Content-Aware Tools


Cloning, Patching and Content-Aware for Beginners


Lesson Info

Content-Aware Tools

So, the other option that I really like is... Well, there's two of them we should talk about. The first one is content aware fill. Now, when content aware fill was first introduced, basically, people fell over in their gut... As I used to like to say, got a bruise on their chest from the impact of their jaw going 'what?' Because, at the time, it was just revolutionary. It was just like you couldn't do that before, and I loved it for about the first couple of days until I realized the challenge with content aware fill as it's designed is you can't do it on its own layer, and to me, that's a major drawback. Having said that, it still can be really useful, and this goes back to the question was asked the difference between doing it on a blank layer and duplicating the entire layer. In this case, I could duplicate the entire layer and do it, but the premise of it is you make a selection and then you go to edit, fill, and you have... Usually it would be foreground color or something else. Y...

ou'd change it to content aware and click okay, and it does some calculations, says let me just cover that up, and often it's really amazing. Sometimes, like in this case, it's okay. I can see some spots where it kind of repeated the same spot so I would undo and try it again because it is randomized. Let's see if it's any better. It's about the same, but it looks a little better in some areas, but again, it's still step one. Now I could change to some other tool and fill it in. The problem is if you want to have the option of changing it... In this case, obviously, for the purposes of this demonstration, there's a big red box that I want to get rid of completely, so I won't ever want to revert back to the red box version. So, it's okay to do it on the same layer. But for most operations, the challenge with content aware fill is that it wants to do it on the same layer. So, if that was the case, then what I would do in that case is I would consider duplicating the entire layer so that way if I do content aware fill on here... Now, I'm gonna say it doesn't matter if your selection is perfect. In some ways, it's almost better to add a little bit of the surrounding area. And then when I do fill, content aware, at least this way, if there's something about this I don't like, I know I still have the original underneath. Now, that's gonna make for a larger file size, but to be fair, I stopped worrying about file size quite a few years ago because to me it's more important to have more control and more option. So, if the file size ends up being a little bit larger to do that, I'm okay with that. I hope and I can just say that I know nothing about the future of Photoshop, but if I did, gosh, it'd be really nice if you could content aware fill onto a blank layer. That'd be awesome. And maybe that'll happen, who knows? Because that's, to me, the one missing piece is the ability to say put that content aware fill, then if I need to twist is this way or make it a little longer, whatever. So, good news is, in the meantime, until if that ever happens or not, is we have this wonderful tool called the patch tool. Now, the way it comes out of the box, the default settings, people never use the patch tool because they try it once and go this tool's not very good because the results are kinda like (groans) I don't like that at all, but that's because, by default, it doesn't use its best settings, in my opinion. So, I'd still use it the same way. I would add a blank layer, switch to the patch tool, but then usually it looks like this. It just says patch normal, but if you change it to oh, look, content aware, those important terms, and sample all layers, this is what we can do with this tool. You select the area you're trying to fix and then you move it to wherever you want to patch, and you can actually see a preview of what you're doing. So, in this case, I wanna try to even match up that little cracked line and say that looks pretty good, and then I let go and it does some calculations and attempts to blend it in. The thing that makes this tool very special compared to every other tool in Photoshop, with maybe one or two other exceptions, most tools in Photoshop, you set the options in the options bar, you use the tool, the end. So, if it didn't quite work, you have to undo, try some different settings. This tool, that patch is live until you deselect it. So, you see up here in the options bar it says structure and color? These are live settings, meaning you can tweak them and then it redraws the patch with new settings. So, instead of having to undo and start again, I already know that was the right area, but if it doesn't quite look the way I want, I can play around with these settings to say put the structure goes up to seven, which means try and keep exactly the same structure as was over here, which looks pretty good except see how this side doesn't quite blend in quite as nice? Let me get in a little closer, perhaps, okay? But you can see the advantage is I can try different numbers and it just takes a moment and then it redraws it. Now, you see how that doesn't look as good anymore down here? So, sometimes it's gonna be kind of a happy medium, and then the same thing. Color goes from this zero to 10, where a zero's gonna not include any of the existing color, and 10's gonna be, as best it can, the same color. So, it's just kinda like a sliding scale, but again, you see how each time I'm not having to stop, undo, redraw. So, this is a huge advantage when it comes to doing things with trying to match existing information. There will still be times, I can guarantee you, that no matter where you move those two settings you're gonna go (groans) it's really close, but not quite, often in the very edges. So, with that in mind, one of the suggestions that I have is if you can, don't make a selection which is just barely larger than the things you're trying to cover up. So, I could do that, but then if the edges don't look very good, I'm kinda out of luck. So, if I can afford to, if I can have more room available... So, instead of coming really close, I would start and give myself lots of room around the outside. And one other important note about the pastel which is very useful is you can actually use any selection tool to make the patch. In other words, if you're better, feel more comfortable, using the marquee tool or the lasso tool or something, you could use that. Doesn't really matter, the net result is the same, but this tool uses basic selection technique. So, for example, I feel like the bottom of my patch selection is a little close to the red rectangle, so I hold on the shift key, I can add to the existing selection a little bit before I go to use the patch. So, I've deliberately made a selection much bigger than I need. So, now I've got everything else sampled, all layers, I move it over, I try and pick a spot that I think is gonna work, maybe like that. And now, when it does its calculations and I try to find the right values for what I want, like I want higher structure probably, what I'm really looking at is this middle part. I'm not worried so much about the very outer edges because I have more information than I need. So, if I were to lower the opacity a little bit, you're gonna see how much extra I have. So now, if I needed to to improve the edges, I could add a layer mask, take my paintbrush with black, make sure this is set to normal, and just kinda blend in the areas. I went a little too far there. So really, the patch tool, the way I look at it is it's content aware fill made even better. Because content aware fill is really amazing at what it does by just generating pixels out of nothing, but at the same time, because it does put on a blank layer, you don't have as much room to control it after the fact. So, for me, the patch tool is like content aware fill where you can pick the area and then it does the rest. And like I said, to be fair, there'll be times where some of the results of the patch tool doesn't quite do as good a job as content aware fill in terms of matching things. So, it's a bit of a trade off, but I always would probably default to the one that gives me more choices and more options to try and control it. So, any time you have any kind of repeating background like a brick wall or a pattern of some kind that you're trying to match up, I would always use the patch tool because the chances of content aware fill matching that exact pattern in the same place? I would say it's 50/50, at best, whereas the patch tool, you're in control. So, as you move it, you're like right there, and you can see that preview and go now it's matched up because it might redraw the texture, but it's not gonna redraw the alignment of things. It's gonna line it up where you put it. I should've shown you this before. Let's just jump back to the healing, spot healing brush et cetera for a moment because one of the things that is an important trick to know is when you're trying to do things like, for example, wires in the sky, unless you have a really steady hand, trying to paint along a wire with the spot healing brush and keep it straight can be a bit of a challenge. So, if I add a blank layer, I'm gonna make a smaller brush, and then instead of trying to drag, there's a little trick you can do with any painting tool to paint a straight line. It's really counterintuitive though because as soon as I say the word shift a lot of people oh, so you shift, drag? No, we don't, actually, which is kind of weird, but that's just the way it works. So, what you do is you click once at the beginning, hold down the shift key, and click again at the end, and it paints a straight line for you. In this case, with the paintbrush, because I had the wrong tool. So, let's not do that. I meant to do it with the spot healing brush because that was a weird demonstration. Okay, so click once, hold down the shift key, click again. Now you see it paints that straight line with the healing brush, so instead of me going let me just try and drag a really straight line, it does it automatically. So, any time you have straight lines like this... Now, the chances are you're still gonna have to do a little bit of tweaking. In this case, I've picked up some of the existing nearby line, but you can see in pretty short order. And again, I'm doing this on a separate layer so that it still looks pretty good, I can see some areas I need to adjust, but it's a good start, and that's why I suggested right from the get go this is often a kind of a two step process where you go through and do the initial healing with one of the, what I would call, automatic tools like the spot healing brush. And then, if necessary, go back in and make some adjustments. So, in a case like this, I'm zoomed out fairly far so I can see the entire wire. I would do the basic healing at that zoomed out view just because it's easier, and then get closer and see okay, I can start to see some areas where it doesn't quite look as good, so I do some sort of random spot healing here and there just to make sure some of this stuff doesn't look quite so obvious. Now, I'm gonna make a joke here, but it's actually true because I've fallen for this myself. It's gonna sound like I'm kidding and I kind of am 'cause it's funny, but it's also true. It's make sure your monitor's nice and clean before you start doing spot healing because I've had a least one time where I was demonstrating it and I'm going why won't that spot disappear? And one else could see it because it was a little spot on my monitor, and I'm going... And everyone else is looking at the flat screen going, well, I don't even see what you're clicking on top of because there's nothing there. It's like oh, that's why. It's like oh there, now it's gone. So, it's kind of a joke, but it also isn't because you could drive yourself crazy trying to remove stuff and it's not actually there. So, we've got our healing done, and obviously this... If I had done this, it would be because I want to remove the lines completely, but just to show you that idea of opacity. It's still a layer, so if you wanted the lines to be there but just not as obvious, you obviously could do that if you want to because it's a separate layer. So, just lowering the opacity of the layer to let the original layer underneath show through. Alrighty, so I just wanted to make sure I threw that int here as well. So, here's an example of the type of work that we can do where sometimes all these other aspects are really important like healing brush and the patch tool and everything else. But sometimes it just comes down to borrowing existing pixels. So, in this case, here was the original photograph, and this is what it looks like now. So, I'll show you how I did that, and the way I always approach it is I try and take more than I need because it'll be easier, I think, to remove parts that you don't want than to constantly be be going oh, I should've got a little bit more. So, I'm just taking my regular lasso tool here. I could event take the marquee selection tool and just take a big chunk of this information over here. I'll just get (mumbles) this part, and then just press command or control j, which by the way, is the same as saying new layer via copy or via copy, if I could say it. And then move it over, and look, it's perfect. No, not quite. So, in a case like this, now I wanna try and make sure I'm lining things up because I want it to be in the right place, but I'm kind of guessing. So, one of the ways that I would do that is just temporarily lower the opacity enough so you can find something like these doorknobs and or some of the brick. Now when I look at this one, the fact that this doesn't match up doesn't really matter because that's not the part I'm using. What I'm really using is the part down here that covers up the motorcyclist. So, as long as that part looks relatively close, which I think it does, it looks like that part is matching up pretty well, that's the important part. So, I've deliberately brought more than I need knowing that, ultimately, I'm not really gonna use this top part at all. So now, the bottom line is I wanna use as little of this as possible. I've got this huge chunk of pixels, but I don't wanna use the whole thing because then it just... Your eyes would start thinking that just looks like an exact duplicate of that other doorway. So, I wanna use just the bare minimum. So, the simplest way to do it is to use a layer mask, but instead of the... Often, the way we use the layer mask is you add the layer mask and then you paint with black to hide things. Well, I want to hide almost all of this. So, instead of adding the mask and doing an awful lot of painting with black, what I do instead is my good friend the option or alt key. When you option or alt click on the layer mask, it adds it in black. So, now I have a mask that's basically saying hide everything. So, I've got this big chunk of building to cover up that whole doorway, but I only wanna use part of it. So, now I zoom in a little closer and I take my paintbrush and makes sure that white is my foreground color. And the way layer mask works, again, is white reveals things, so all I do is wherever I want to reveal the pasted information, I just start painting. So, again, I'm gonna try and use as minimal of the area as possible because the chances of the door matching up perfectly... It's actually working quite well, better than I kind of expected it would. I'm gonna just keep doing this part. I could make a bigger brush, I suppose, to save time, but you get the idea. And again, my expectation is I want this to be as good as it can be, but I didn't quite grab enough information, so now I need to do some extra work. But overall, if we look at it, it looks pretty decent. I think it's matching up pretty well. And if it wasn't quite right, if the slats of wood that I copied were a little bit off, because it's its own layer, I can still do a little bit of free transforming just to kind of bend it just a little bit perhaps. Now, one of the things we need to be a little cautious of, it that's the case. Let's just assume that I want to see how... You can see some of these pieces down here don't quite match up. By nature, a layer and its mask are linked together. Well, I wanna keep the mask in the same place, but I wanna adjust the photograph. So, if you look in between the two, the layer mask there's this little symbol, it's like a little chain. By default, the layer and the mask are linked together. So, if I do free transform, it'll transform both of them, which in this case I don't really want. The mask is fine, it's the other layer. So, I'm gonna unlink the two, and now when I click on this layer and I use free transform, I'm only transforming the layer information, not the mask. Even though I've hidden a lot of it... See how the transformation handle still deals if as if you're doing the whole thing. Well, one nice little trick when you're doing something like this, is sometimes you just wanna kind of... It's almost like you wish you could just say I wanna go right there and just kinda push it a little bit, but because free transform has these handles way out here, one of the things that I found work quite nicely for something like this is up in the options bar, after you've pressed or used a shortcut or gone to edit for free transform, this little button here is the warp button, and it adds this warp grid on top of your free transform. So, now, instead of only being restricted to the four handles in each corner, you now can come right in this area and just kind of push and pull it to try and make things match up. It's still not might not do it exactly the what you'd want, but often, you can get very very close to the result you want. So, again, up until now I haven't used any of our healing, cloning, et cetera tools, but that's to make the point that sometimes this is still a better start than once I'm finished with this, now I still need to do some cloning or healing or something else. So, I'd add another blank layer, take mys pot healing brush, for example, and see if I can't start improving some of these other areas in here at that point I didn't like as much. Now, just a little tip for you. If you're ever doing any kind of extensive retouching work like this where you're quote unquote removing something by covering it up.... If you're temped to show someone your work by showing a before and after, I would strongly encourage you to show an after and before because if you show the before, no matter how good your work is they'll oh, well yeah, I can obviously see where you did it. But if you start with the after shot and say take a look at this photograph. So, here's the thing. If they look and they do what's happening with the bottom corner of that doorway, then that tells you okay, something didn't work quite as well. If they just look at it and kind go oh, okay, and then you show them, well, it originally looked like this, they're like oh wow, okay, because our eyes... Remember, I don't know if you remember this, but I remember when I was a kid, maybe they still have them, but in the newspaper there was those spot the difference cartoons where things we're missing, you had to circle them. We also need to be really good at that, our eyes. So, if you show a before and after, people are like oh, I can see that where I'd go the other way. Show the final image and hopefully... So, if you're retouching someone's face, I would start with the after. If they go whoa, what's up with his eyeball? That's not good. That tells you that something is gonna giveaway that their eye was drawn to that, but if they just look at it and go oh, okay, and then you show them, so... Oh, and by the way, if you're trying to sell your work doing this kind of work, the greatest thing I ever saw was a person doing a demonstration of retouching. They were actually a panel of three people and the first person got up and showed before, after, it was kinda like restoration retouching. Pretty extensive work and that was pretty impressive because you'd see the before and after, it was like whoa. And the third person, they got up and went before, after 17 hours. I was like now that makes sense. Tell people because otherwise people think oh, well that probably took... It's Photoshop, probably took you like 10 minutes. You're like, no. Some heavy duty retouching restoration work takes a long time, so it definitely makes sense to say after six hours, after five hours, after 14 hours so people start getting an appreciation for how long this stuff takes. When people say well, just fix it in Photoshop, it's like yeah, not quite. Cathy would like to know if you can repeat the commands to make a black layer mask. Sure, so it's... Well, there's a couple of options, but basically, when you normally add a layer mask by clicking on the add layer mask button. Let me go to a layer first. (mumbles) other documents so I can do this more easily. Okay, so we've got a layer and we click on the add layer mask button. It adds it in white. So, there's two options, the first one is hold down the option or alt key as you click on the add layer mask button, or if you've already added the layer mask and then just realize oh wait, it should've been black, press command or control I for invert and then it does the opposite. So, you still end up with the same net result. So, if you know you want it in black, option, alt, click. If you decide after the fact, oh, wait a minute, I should've just invert it. Perfect. Okay, alright. I noticed you used kind of a hard brush for your healing. I know some instructors have used a very soft brush. Can you explain... Well, yeah, that's a good question because with the clone stamp tool, it makes a big difference with blending it, but because the nature of the healing brush is it does its own form of blending in, I've never seen any advantage to doing a soft edge brush. If anything, if I use a soft edge brush, I have to paint a little more to make sure the edges blend in. So, the nature of the healing brush is it does tend to blend things in, so therefore I'm never worried about using a soft edge brush for that.

Class Description

Clone Stamp, Patch and Content-Aware are three of Photoshop®’s most indispensable retouching tools. In this class, Dave Cross will define and compare these popular features and explore the different ways to use them. Flaws, mistakes and imperfections on your images can be frustrating. This comprehensive course will help you develop the skills you need to tackle almost any retouching challenge that comes across your screen.