Photoshop’s Content-Aware Tools Explained

One of the the most amazing features in Photoshop is content-awareness. Now, you will not find a tool with that exact name. What I mean by ‘content-awareness’ is really a family of tools that are presumably based on the same core technology under the hood. These tools are the Content-Aware Fill, Crop, Move and Scale tools as well as the content.aware flavor of the Patch Tool.

These tools are really handy whenever you need to do a little more than the usual color and tonal corrections to your images. They’re not only valuable for designers. For example, if you need to straighten a horizon by rotating your image, you typically lose areas around the edges. Content-aware technology can work wonders to fill those and let you retain the full dimensions of your images.

Here are  five featured videos covering the entire range of content-aware Photoshop tools.

How to Use Content Aware Fill

In this video tutorial, Aaron Nace shows you how to use the Content-Aware Fill Tool – the first content-aware tool that was available in Photoshop. Aaron shows you the basics and also how to clean up if Content-Aware Fill messes things up.

Content Aware Fill and Move

Here, Julianne Kost explains how to Content-Aware option of the Patch Tool works and how to use the content-aware tool options. You’re going to learn what ‘Color Adaptation’ means, how to protect certain objects from being affected by a content-aware fill operation and how to use the ‘Structure’ and ‘Color’ options.

Then, Julianne shows you how to use the Content-Aware Move Tool. The great thing about all these tools is that you can change the key options after you’ve used the tool. Most other tools in Photoshop let you set the options only before you apply them. By changing the options after the fact, you can neatly adjust the outcome of your operation.

Here’s another example by Dave Cross where he shows you the difference between using Content-Aware Fill and the Content-Aware Patch Tool for removing an area in a difficult position. The latter generally gives less artifacts and causes less clean-up work.

How to Use Content-Aware Scale

Content-Aware Scaling is a way of scaling an image but telling Photoshop to protect certain areas in the image. In the video below, Aaron Nace shows you how you can use Content-Aware Scale to extend the background of a beach photo without distorting the people in the foreground.

This really gives you a lot of options to shape your images in post-processing. For example, if your composition is slightly off and the subject is slightly off the best position in the frame, previously you could only crop in and reduce the image size to move them to the optimal spot. Now, with Content-Aware Scale, you can do the opposite: You can extend the frame on the opposite side and let Photoshop create new pixels for you that blend in seamlessly with the rest of the image. Neat, eh?

The Content-Aware Crop Tool

The latest addition to the content-aware tool set in Photoshop has been the Content-Aware Crop Tool. In the video below, Julianne Kost demonstrates how you can use this tool not only to make your image area smaller and discard pixels but also to make it larger and let Photoshop add pixels.

Again this can be a big help if you have to straighten an image and you want to avoid losing those edges or if you just want to correct your composition slightly without making the image smaller.


The set of content-aware tools provided by Photoshop is very powerful. Once you get your head around how they work, it’s pretty easy to solve problems with easy that were really tough previously.

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