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I'm going to be asking a question I thought to be a lot more popular than it seems to be, as there seem to be many different options and methods for doing this very simple task (removing objects from a background).

I'm trying to simply use a background to paint away an object on that background, and in searching for this simple task I've found a lot of ways that seem to work mediocrely in some situations. Most of these, however, tend to use AI tools, such as Content Aware Fill. And while I'm not against using AI, it does tend to leave artifacts that make the finished products sometimes a bit "generated" and unnatural. Because of this, I have an example of one "process" video that seems to be pretty accurate, and I'm trying to figure out what workflow would match this process the best.

The theory behind the animations seem pretty sound; seems like there's a lot of patterns being copied from adjacent info that's used to cover up intended spots, but it doesn't fully explain how all of the details seem to work. If the patterns were copied verbatim, there would be clear breaks in the edges, where the pattern didn't continue perfectly. The video also does show subtle warping to keep perspective as well.

Is there a reference to understand how to perform a similar workflow, one that isn't simply "press one button to fill" that does tend to provide better results? I'm imagining this would take orders of magnitude longer than just using an AI tool, but the finished product seems to show it worth it.

I'm a complete newbie to this kind of thing, so any advice is appreciated. Thanks in advance y'all!

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Results with Photoshop's content aware fill can vary depending on the foreground and background. But the newest version of Photoshop now has an AI powered Generative Fill feature which is a different animal entirely.

Also, it's not a good idea to write off using this new AI Generative Fill. It's really a very powerful tool for this kind of photo manipulation. It's not perfect, but will get you a substantial way towards your goal with an image like this. It's really no exaggeration to say this new feature directly available inside an image editor is a total game-changer.

Another thing to note is that there are actually very good Photoshop tutorials on Youtube for doing edits like this. Not sure the video you shared is useful since it explains nothing. Find some better tutorials.

Here's an example where I made around five separate selections using the polygon select tool, and then hit the Generative Fill without a prompt. This will basically tell Photoshop to delete the selected object and fill the space with AI generated content.

enter image description here

This is a good starting point for such an edit, which could then be further modified manually. For example, it didn't make a particularly good job of the replacing the fence. Also there's a left-over artifact from one of the arrows of the overlay, but this could simply be regenerated again.

Another thing to note is that with Generative Fill, Photoshop creates three variations each time it does such a fill, from which you can choose the best. And if these still fail, you can generate again for more variations to choose from.

After a little more work, and some manual patching

enter image description here

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  • It might be better not to get into semantics of what is and what is not AI. It does not have a database but works much the same.
    – joojaa
    Jan 6 at 13:31
  • @joojaa - agreed, but Content aware is very different to Generative Fill, and also you don't need to be connected to the internet to use Content Aware fill. I've removed the offending phrase.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jan 6 at 13:37
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The linked video shows the perfect result. It shows the goal, but not how to make it in practice. Practical situations are often difficult because just fitting patches (fit = size, perspective, light conditions, color, surface texture) are often unavailable. You must create the needed patch in pieces. Sometimes also adjustments (geometry, color, brightness...)are a must.

Learn how to make a selection by drawing with lasso or by using other selection methods so that the area to be replaced is selected. A well done selection helps to avoid trashing areas which are already as wanted. Making selections is your basic skill.

You can use the patch tool to bring a piece to the selection from elsewhere. The tool tries to make the brightness to fit. Sometimes it succeeds and sometimes it fails. You must often try something else.

The clone stamp is the other very useful manual tool. You can literally paint by taking material from another place. The selection prevents painting accidentally too large area.

If there's long lines you should to try to clone along them to avoid breaks and twists.

The healing brush is a variation of the clone stamp. It tries to fade the border between old and new by fading the edges gradually and by adjusting the color. It succeeds sometimes but as well it can guess wrong and make a well visible patch. Undo takes it back if you do it immediately. It succeeds mainly in cases where the environment is quite the same in every direction around the patched area.

Using the clone stamp tool allows painting the patch to a new layer. That's extremely useful because you do not destroy the original. If needed, you can adjust easily the color and size of the patch in the new layer. You can rotate and warp it and wipe off some part. Partially erasing the edge makes possible to make smooth transition between the patch and the original. That's very important because you do not want well visible borders. The painted area in the new layer can be bigger than needed, because it's easy to remove the excessive area. Besides the smooth transition zone needs some space, too.

It's very useful to work some cloning tutorials to learn how to use the clone stamp with different brushes and settings.

Then there's some automatic tools to fill areas. They have been developed substantially in the last 2 years due the developments in Artificial Intelligence.

I skip AI tools, but Content Aware fill happens totally in your PC without any connection to an AI server (which is available for paying Adobe CC customers). Content Aware means that Photoshop tries to make the replacement patch automatically to fit. It succeeds often pretty well if there's the same looking background around the whole area to be replaced. But it can fail miserably when the neighbourhood is different in different directions. Adobe's "Content Aware" has got substantially better after it was introduced about 13 years ago, but it's no replacement for manual work.

Finally I must mention the smudge brush. With it you can push a part of the image (including also transparency) further. Try it and see! Maybe surprisingly, it can also be used to naturalize too clean edges of hair or fur when the edge looks like it was clipped by using scissors or a razor blade.

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