How To Use Content-Aware Fill In Photoshop

Best Way to Use Content-Aware Fill In Photoshop Basic to Advance Guides

Almost all photo editing apps have multiple tools and ways to remove unwanted background or background objects. But do they all work in the same way? Of course, they don’t. One tool in the Lightroom application will not do the same work as in Photoshop.

Adobe Photoshop is the best and top-notch application for any kind of photo editing task, including background removal. Many tools, such as Pen Tool, Object Selection Tool, Background Removal, Background Eraser Tool, etc., help remove unnecessary background objects.

Another such option is the Content-Aware Fill tool. Not only does it help remove objects or background people, but they also help move them to different areas of the photo. I will discuss the Photoshop Content-Aware Fill tool and how to use it in the following parts of this article.

What Is Content-Aware Fill?

The Content-Aware Fill tool is one of the many handy Photoshop tools that allow users to remove objects, move them around the image, modify them smoothly, etc. It is more like an upgraded version of all the other tools Photoshop offers you to do a similar job.

Like other tools where you only select around the subject or object, here you also make some selections around what you want to remove or move. Selecting the pixels around them helps separate the object from the image efficiently. But what makes the Content-Aware Fill tool different is how it does the selection.

Here, you hardly need to do any manual selection. Just drag the selection tool shape over the subject or object, and the tool will automatically create paths. And selecting the Photoshop Content-Aware Fill tool helps cover up the part where the object was so that the image appears flawless.

You will find out more about how you can do this in the latter part of the article. But before that, let’s find out when you need to use this tool.

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When To Use And Not Use Content-Aware Fill Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop is a highly intellectual and professional software for editing any photo and gives it an entirely new and different outcome. With so many tools and options available, it is not unusual to find yourself in a dilemma of deciding which tool you need to use.

As the Content-Aware Fill tool seems to be used for a pretty similar purpose, it is best if you know when to use this tool. And other tools can help you remove spots, unattractive areas, unnecessary things, etc.

But this one offers a very different effect, and the result looks effortless. However, the question is: when do you use this tool, and when do you not?

When To Use The Content-Aware Fill Tool?

The Content-Aware Fill tool removes objects from scenes or landscape views more effectively. Removing an object leaves a hollow in the image that needs to be filled without being indiscreet.

And this tool helps to make the photo scenery look undisturbed and natural as the tool replaces the missing pixels matching them with their surroundings. You get to choose which pixel you want to use to patch the area with missing pixels, making everything quick and easy.

Another aspect of using this tool is moving image objects in other parts of the photo. And as I have explained, the Content-Aware Fill Photoshop tool will allow you to fix the missing pixels and place the object in a different area without making anything look unnatural.

So if you want to perform these tasks using Photoshop software, the Content-Aware Fill can be an excellent option to provide you with satisfactory output.

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How To Use Content-Aware Fill Photoshop Tool?

The Content-Aware Fill Photoshop tool is not exactly the most challenging tool you will come across. There are plenty of other tools and options to help you remove background objects or move them. But not all of them offer flawless patching to finish the job.

On top of that, there are tasks like creating paths, duplicating layers, inverting them, etc.  So let’s start by locating and selecting the Content-Aware Fill tool.

Locating The Content-Aware Fill Tools

The Content-Aware Fill Tool works in various ways to remove unwanted parts and patch hollow areas. But you need to locate the tools if you want to do those. Just as the tasks involved in this part, you will have to locate the Patch Tool and the Content-Aware Fill tool.

You can find both tools in the Toolbar of your Photoshop application. So how do you spot them if you do not know what they look like? 

The Patch tool looks like a patched area, a rectangle shape with lines that bisect every edge. And the Content-Aware Fill tool looks like two curved arrows crossed together like the shape X.

But if you cannot see these icons on the Toolbar, you have to find them in another way. Go to Windows, and click next to the Tools option to enable the tools.

You can also go to Edit and then select Toolbar from there. 

Content-Aware Fill Tools Photoshop find

If there are any hidden tools, you can bring them back by dragging them from the right to the left column. This option also gives you the liberty to arrange and group the tools as your preference.

Once you spot the Patch tool option, select Content-Aware Fill for the options bar. Both of these tools have Structure and Color settings options. You will learn more about these settings in the following parts of this article.

You also need to open the Content-Aware Fill workshop. But you need to make a selection around the object for that. Then you can go to Edit and select the Content-Aware Fill tool from there. If the option appears grayed out or you are unable to select it, try using the Lasso Tool to highlight the content for selection.

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Content-Aware Patch Tool

When you remove something from the scenery or any type of image, you need to use the Patch Tool. But the entire task requires a few simple steps, and I have explained them right here.

Step 1: Selection

If you are working on photo editing, you are bound to require making changes here and there even after you reach the final stage. Sometimes, even the most skilled image editors make these changes if required.

To do that, one has to go back to their previous tool settings. And the only way to ensure Photoshop has those changes saved and you have access is to have Duplicate Layers for every change. It is a tough thing to make into a habit, but you can keep it up with practice.

The perk of creating a Layer for each section as you move forward is that you can come back to any of these Layers anytime you need to make a change or adjustment. Creating a Duplicate Layer is simple.

Go to the Layers panel and select Duplicate Layer and save your work. You can also do it using your keyboard by pressing CTRL+J on Windows and COMMAND+J on MAC.

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Step 2: Drag To Replace Pixels

Removing an object from the photo is not enough. You also need to replace the missing pixels so that the area does not appear abnormal. So click and hold on to the selected area and drag it to the sampling area. If there are any obvious lines in the image, try to match them when selecting the pixels.

After that, drop the selected pixels where you want them. And the Photoshop software will automatically pick this suggestion and apply the Content-Aware Fill tool to help the new pixels fit into the area.

But what if you dislike the replacement or the change seems too obvious? If that happens, you need to Undo your work and select pixels from a different area.

To undo the change, go to the Edit panel on the menu bar and click on Undo Patch Selection from the drop-down menu. You can press CTRL+Z on your Windows keyboard for a shortcut or COMMAND+Z on your MAC.

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Structure And Color Settings

Remember the part I left out in the previous part where I discussed locating the Content-Aware Fill tool?  Now it is time to talk about those two: Structure and Color. You will need them when patching the image pixels.

The Structure is how weakly or strongly the patch adheres to the image patterns that already exist. It has a box where you set a value between 0 to 7. The more numbers you add, such as 7, the stronger it adheres, making the patching task smooth. On the other hand, if you need a loose interpretation in shape, you can keep the number low or 0.

The Color setting option helps blend colors to the image and newly set pixel area. Here, you can set the numbers between 0 and 10 depending on the image color. Setting the number to 10 offers maximum color blending. However, if you do not need any, keep it to 0.

You can gradually lower or increase the values to see the difference and finally settle to a number that seems to fit best. But keep in mind that the Content-Aware Fill tool and the Patch tool work best for less complex images and backgrounds. So the result can always vary, and not all of them might turn out as you expected.

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Content-Aware Move Tool in Photoshop

You have learned how to locate the Content-Aware Fill tool and Patch image areas. But how about moving objects in a different part of the photo?

You might already know that you can not only remove unnecessary or unwanted objects from photos, but you can also move them using this tool. And here is how you can do it.

Step 1: Layer Creation

First, start by creating a new Layer of the original image. To do that, go to the Layer panel, and you will get a drop-down menu once you click on it.

Then click on the Duplicate Layer option to make a copy of the image. You can use the shortcut commands from your keyboard by pressing CTRL+J on Windows and COMMAND+J on MAC.

After that, select the Layer and then the Content-Aware Move tool. Draw around the object you want to move with the Lasso tool but keep the drawing around the edge a bit loose. 

Step 2: Drag To Move Pixels

Click and Hold on to the selected object and drag the pointer to move it. Once you reach the place where you want it, drop the object.

And once you do that, you will get a transform box around the object you just dropped. This box has arrows and pointers that allow you to rotate and adjust the size of the object to match its surroundings and background.
You can use the Return option after accepting the changes. And Photoshop will save your change and patch the area where the object originally belonged.

You will get the Structure and Color settings here as well and can similarly adjust them as before.

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Content-Aware Fill Workspace

You can use the Patch tool for simple or mid-range editing. However, complex images require a more advanced editing option and the help of a different tool. And that is when you need to open the Content-Aware Fill Workspace.

Step 1: Selection

First, select the Lasso Tool from the Toolbar and select the object you want to remove.

Then click on Edit from the menu bar to open the drop-down menu. You can select the Content-Aware Fill tool from there, and it will open the workspace.

In this part, you will find that the part you selected with the Lasso Tool is selected here.

You will also find a part covered with a greenish overlay, which is the sampling area. You can get a better result by refining that area.

Step 2: Refine the Sampling Area

You would not want Photoshop to use the image’s solid areas as a replacement. You can use the Sampling Brush Tool to remove that green overlay from the part you want to refine. Photoshop will automatically replace the pixels as you work on the green overlay.

On the right-hand side, you will get three options: Auto, Rectangular, and Custom. You can choose Custom to get better control over the sampling area. You also get to select the color and the rotating angle.

If you are happy with the changes on the Preview panel, you can click OK to save your work. If you need to make changes or Undo anything, you can also do that from the menu bar.

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Reasons Why Content-Aware Fill Tool Might Not Work And How To Fix Them

If you haven’t worked using the Photoshop Content Aware Fill tool, you can face some issues. Newbies usually make some common mistakes, which make them think that the tool is not working. However, in most cases, it turns out to be some silly issues that they probably did not notice and got worried about.

So before you start editing any image with the Content-Aware Fill tool, make sure you know why it seems the tool is not working. I have also added tips on how you can fix these problems.

Problem 1: No Selection

One of the most common problems newbies face is that they cannot select the Content-Aware Fill option when they open the drop-down menu from the Edit panel. It appears grayed out, making it impossible to click on it no matter how much you try.

But why do you think that happens? Apparently, this problem happens when you select the option without selecting the photo object that needs moving or removal. 


If you want to enter your Content-Aware Fill workplace, you need to begin by selecting the object or subject first.

You can use any selection tool to do the job, or you can use the Lasso tool that allows you to make adjustments later.

Once you are done selecting, go to Edit and click on the Content-Aware Fill tool from the drop-down menu.

Problem 2: Selecting The Wrong Layer

It is not unusual for you to have trouble selecting the Content-Aware Fill tool even after selecting the image, and everything seems okay. If the option still appears gray and non-selectable, the problem might be with the layer, as this tool does not work on all layers.

Yes, it may seem annoying and even infuriating if you are trying your best to learn something new. But you should also be aware of the gray areas of such tools, which include this one. 


The solution varies depending on whether the layer you are working on is the issue. So you can start by checking if you are on a Smart Object or adjustment layer. If so, that is why the option is not working, and you need to change the layer.

You must select a new layer and duplicate it to make it work. You can also resize the layer and use the Content-Aware Fill tool.

Problem 3: Working On A Blank Layer

Suppose you have selected the photo object without any issues. And then also got to select the Content-Aware Fill tool, which is no longer grayed out. Yet, there might be an issue with the preview panel.

The preview panel on the screen can appear blank despite everything. If not, you would still get an error message when trying to open the workplace. It will say that the content could not be filled due to no image data or change layers.


If that is the case, you can change the layer and select a new one. And make sure to select the right-hand box next to the Sample All Layers. This will help solve the problem if you get a blank layer instead of an image preview.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Three tools have a Content-Aware mode: the Fill Tool, Patch Tool, and the Spot Healing Brush tool. Though these tools have differences, they can help remove objects from any image.

Go to the Output settings, and you will find the option that says Output To. Then set it to New Layer and click Ok. Now, Photoshop will fill a separate Layer every time you apply a new Fill, and you don’t need to close the Workspace.

The Content-Aware Fill tool is likely grayed out because you have not selected the object you want to remove. Other than that, the Layer you are working on could be a problem. You can also keep an eye on the preview layer to see if it appears blank because that can also be the reason why the tool is grayed out.

Final Words

The Photoshop application offers plenty of fantastic options to remove objects from images, that is for sure. But moving an object to a different part of the photo can be tricky with most tools. That is why you need to use the Content-Aware Fill Photoshop tool as it does not require many steps to edit the photos.

If you are not used to this tool, understanding how it works or working on it can be time-consuming. So the best thing to do is to start with a comparatively simple image and see how it turns out.

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