Content Aware is Magic

By Mark (1 Sept 2015)

“Photoshop is magic” is how a lot of people feel about some of the features within this powerful application.  One of the reasons why PS remains a critical part of a workflow is the ability to add and delete things from images. Doing this realistically has long been one of the signs that someone “knew what they were doing”.  Back in the day, (which was a Wednesday), when you wanted to cut something out and replace it, you used a lot of clone stamps and layer masks or the patch tool.  Most of the time it created a muddy impression that something wasn’t quite right. 

A few versions ago, Adobe introduced the first of their “Content Aware” tools.  Basically the engineers at Adobe figured out how to smoothly sample the environment around where an object had been located and then match the image in content, texture and shading.  With each release they have improved the capabilities and we are going to discuss a few of them.

The first and most basic was content aware fill.  For those areas which were missing content, you could select the blank area and enough of the area you wanted it to sample and it would fill it in.  This was often handy in when you shot panoramas free hand. Sometimes you might miss a corner of sky or foreground like this.

Fixing each corner or just cropping the image were your recovery choices.  Now they have added an option in the merge to panorama menu itself.  This little checkbox will cause it to do the magic on its own. 

They have also added the ability to do “Content Aware Move” when you need to relocate an object from one area of our image to another.  It is now a two-step process instead of the multiple stages it took before.  Just select your object—like this cow.

elect the tool from the healing brush menu option and drag it to your new spot.

It allows you to scale the object as appropriate.  It then fills in the hole you left.  As you can tell, this cow really moooooved.

Finally, they have added the ability to scale images.  I’m going to show the basic capability here, but will use next week’s blog to show the more advanced features.  If you need to make your photo fit a larger or smaller format you can use the Free Transform tool and shrink or enlarge it.  That’s great if your size is proportional to your original image.  If not then your picture looks squished or stretched. 

In this picture, I wanted to make the photo 10% larger but only on one side.  Select the Content Aware Scale menu and just drag the image to where you want it.  PS actually samples the background and creates new content keeping the image looking natural.

Nifty stuff, but what happens when you have things which can’t stretch or shrink?  Stay tuned for next week.  Don’t forget to join us for the Worldwide Photowalk on Saturday October 3 in Culpeper, VA.  Sign up on