Content Aware

Content Aware is one of the new features in Photoshop CS 5.  It's unique in a few really interesting ways.

It is also a great name because of what it does.  

The first thing you need to do is make a selection around any object you want to remove and then tell Photoshop to remove that object.

What happens is this - Photoshop takes a look at the surrounding pixels - that is the pixels not included but right next to the selection - and it uses them to replace the object within the selection. That would seem to imply that Photoshop is Aware of the Content immediately adjacent to the selection.  


Not only can you use the Edit > Fill > Content Aware dialogue to remove an object, you can also use it with the Spot Healing Brush.  If you have ever struggled with that tool you know it can be great or it can be difficult.

Putting a checkmark in Content Aware on the options line seems to supercharge the Spot Healing Brush.

If that's not enough there is more.  There is also an option called Content Aware Scaling that allows you to move things within an image (like moving two people closer together) and maintaining the integrity of the overall image at the same time.

Here are a few thoughts about where Content Aware can be used ...

  • Remove a distracting object, even a person from a photograph.
  • Remove a blemish.
  • Remove a shiny spot on a forehead, cheek or nose.
  • Use the Spot Healing Brush to eliminate scratches or tears in an old photo.

Removing An Object

Content AwareThis is really great and it is also very easy to do ...

Make sure the History Palette is open and ...

First - Select the object you want to remove with the lasso tool.

Seond - go to Edit > Fill, drop down the dialogue and select Content Aware.

Third - Click OK and you are done!

If the results are less than perfect just go back in the History Palette and do it again until you are satisfied.  I heard the Photoshop Guru, Dave Cross, say it is not unusual to do it up to five times before it gets it right but that is a whole lot easier than Cloning for what seems to be forever!

Here is an example.  In this picture there is a small post in the middle foreground and some trash just to the right of the post.

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The post is selected with the rectangular marquee tool and then Edit > Fill > Content Aware.

It did an OK job but left part of the post visible.  Just reselect the part that was not removed and do it again ...

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First Selectiom Second Selection

The piece of trash was taken out in one shot ...

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First Selectiom Second Selection

Both of these items could have been removed by cloning but this is, by far, the easiest method.

Spot Healing Brush

The Spot Healing Brush is a wonderful tool, however the results could be somewhat wonky from time to time.  It's strength lies in removing small, skinny items like wires and tree branhes and such.

With CS 5 Content Aware has been added to the Spot Healing Brush making it a very powerful tool.

In the same picture there is a small black pipe running up the green sign on the right side.  With the Spot Healing Brush selected and the appropriate box checked the pipe was removed in a few simple stokes of my pen.

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Pipe Pipe Gone

It was not quite as easy removing the pipe as it was taking out the trash but it still worked really well.

Here is the picture after the post, trash and pipe were removed ...

Content Aware

Hydro wires - they can sure be a distraction.  They can be removed quite efficiently when they are against a flat kind of sky, however when the sky is busy, well - that's a different story.

And example of a busy sky ...

content aware hydro wires

And here's the same shot after a few minutes of Content Aware spot healing ...

content aware hydro wires removed

This really is a great addition to Photoshop CS 5 and it may just be worth the cost of upgrading.


Here are some examples of the versatility of this new addition to CS 5 ...

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Heaven (left) and Tabitha (Right) Tabitha

This was fast and easy.  One selection around Heaven (the mini Bull Terrier on the left) then Edit > Fill > Content Aware and she was gone leaving only her sister, Tabitha.  It took less than one minute.

How long would it have taken to use the clone tool to achieve the same results?  Much, much much longer you can bet with lots of frustration and many layers.

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Original Spindly Trees Removed

Right n the center of the image is are two little spindly trees.  I used the Spot Healing Brush with the appropriate option selected and those skinny little trees were gone  in about 5 minutes.

It was quick, easy and very effective.

Photo Restoration is the perfect place for Photoshop.  The many tools available in earlier versions meant pretty much anything could be fixed if you had the time and the inclination.

This picture was taken back in the early 50's and suffered the fate of many old pictures - damage and neglect.

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There are blemishes and folds and lots of nasty stuff that needs fixing.  For this example I zoomed in on her left elbow where there were many little streaks and marks.  The Spot Healing Brush with the option set to Content Aware was used to improve this area.

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Original After Spot Healing

Now this took longer than the previous two examples - maybe about 30 minutes.  I worked on this part of the picture with the clone tool some time ago and it took a couple of hours and the results were not nearly as good as they are with Spot Healing and Content Aware.

So what do you think?  Is this a good addition to Photoshop CS 5?

Page Links

Removing An Object

Spot Healing Brush


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