Digital Darkroom; Content Aware Fill Photoshop

The Digital Darkroom is a series of posts aimed at beginners and those interested in Digital Photography and Editing. In previous weeks we have looked at basic adjustments, curves, editing colour with the HSL/Color panels, black and white toning, split toning, local adjustments, sharpening, noise reduction and Lens Correction and Camera Calibration in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. Moving into Photoshop we have looked at the program’s layout,basic adjustments to light, basic adjustments to colour, basic black and white adjustments, Basic Sharpening, Basic Noise Reduction, Creating Presets and Actions, Basic Masks, Making Selections, Refining Selections, Using the Pen Tool, Clone Stamp, Heal Tool, Patch Tool and this week using Content Aware Fill to clean an image.
If you wish to check out previous posts in the series you can do here.

Last week we looked at the using the patch tool in content aware mode to help clean photos of unwanted elements. This week I am going to continue looking at another content aware feature, Content Aware fill.

The Content Aware option on a tool allows Photoshop runs an algorithm to make the adjustment match the content of the image. With the patch tool last week it patched the selection using the area I sourced but also making the source match tonally.
Content Aware fill lets you make a selection of an area that you want to replace and then fill the area with a similar content from the image. Unlike the patch tool you don’t need to choose a source, Photoshop does that for you.

Removing Unwanted Objects

This picture was taken on a tour of EC2. It is of the door of to the cooling tower; I took the picture from a low perspective looking up and caught a bit of glare from the sun in the bottom right corner. I edited the picture in Lightroom and imported it to Photoshop.


Using the lasso tool I selected the glare and areas affected by the glare.

I then choose Edit-Fill and content aware from the drop down menu.


The fill is close but not perfect as it has repeated some patterns that I don’t want. Some quick cleaning and all will be ok.


The result of using the patch tool

If I was to compare this to the Patch tool, you can see the patch tool gave many more repeating elements that will take longer to remove. This is because the patch tool uses the texture and details from the sourced area. Content Aware on the other hand looks for tones and textures that can be matched from the surrounding area.

EC2 Cooling Tower Door

Filling In the Edges

This is a panorama I took last year while in the low mountains in the east of Poland. There is always a problem around the edge of a panorama; a blank area that needs to be cropped, but in doing so also crops part of the picture. This can also be the case after rotating an image and/or adjusting its perspective.
With content aware fill you can get back these areas and won’t have to crop the image.


First I have my layer after creating the panorama.


I create a new layer and place it underneath the panorama and fill with white.


I create a stamp layer using – Shift+ctrl+alt+E (a bit of finger gymnastics) and select the white areas on the edges.


With the selection active, I use content aware fill – Edit-Fill and then choose content aware from the drop down menu.

View From Chojnik

After Cleaning and Editing in Lightroom

Of course Photoshop isn’t perfect with its algorithm, but it is pretty good. It is always worthwhile zooming in on the areas you have filled and if need be use the clone or heal tool to make the areas look natural. I had issues in the bottom right with the wall and the beam. I had to copy the beam across to the edge and build up the wall. On a less complicated image this would normally be just a little bit of work.

If you are running Photoshop CC with the 2015 update, the merge to panorama function has a content aware fill option now built in so you can skip step 1-4, but I would till suggest step 5.

When to Use What

With all these different ways in cleaning an image a question a lot of people will ask is: when do I use which tool. I would generally say that the Clone Stamp and Heal tool are best for small areas or for blending some areas together, like after using content aware fill in the examples above.
The patch tool I find is great for areas that have a similar texture and repeating patterns are needed like in last week’s removal of a traffic light.
Content Aware fill is great for quickly removing objects from a simple background and filling in an area that is blank. With Content Aware fill most of the time you may need to use the heal tool and/or Clone Stamp to tidy up the area.

If you have any questions or comments please use the comment box below, all are welcome as this series is designed to help people learn how to use Photoshop and Lightroom.

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5 thoughts on “Digital Darkroom; Content Aware Fill Photoshop

  1. Wow, I’m so glad I read this post. Content Aware Fill will save me a lot of time. Before I finished reading the whole post, I showed this to my husband — I had to share with him right away!
    You use a stamp layer because you wanted to fix all 4 corners at the same time, right? If I do one corner at a time using Content Aware Fill each time, will I get the same result?
    Thank you so much!

    • Yeah you can do one corner at a time Helen. I usually do the stamp layer instead of merging down. I like this way as I still have the original layer if everything goes wrong. also the files size doesn’t matter because after doing this I create a smart object with the layers, a topic for another week.

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