How to remove objects in Photoshop CS4


You set up the tripod, line up the shot, and get ready to capture the best picture of your life. You look through the viewfinder and when you press the shutter button, a random passer-by jumps into the frame. You have been photographed.

Sometimes you'll notice right away and be able to take another shot, but often times you won't see the intruder until you get home. Rather than throwing an otherwise awesome photo in the trash, let's see how you can use Photoshop to remove photobombers and other unwanted background objects.

The easy way: Content-Aware Fill

Open the image you want to edit in Photoshop. You don't want to mess up the original pixels. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + J (or Command + J for Mac users) to copy the background to a new layer.

Then grab the Quick Selection Tool from the toolbar or use the keyboard shortcut W. If the Magic Wand Tool is selected instead, press Shift + W to toggle it. The quick selection tool selects all similar pixels near the area you click.

Use the [and] keys to resize the tooltip until it is slightly smaller than the object or person you want to remove. Click and drag around the target until it is selected.

If the Quick Select tool accidentally selects something you don't want to select, hold down the Option key on a PC or Alt key on a Mac and drag over the unwanted area. This will subtract it from the selection.

If you want to add another area to the selection, hold the Shift key and click the area you want to add.

The choices for the quick selection tool are far from perfect. To make sure that everything you want to remove is fully selected, choose Select> Modify> Expand and enter a value of about 5 pixels. This extends the selection beyond the edges of the quick selection tool.

Then go to Edit> Fill and select Content-Aware from the Content drop-down list. Click OK. Photoshop will analyze the environment and give you the best results.

The content-aware fill tool has a random element. If you're not happy with the first result, press Ctrl + Z (or Command + Z on a Mac) to undo it and try again. It might take three or four tries, but Photoshop will usually come up with a decent fill.

If there are some areas that look good and others that don't, access the Quick Select tool again and only target the bad areas. You can repeat this as often as you like. For example, the image below took about 15 content-aware fills to get to a point that I liked.

The automatic Photoshop removal tools have become much more accurate since their inception. While they're never as good as slow and by hand, they can clean up most images. They work best on organic and random backgrounds. complex repeating patterns and straight lines can cause problems. Even so, you can do a lot with social media posts.

The extended way: clone stamps

The content-aware approach is great, but it's nowhere near as good as if you were to do something with the clone stamp yourself. If you really want to remove a photo bomber or background element so that there are almost no traces, this is the best way to do it.

You need to have a basic understanding of layers and layer masks to be able to follow. So check out our article on the subject in case you are new to them.

Open the image you want to edit in Photoshop. Create a new layer and select the clone stamp from the toolbar. The shortcut key is S.

Make sure that "Aligned" is checked and that "Sample" is set to "Current & Below".

The clone stamp takes pixels from one area of ​​an image (the "clone" part) and paints them in another area (the "stamp" part). It works like the Paintbrush tool, but for copying pixels. This allows you to use existing pixels in the image to cover up anything that you want to remove.

Find an area in your picture that seems to obscure the photobomber. Hold down the Alt key (or Option key on a Mac) and click it. This sets the sampling point of the clone stamp.

Paint the sampled pixels on the new layer until you have a large enough patch available.

Select the move tool (press the V key on your keyboard) and position the patch over the area you want to cover. It doesn't matter how rough it looks at that point.

Add a black mask to the layer by holding down the Alt key and clicking the Add Layer Mask button. This will hide the patch.

Then select the brush tool. Choose a soft round brush with a flow of around 40%.

Use [and] to change the size of the tooltip and mark the person or object you want to remove in white. This will only show the patch in the desired areas. Use the paintbrush tool to adjust the mask so that the original image and the original patch blend together nicely.

Usually, in order to completely remove someone or something, you have to use a couple of patches. It took me four to remove the gnome photobomber. You can see a rapid passage of time as it developed below.

Take your time, work your way through the process, and you can remove almost anything.

Below is a comparison of the two removal methods. While content-aware does a good job, it goes without saying that the clone stamp makes the scaffolding look a lot better.

Removing photos and other things that you don't want in the background of your photos is one of the most common tasks users want to do in Photoshop. Automated methods make a decent attempt, but if you really want someone to be gone, it is still best to use the clone stamp by hand.

Photo credits: HarshLight and Matthew Hurst.

  • The easy way: Content-Aware Fill
  • The extended way: clone stamps
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