using the + and – brushes on the top left, new content can be added and existing content removed. The preview will update as you change the green areas. A little experimentation will invariably  end up with a pretty good result.

This is the adjusted image with all the replacements.

Read more - Content-Aware Fill

Have a Go - Use Content-Aware Fill
  • Download this sample file.
  • Open it in Photoshop.
  • Duplicate the Background Layer (Press CTRL J).
  • Easy – remove any partial pigeons on the right-hand side of the image and the pigeon shadow at the bottom left. 
  • Easy-ish – remove  the overlapping pigeons towards the top left.
  • Hard – remove the partial person and the pigeon at the top left.
  • Hardest – remove the pigeon directly above the girl’s arm.

If Method 1 doesn’t do a good job, try Method 2.

Were you able to replace everything cleanly? Did you notice (and remove) the shadow of the pigeon above the girl’s shoulder? 

I hope you learned that some replacements are very easy and Method 1 deals with them very well. Others require Method 2 and will need more time and care. The pigeon above the girl’s shoulder isn’t very successful with either method and the Clone Stamp tool would have been a better choice for this.