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(Last updated on May 17th, 2021)

Wondering how to use Content-Aware Fill in Photoshop? You have come to the right place!

Today, we will be figuring out how to use Content-Aware Fill in Adobe Photoshop. This tool makes it easy to take out unwanted objects in your photographs. Follow along as we dive in.

Using Content-Aware Fill In Photoshop

Sometimes when you take a photograph, you will have unwanted elements of your image that you want to erase. A pimple or random bystander can be distracting, taking away focus from your subject. Or, you will want to fill an empty part of your image.

  • First, select the subject you wish to fill or remove.  For this image, I am removing the dried orange slice in the upper right corner.
How to Use Content Aware Fill
  • Next, go to Edit  > Content-Aware Fill
How to Use Content Aware Fill 1
  • The Content-Aware dialogue box will pop open. Here, you can make minute adjustments, viewing the final image as you make changes.
Content Aware dialogue box
  • Sampling Area Overlay: This is the part of the image that the Content-Fill Feature will take from to hide the original piece. You can toggle off showing this feature, adjust the overlay’s opacity, change the color, or change the overlay content (showing the excluded content instead).
    • Sampling Area Options: Next, you can change the area option between Auto, Rectangular, and Custom. Auto automatically selects the sampling area. Rectangular creates a rectangular area around the subject. Custom lets you choose the sampling area by painting out the desired parts of the image.
    • Fill Settings: In Fill settings, you can change the color or rotation adaptation and check scale or mirror. Color adaptation is great for photos with gradual texture or color changes. Rotation Adaptation is useful for content with curved or rotational patterns, like flowers. Scale adjusts the content to be a better sizing match, and mirror flips content, good for photos that have a symmetry focus.
    • Output Settings: In the Output Settings section, you can decide how this content-fill adjustment will be placed in your original image. You can output it to a new layer, merge it with the current layer, or create a duplicate layer.
    • When Finished: You can Hit OK to apply the changes and exit out of the Content-Aware Fill panel. Or, you can hit Apply, which will apply the content-aware changes without exiting. You can then readjust as needed, hitting OK once you are officially done and satisfied with the final image.
  • And you’re done! Using content-aware fill is easy-as-pie.
Using content aware fill is easy as pie

Filling-In A Background Using Content-Aware Fill In Photoshop

You can also fill in a background using content-aware fill. While you will use the same steps as above, I will show you an example of how easy it is to extend a background.

  • First, let’s increase the canvas size of our image. I want to extend the top of the image by 1,000 pixels. Go to Image > Canvas Size, pulling up the Canvas Size panel.
Filling In A Background Using Content Aware Fill
  • Next, increase the Canvas size to your desired dimensions. You can set the metric to inches, centimeters, etc. You can also set where the canvas expands from your original image. You can also set the fill color for the empty space.

I’m going to set the expansion setting to the bottom, so the canvas adds at the top. I’m adding 1,000 pixels to the height of the image.

Filling In A Background Using Content Aware Fill 2
  • Next, select the new area you created. I used the magic wand and clicked to select.
used the magic wand
  • Then, go to Edit > Content-Aware Fill, which will pull up the Content-Aware Fill panel. Adjust your settings and hit OK.
the background expanded seamlessly
  • Your image is now done, the background expanded seamlessly.
Other Ways to Get Rid of Unwanted Objects

Bonus: Other Ways to Get Rid of Unwanted Objects

Adobe Photoshop is a program with many capabilities. There are lots of tools that do the same thing in different ways. Let’s go over a few different options that can also remove objects from your image.

Healing Brush: The healing brush tool heals marks and blemishes. Removing a spot is as easy as marking the area like a paintbrush. The tool automatically fills the area. Here, in this image, I’m going to remove sprinkles that fell to the main table.

  • Select the Healing Brush Tool
Healing Brush Tool
  • I’m going to click and drag, marking anything I don’t want in the image. The healer tool will automatically fill it in. And you’re done! It’s as easy as paint, drag, and gone.
Healing Brush Tool 2
Healing Brush Tool 3

The Clone Stamp Tool: The Clone Stamp Tool lets you copy from a selected-sampled part of your image. You select the sampled section and then copy the pixels to a new area of the image.

  • In this picture, I want to remove the seeds. I am going to select the Clone Stamp Tool.
The Clone Stamp Tool
  • Then, hold the Alt key or Option key to choose the sampling area. Then, release the key and click and drag over the parts of the image you want to erase. To get a seamless finish, I recommend re-sampling often to make the new content look flawless. I’m going to sample from the table to cover up the seeds. And you’re done!
The Clone Stamp Tool 1

Additional Tip: When using Adobe Photoshop, my biggest tip is to continuously learn new tools that Adobe has to offer. While it can seem overwhelming at first, adding new skills to your toolbox can make the editing process that much better. You will find that some tools make your process go a lot faster and also discover ways that make imperfections disappear seamlessly. Adobe Photoshop is masterful at retouching and is used professionally in many industries.

I also recommend combining tools when working on an image. For example, the content-aware tool might create an almost perfect retouch. But maybe the edges of what you changed are still wonky. You could then go back in with the Clone Tool to clean up any imperfections.

When I work, I use the automatic tools to make fast changes and then use the more precision-based tools to clean up after. My tool usage depends on the subject matter and what I’m trying to do. The more you work with these tools, the more knowledge you will gain around the best scenarios to use them with each tool’s capabilities.

Great resources to help you:

  • Adobe.com: Adobe itself has many learning resources available to you, sorted by program and difficulty. There are videos, written tutorials, and huge community libraries to help you find your answers.
  • Lynda.com: Lynda.com brings professional editors to you, helping you learn the ins and outs of the software. Taking a class will teach you everything from shortcuts to new editing strategies that you may not have thought of previously.
  • YouTube: There is a ton of free content available on YouTube that can teach everything and anything Photoshop. You can learn tips and tricks, basics, painting, and more.

I hope this helps you learn the ins and outs of Adobe programs. There are a ton of resources out there for you to discover.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I use content-aware fill?

You can use content-aware fill to do everything from removing unwanted images or filling empty spaces in your canvas. This tool is adept at matching your current image.

Why can’t I content-aware fill?

If you are having issues using the content-aware fill feature, check what layer you are working on. For example, you will not be able to use content-aware fill on adjustment layers or smart objects.

How do I use content-aware fill to extend the background?

Select the area you wish to fill and go to Edit > Content-Aware Fill. In the Content-Aware Fill window, adjust settings until you like the altered image and hit OK.

Why is my content-aware fill greyed out?

The content-aware fill button may be greyed out because you have selected a smart layer or adjustment layer. You cannot use this tool on either of these layers.

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