Adobe Photoshop CS5 - We need more Content-Awareness

Posted By Phil Price on July 23, 2010 12:00 am | Permalink
Whenever I mention I'm working with Adobe CS5 to other designers and digital artists, they usually say something like "I just upgraded to CS4 and haven't learned all its features, why should I upgrade to CS5?"My answer lately is, "If you do a lot of image retouching and photo manipulation in Photoshop, then Content-Aware Fill technology is for you."

I'd seen the Content-Aware features previewed before Photoshop CS5 was released and thought it looked helpful and perhaps faster than cutting, pasting and cloning unwanted objects out of still images. I figured it was one of those tools that works well in ideal cases, but wasn't such a big improvement. Recently, however, I had a bunch of images with unwanted objects that had to be removed. Normally I would have cut and pasted small pieces of the image together to cover up the unwanted objects. Since I'd recently loaded Photoshop CS5, I thought I'd give the new Content-Aware Fill a whirl to really see it in action. I have to say it worked like a charm and I was finished retouching much more quickly than I'd planned.

The feature wasn't just helpful in removing unwanted objects, it also came in handy when a number of the pictures had to be rotated. Rotating the images left big chunks of empty space in the corners of the frame. I simply used the magic wand tool to select the blank parts of the picture, selected the Content-Aware option in the Fill dialogue menu, hit OK and it filled in what it calculated to be the missing part of the picture. It still took some retouching on many of images to get right, but it did a pretty amazing job in most cases of getting me started. In some cases it got it right the first time with no additional retouching needed.

Now I should point out that most of my images were ideal for the Content-Aware tools. It works best when there's lots of organic or random shapes around the objects like clouds, grass and landscape. When there was more definable objects like a building with exactly spaced windows it got a little trickier.

The tools that use the Content-Aware algorithm are:
  • Fill - when you've used one of the selection tools or hand drawn a selection around an object.

  • Spot Healing Brush - to paint out by hand an unwanted object with the Content-Aware option chosen.
After using the new Content-Aware features on still frames, the obvious question concerns the possibility of using it in After Effect CS5 to remove unwanted objects in moving footage. Unfortunately there's no such option in the new After Effects (although there are several new and improved image tracking and retouching tools). I'm not sure exactly how Content-Aware could be implemented within After Effects, but it seems there must be a way. Sure, you can bring moving clips directly into Photoshop and paint them frame by frame, but that's time consuming and can create image chatter across multiple frames.

Conclusion: While new software releases always add new and refined features, it's usually hard to point to one feature that stands out as a tool you wouldn't want to live without. In the case of Photoshop CS5, I vote for Content Aware and hope to see it integrated into other Adobe programs in the future. You can check out a demo by clicking this link.