CS5 Content Aware Fill: 3 MUST Know Features to Pep up your Images

To the uninitiated, the transformation of a nondescript photograph to a work of art may seem something out of the Harry Potter series. However, if you happen to be a professional photographer or a designer, it is the elixir of life. After all, we are the sort of people who spend more time with Photoshop than with our wives. The inordinate buzz surrounding CS5 pre-release, with rumours of the extra-ordinary “Content-Aware Fill” feature, had everybody working in digital content creation drooling with anticipation. CS5 Extended takes a big leap from the two dimensional world of images into the three dimensional world with many video features. Here is a complete tutorial of one of the most hyped features of CS5.

This revolutionary, intuitive tool puts hours of exasperation with the clone, patch and spot healing brushes in the earlier versions, to naught. The Content-Aware dialogue crops up innocuously while deleting from a background layer or can be found or with the Spot Healing Brush by turning it on in the Options Bar. It makes intelligent decisions and clones multiple patches of background around the object being deleted and filling it in the blank area.

Usage and Working

1. Consider the following picture is of a prancing horse (see below) on grassy meadows with a hedge and some over hanging branches. Our objective is to delete the horse from the background, while preserving the background in its original form. Unlike CS4, this can be done in a jiffy using CS5.

Step 1 Select the horse using a Lasso or Marquee tool.

Step 2 Press Delete. Wait for the Content-Aware dialogue box to open (see picture below).

Step 3 Select OK. Wait for some time and see the horse disappear.

2. Content Aware Fill works brilliantly under most circumstances. You can use it to remove things such as dangling wires and cables from photographs to preserve aesthetic beauty and keep it succinct. This feature comes as a manna to professional photographers, who will be spared tedious hours of retouching the photograph.

Step 1 Select the Spot Healing Brush from the toolbox.

Step 2 Select the Content Aware button in the Options panel and turn it on.

Step 3 Select the wire using the Spot Healing Brush.

Step 4 This is the final result, without any trace of the presence of a wire.

3. Another great use of this feature is for filling of empty backgrounds in photographs that have parts of their background missing (see pictures below). This feature is a god send for retouching old photographs and restoring the beauty of images. This is how it’s done:

Step 1 Shift select using Magic Wand the backgrounds without color fill.

Step 2 Press delete. The content-aware menu pops up.

Step 3 Press OK and you get your complete image.


Although one wishes so, the Content-Aware feature has its vulnerabilities. The Content-Aware feature provides outstanding results, especially for backgrounds with low intensity. While the algorithm works miraculously for natural and abstract backgrounds, it is suspect with man-made structures and backgrounds with repetitive designs, such as geometrical patterns or window friezes. The Content Aware Fill also shows unsatisfactory results while deleting letters from a flattened graphic image. It invariably tends to fill the space with another neighboring word. Also, the fill option doesn’t work with a selection of any size. Remember, the Spot Healing Brush shows best results when one uses a smaller brush with a hard edge rather than a larger brush with a soft edge.

Overall, this marvel in the designing world will come as a boon for designers for retouching purposes by saving loads of valuable time. While it does have minor glitches, the Content Aware tool is certainly not a flash in the pan. It is going to be one of the staple features of designing in days to come.


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Cruzine magazine founder interested in everything around graphics and design.