Photoshop CS5 Content Aware Fill

content aware

Yesterday, Adobe’s CS5 suite become available for public download and i got a trial version of it. Like most people who’d heard about it, content aware fill was the first thing i was eager to try out and see for the first time myself.

Although i know how to remove things manually and tweak images using tools like quick selection, clone stamp, feather, color replacement etc.. it’s just all far too much work for me. I’m not a professional designer or photographer so rarely will i bother editing photos or images – even if i know i could make them look better.

However, content aware fill makes editing photos that bit easier. Having played with it for a while, it’s not perfect, but under certain conditions, it’s very clever and useful indeed. Initially, i tried erasing myself out of photos where i was the sole focus of the picture… this had disastrous results 😉

me in london

content aware fill fail

As you can see from that last image, it did remove me, but it would take an awful lot of effort to clean up the mess it left behind. Too much effort for the likes of me – someone who just likes messing around and doesn’t want to spend hours working on a single image. Although my clothes are quite dark compared to the rest of the background, photoshop just couldn’t gather enough data from the surrounding areas to erase my presence completely.

I quickly discovered that in order for it to work properly (and not need much touching up afterwards), you can’t have too many colours surrounding each other. It wants nice high contrast colours and plain backgrounds to work with. Which makes sense after all…

Grass, sky, cement, wood… if they’re present in the background, it can erase stuff in the foreground because it can simply copy / paste the background on top of the foreground. Take this photo of a pigeon for example which i took in Dublin recently… it’s just a blue sky in the background… no clouds, no additional colours… just blue. CS5 had no problems deleting the pigeon almost to perfection (i had to do a small bit of editing to clean up the outline it left).

pigeon on roof


So Photoshop is getting smarter… it knows its pigeons from its blue skies, but you get the feeling this is just the start of something big. If we could fast forward 10 years i’m sure we’ll be living in a world where not only can photoshop master patterns and colours, but it can detect objects, gather information & photos online about them and use all of that information to come up with much smarter erasion and replacement techniques.

CS5 is speeding things up and trying to automate things which up until now have been pretty slow and boring for us to do manually. So if you’re working with photoshop regularly, no doubt you’ll come across new features which make life easier. I’ve yet to really toy around with much else, but i will be experimenting further over the coming weeks.

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