Adobe CS5 Wizardry Part 1: Photoshop's New Content Aware Fill

I was given the opportunity yesterday to play around with Adobe's brand-spanking-new CS5 Creative Suite, and man, is it sweet. Was it $600 to upgrade, $1300 to buy sweet? I'll let you know once I download the 30-day trial ^_^.

Immediately upon opening Photoshop CS5, there was only one thing I wanted do: see if Content Aware Fill was all it had been hyped up to be. Let's face it, after watching the viral YouTube teaser video, it's fair to have doubts. In case any of you Adobe junkies didn't get a chance to check it out, here it is:

Pretty sweet, eh?

Ok, marketing magic aside, what can Content Aware Fill do for me, Mr. I only use Photoshop 2% of the time? Surprisingly, quite a lot in a very short amount of time.

To demonstrate my point, let's bring in my lovely, reluctant photo assisstant, (and girlfriend) Laura.

Laura before Content Aware CS5. Click for larger view.I chose this photo for Content Aware Fill because I felt it posed an interesting challenge for both myself and Photoshop CS5. Looking at this image and wanting to have anything removed from it while retaining a believable look would be nearly impossible for me for several reasons:


  • Almost random patterning of stones
  • Varying tones of both leaf and stone
  • A deep shadow from the leaves in the area where Laura is about to be removed
  • Deciding whether or not to keep the window and just drop out Laura, or throw it all out


Figuring it would be a supreme display of CS5's power, I decided on dropping the whole window, Laura included, out of the picture. Sure this would turn it into an old boring wall, but would Content Aware Fill make it look good?

Not wasting anymore time, I grabbed the smart select tool and track padded through my selection (like the n00b I am). Managing to also make use of Photoshop CS5's improved refine edge tool, I selected pretty tightly around the window and surounding stone and leaves. And as Bryan O'Neil Hughes would say, "We're just going to let Content Aware chew away at that," and apporximately 10 seconds later, I was greeted by the image you see below:

 Umm, where'd Laura go?

Content Aware CS5, you're awesome! Click for larger view.

 After picking my jaw up from off the floor, I quickly zoomed into full view of the 8Mp image to see just what exactly Content Aware Fill had done in, this seemingly effortless, 10 seconds of work. I'm about to get really nitpicky, so I suggest you also zoom into the image to your right (just click it ^_^). Wow, so Content Aware did an awesome job with the leaves. You can see it sampled from the less dense twigs from the top right corner and the larger out of focus leaves at the bottom; but other than that, the flow of the leaves seems to coincide with the rest of the image. Now let's move onto the stone. The right half of where Laura was looks outstanding! Good pattern continuity, variation of tones, and overall you can't tell there was the ridge of an open stone window there. The left half, however, is where we run into some problems. There's a lot of overly obvious sampling and discontinuous tones. My guess is it could have been brought about by three things:

  • Shadow cast from the leaves above
  • I didn't select enough of the leaves from the left side of the window frame
  • Not enough stone was sampled from below the window frame

Overall, though, this image is definitely convincing, especially for internet resizing.

So, considering that I was able to do this in roughly 1 minute, start to finish, what does that mean for the rest of the Photoshop users out there? My guess, that things are about to get good with photo-retouching, scary good. What used to only be accomplished by paying an expert retoucher upwards of $100 per hour can be accomplished by an intern with a Bamboo tablet. Can/will this get out of control with what we are now able to effortlessly do to a photograph? In thinking this over, I'm reminded of an essay one of my art professors reccommended to me:

Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of its Technologically Reproducability"

I'm sure everyone will have their own opinion of how Adobe Photoshop CS5 is changing the game, please be sure to leave a comment expressing your own feelings towards it. If there are enough comments, I'd love to revisit this topic sometime in the near future.

Thanks for reading, and remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is, and it's probably photoshop'd. ^_^