Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Quick Trick: Content-Aware Fill

PDF Version : https://bit.ly/3SLuyWj

We all have those photos that just don’t… quite… make us happy… but the memory is important. I have a lot of photos from my two visits to Ireland where the subject is ancient and meaningful, but the trappings of modern life just intrude. Cars, signs. poles, wires, you know what I mean. If they’re in the photo it’s because I couldn’t get the image without including them. Here’s how I make them disappear.

Okay, so the wire in this photo isn’t really that bad. But it bothers me enough that I’m going to eliminate it. These thatched cottages in Adare, County Kerry, have been there for at least a couple hundred years, long before electricity and cable TV. In the past, I would have used a combination of Spot Healing and Clone Stamping to hide it, but not any more!

First, I’m going to make a mask for it using the Pencil Tool. Since it’s essentially a straight line, that’ll work well. I chose a hard, round brush a bit wider than the wire.

This mask needs to go on a new blank layer so that its’ edges can be Selected in the next step. So I plopped down a new layer.

Next, I put the tip of my pencil down at one end of the visible wire and clicked.

Then, holding down the SHIFT key, I put the tip of the pencil down at the other end and clicked again.

By clicking on the mask/red line Layer Thumbnail (the little image that shows what’s on the layer), I’ve told Elements I want the edges of the line Selected. That turns on the marching ants. Then I clicked Select>Modify>Expand so I can be positive I’ve gotten ALL of the stuff I want gone covered.

It doesn’t need to be expanded much. 5 pixels for this is enough. That’ll move the marching ants away from the original selection by 5 pixels in each direction.

This step is optional, but I feel like it’s needed here because of the straight, sharp line. The edges could be visible in the finished image and I’d rather they not. Select>Feather or CTRL/CMD>ALT/OPT>D will open a new option menu.

The edges just need a touch of softening so a Feather Radius of 5 pixels is likely enough.

Now, prepare to be amazed! Make sure your photo layer is active – not the mask layer – and click Edit>Fill Selection…

Choose Content-Aware from the Fill Layer options menu. Content-Aware Fill was introduced in Elements 13, so if you’re using an earlier version, it won’t show up for you in the options. Sorry…

The image speaks for itself.

To turn off the marching ants, click Select>Deselect or CTRL/CMD>D. And it’s done!!

I took the original photo in May 2014, but now, it could be any year.

I’ll just show you another quick way to eliminate distractions before we go. It’s thought this castle was built around 1216 on the shore of Lough Leane, near Killarney, County Kerry by an Anglo-Norman named Roche. Over the last couple of centuries it’s fallen to ruin. And those signs have GOT to go!!

This time I used the Lasso Tool to draw a rough circle around the sign and post. As long as the line you create with it crosses itself you’ll be able to “close the loop” and have a specific Selection. Don’t be too fussy, because it doesn’t matter!! (**You won’t have a red line around your loop. I did that to make it easier to see where I’ve got my marching ants.**) Then again, Edit>Fill Selection…

And choose Content-Aware again.

A really close look will tell you Elements has Cloned the shrub to the left of the Selection to fill the space, but the average eye won’t notice.

The owners of the property has tried to make the “historical marker” thing blend in with its surroundings, but it’s a fail for me. So let’s disappear it too.

Back to Content-Aware.

Hmm. Elements has Cloned part of the fence post and it looks dumb. It’s outta there!

I made a new, smaller selection to capture only the offending fence post and Filled it with Content-Aware and now it’s perfect!

Now that I’ve started, I’m hooked! I’ll be spiffing up a LOT of photos, and getting much better results, in the coming days.

Anybody jumping into the Scrap-a-Thon? Since my son has finally recovered from his injury, life is back to normal for us and I should be able to take part. So excited!! See you on the weekend with the Designer Spotlight.



  1. Wow, Jan — that is amazing! It seems so much simpler than using the clone stamp or the spot healing tool; which can often look splotchy. I am definitely going to give this a try — thanks so much!!

  2. Thank you so much! This looks so much simpler than what I’ve tried before and given up on!

  3. Right?!! When I stumbled on those Facebook reels and saw this, I was dumbfounded. How have I gone 10 YEARS without knowing about this???

  4. Love this technique! Can’t wait to give it a try. Thanks.

  5. Thanks, Jan, I’m definitely gonna try this. Now if only I could really disappear the electric/cable lines outside my house. They ruin my sunset view every night!

  6. I totally forgot about this feature in PSE! Thanks for the reminder. I tried it right away on an old photo with a person who walked into far background and it worked pretty well. I just had to finish it up with the clone stamp brush a bit.

    I have an idea for a tutorial that folks might enjoy. I once did this technique using one of the tutorials by Cheryl at MyCorner (formerly Hummie’s World). It involved adding a blended blue layer on top of the whole page to give it a sort of antique look. I was skeptical, but ended up liking my page better with it than without. (I think that technique might be the general idea behind the interesting look of the designs of Jennifer Fehr at Sweet Shoppe, but I have no way of knowing her process.) I might still have my before and after pages if you’re interesting in seeing them to decide if it’s worth pursuing or not. (forum username: lulutoo)


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