We’ve all taken images that are perfect except for some unwanted element in the frame. Whether we had no choice but to compose it into the frame—or it just “snuck” in—removing objects from an image typically involves detailed masking and careful cloning.
The newest version of Photoshop CS5 addresses this time-consuming work with a powerful new feature called Content-Aware Fill. Don’t look for it in the menus; accessing this capability is as simple as hitting the Delete key or selecting this mode with the Spot Healing Brush.
Content-Aware Fill works by analyzing the pixels surrounding those you select and “imagining” what would be there if the object wasn’t. It replaces the object you want to remove with details that match the lighting and textures of the surrounding area. It’s amazing how well it does this.
For small objects (like power lines), you can use the Spot Healing Brush in Content-Aware mode and simply brush over the object. For larger elements, like the sign in our example photo, it’s faster to use the Content-Aware option of the Fill tool.
In our example, we drew a quick selection around a sign we wanted to remove. We didn’t create a detailed mask, just a simple rectangular marquee selection. Depending on the shape of your object, you choose from any of the selection tools in Photoshop, but don’t spend a lot of time refining the selection—this is supposed to be fast and easy.
After selecting the sign, we hit the Delete key to bring up the Fill tool dialogue. With the mode set to Content-Aware, we left the Blending Mode set at normal and 100% opacity, and clicked OK. That’s it. Photoshop CS5 magically replaced the sign with details from the road, curb and river. Excellent, and fast!
Depending on your image, you may want to make some minor additional touchups with the Clone Stamp tool or use another technique. For many photographs, however, this under-a-minute fix is all you’ll need to eliminate unwanted and distracting elements in your best shots.