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Like this article? We recommend Using the Content-Aware Move Tool

Using the Content-Aware Move Tool

The first step in the process is to zoom in so that you have a good view of the entire object you wish to move, and the neighboring areas that are involved in the re-composition (Figure 2). For this image, I wanted to move the larger branch with flowers (top right), into the relatively empty space on the column, and then move some exposed brickwork higher up the column. Note that Content-Aware Move does not automatically scale objects in a scene. It’s best to choose objects that don’t have an obvious scale reference in the scene, and that, if they were moved in the real world, would not change the distance to the original camera position by a substantial amount.

Figure 2: For the first example we’ll relocate a branch and some of the bricks.

The second step is to make a selection. This is a straightforward process for anyone who has used the Patch tool or the Lasso tool. Just click and draw a “freehand” selection around the object. One difference with this selection workflow is that you don’t have to slow down to make a meticulous edge-selection; it’s actually helpful to include some extra pixels around the periphery of your subject! As with other selection tools, you can also hold down the Shift key and draw a marquee around new areas to add them to the original selection, or hold down the Option (PC - Alt) key and draw a marquee to remove areas from the original selection. Figure 3 shows the initial selection for this example.

Figure 3: The initial branch selection includes areas of texture around the object; this helps Photoshop to create a better result.

For our third step choose Mode: Move from the Options Bar. There is also an “Extend” mode for Content-Aware Move that allows you to stretch the height or width of an object (within limits) but in this case we want to move the entire branch to a new spot, not extend its reach. Once the mode is chosen move the cursor over your selected area, then click and drag your selected object to the desired location. As with other selections, you can hold down the Shift key to constrain the movement to a purely vertical or horizontal change.

When you move the selection you will see a couple of different things: the object will appear to stay in its original spot (this may seem counterintuitive, but don’t worry -- it will disappear soon enough); you’ll also see a progress meter that will indicate the image is being analyzed and processed (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Once you select and object and move it, it may take several seconds for the subject to be moved and the original replaced by a new texture.

Once Photoshop is done crunching the pixels, the object at the original location will disappear, having been replaced with new pixels that blend in with the background, and the newly placed object will be blended into its new location as well. Often times all it takes is one try to get it a good result. Figure 5 shows the finished result of our first step.

Figure 5: For simpler backgrounds, the first move can create a nearly perfect result.

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