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“Photoshop Photo Manipulation Tools tutorial: Patch Tool, Content-Aware Move Tool, And Content-Aware Fill” is part of my Photoshop book “Learn Photoshop CC With Pictures”, which is more revised and covers more concepts than the online tutorials, feel free to check out the book by visiting my Learn Photoshop CC With Pictures Book Page.
In this tutorial. We will continue focusing on Photoshop photo manipulation tool. The three tools we are discussing here are The Patch Tool , the Content-Aware Move tool and Content-Aware Fill option. If you understood how the Spot Healing Brush Tool in Part I of this tutorial. You already have a very good understanding on what content-aware is.
What is Content-Aware?
Content-aware is a feature Adobe introduced in Photoshop starting from Photoshop CS5. This feature basically removes a certain part of a picture by analysing its surrounding area. Without you having to do much work at all. We have seen a little example of how this work in the last tutorial. When we removed a big blemish from a man’s neck using the Spot Healing Brush Tool. The three tools we are discussion here all work the same way. But each of them works a slightly different.
The Patch Tool
The Patch Tool allows you to select a part of the picture you don’t want. And then replace it by a part you want. To illustrate the point. Take a look at the following picture. Where we have a little girl sitting between flowers. Assume we want to remove the girl. All we have to do is to select the girl, and then drag click and drag the selection into the area you want it to match. Which is the grass and flowers around of her. Here is how to do that:-
- Select the Patch Tool from the tools Panel. If you can’t see the Patch tool. Simply click and hold on the Healing Brush Tool or the Spot Healing Brush Tool and Photoshop will display the rest of the tools below it
- Click and drag your mouse to select the girl on the picture, here is how my selection looked like:-
- In the Patch Tool Options, make sure that Source option is selected instead of destination. This option determines whether Photoshop will replace the source (which is the girl here), with the destination (The grass around her). Or if it will replace the destination (the grass) with the source (the girl). If you chose destination here, Photoshop will create a replica of the girl. Choosing source or destination is a convenient way Photoshop offers to you to make your workflow much smoother. As it is possible do anything you want with just one of them.
- Now click on the girl selection, and drag it to the grass section, while you are doing that, Photoshop will show you a previous of how the picture will look like after you lift your hand off the mouse button. Here is how the preview looked like to me:-
- Lift your mouse off the left button, and wait until Photoshop finish patching the picture. Photoshop will do the all the work of removing the girl from the picture. Here is the final picture:-
The source and destination options
The source and destination options of the Patch Tool determines whether you want to replace the source with the destination or vice versa. As I stated in the above, if we followed the same steps as we did above. But instead of selecting destination instead of source. Photoshop will remove the grass on the destination, and replace it with the girl, creating something that looks like this:-
The Content-Aware Move Tool
The Patch Tool did a very good job at removing the girl in the last example. But instead of removing the girl altogether, we just wanted to move her a little to the left or to the right. The Content-Aware Move Tool does just that. And the steps to use it is the same as the Patch Tool above
- Select the Content-Aware Move Tool from the tools panel
- Like we did with the Patch Tool . select the girl by dragging your mouse cursor around her.
- Drag the girl you where you want to. And Photoshop will show you a preview of how the girl will look like after you unbold the mouse button. This is how things looked like to me:-
- Unhold the mouse button, and wait for Photoshop to finish working on the picture. After that, the girl will be on the new spot you chose for her:-
- You may have noticed that Photoshop removed a the flowers from where the girl was. This is totally fine. While the Content-Aware tools in Photoshop did indeed a great job at moving the girl to her new spot. The technology is not %100 perfect. You will encounter many situations like that in your Photoshop life. Which is why I don’t try to use pictures that produces perfect results. You have a few options to do right here:-
- Try to do the same things using the another tool or technique.
- Copy the flowers again using the Patch Tool or the Clone Stamp Tool, like I did here:-
Introduced in Photoshop CS5, Content-Aware Fill allows you to eliminate any element you don’t want in a picture, just like we did using the Patch Tool and the Spot Healing Brush Tool. In additional to that, it can also be used to “extend” a picture that has missing parts. Just how we filled in the mountain and the sea in the following picture:-
How to use Content-Aware Fill
Using the Content-Aware Fill is easy, all you have to do is to select the part you don’t want, using any of Photoshop Selection Tools. And then select Edit -> Fill from the main menu. Let’s do that now~
Suppose we don’t want the towel in the following picture. Follow these steps to remove it:-
- I used the Lasso Tool to select the towel and the area around it. But you can use any of the other selection tools if you like. Like the Pen Tool:-
- Select Edit -> Fill from the main menu, the Fill dialog appears
- Select Content-Aware from the Use menu. Then click OK. And it is Photoshop turn to do its magic
- Et voilà. The towel is gone. Without having to do much work on our part. This is one of the reasons I think mathematics is nice~
Using Content-Aware fill to extend a picture
This is my favourite Content-Aware fill trick. Extending a partial picture by filling in the missing pixels. We are going to fill the rest of the sea and the mountain behind it using the Content-Aware fill.
- Select the are you want to fill. Which consists of the area that has no pixels. To do that, I selected the pixels of the sea layer, then inverses the selection by selecting Select -> Inverse from the main menu
- Select Edit -> Fill from the main menu, the Fill dialog appears
- Select Content-Aware from the Use menu. Then click OK.
- After Photoshop finish filling the picture, you will end up with the full sea & mountain picture you see here:-
Content-Aware tools vs Spot Healing Brush Tool
The Spot Healing Brush Tool and all the Content-Aware tools we discussed here all sound similar. And you are probably wondering when to use which tool. Usually the answer is:- “Use whatever you think is best for the job”. As there are more than a single way to do things in complex and vast programs like Photoshop. But a little advice I could tell you is to use the Spot Healing Brush Tool to remove small spots from pictures. Like blemishes and pimples. And the other Content-Aware tools to remove and fill bigger parts of the picture. You could also ignore the Spot Healing Brush Tool all together and use the Patch Tool and all the other Content-Aware Tools we discussed here, it is all up to you to decide.
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It is worth it to note that there are times when the Content-Aware Tools fail to do the job. And doing it using the old tools like the Clone Stamp Tool is much better. Like how they fail to fully match the pattern of the tiles after removing the cat from it:-
Moving a cat around
Let’s play with the following cat:-
We could remove the whole cat altogether using the Patch Tool :-
Or we could move her altogether using the Content-Aware Move Tool :-
Removing the mountains
Content-Aware Fill can be used to remove a while range of mountains from the sea picture. Though the selection was a little bit tricky:-
Content-Aware Fill can be used to remove a large amount of Blemishes. Like how I did with the following forehead. To do that, I had to use the Content-Aware fill multiple of times to do that. Which makes me wonder if the Healing Brush Tool is better for that:-
- Content-Aware Tools use mathematics to fill the missing details of pictures. Without you having to do that much.
- The Patch Tool patches a certain area you select from another.
- You could replace the destination with the source and vice versa using the Patch Tool options.
- The Content-Aware Move Tool works the same way as the Patch Tool. Except that it moves the object to somewhere else in the picture. It uses Content-Aware to seamlessly remove any trace of the moved object. And to integrate that object into the new place you move it to
- The Content-Aware Fill works very similar to the Patch Tool. But it can do one more useful things. It can help you fill a missing part of a picture so easily.
- Usually, you use the tool you think is the best for the job. The Spot Healing Brush Tool can be used to remove small spots from pictures. Like blemishes or freckles. While the other Content-Aware Tools can be used to do remove the bigger parts of pictures.