Monday, August 9, 2010

Ask Tim Grey - Content Aware Options

I was discussing this topic with Tom yesterday, Tim must be claivoyant LOL. CS5's content aware is pretty good, although it sometimes requires a little cloning to tweak it after you are done.

Ask Tim Grey
August 9, 2010
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Today's Question:

After reading your August 6 eNewsletter, I went back and re-read your eNewsletter of June 24 [both of which related to the Content Aware technology in Photoshop CS5]. When I started using Content Aware I forgot the part about using the Spot Healing Brush. Instead, after making a selection around the offending objects (or the blank areas), I click on Edit > Fill and use the Content Aware option. Is there an advantage of one method over the other?

Tim's Answer:
There are indeed advantages (or perhaps more accurately, simply differences) for each of these methods, which is why I'm so grateful that Adobe included both options for Content Aware in Photoshop CS5. The differences are actually quite similar to the use of painting on a layer mask versus using a selection as the basis of a layer mask. Mostly it comes down to a choice between convenience and the need for precision.

In general, using the Spot Healing Brush is more convenient because you simply select the tool (and related options) and then paint on the image where you want to apply a correction. This is about as simple as it gets. Of course, it also lacks a certain amount of precision. In many situations you don't need a high degree of precision, and in essence my feeling is that if you can get away with the easy approach without introducing any compromises, then you should probably take that approach. For example, if you're simply cleaning up some dust spots in the sky, chances are the Spot Healing Brush will produce excellent results. Therefore, in such a situation I would not invest the time and effort required to create a selection of the areas I need to clean up.

In situations that require a bit more precision, the Spot Healing Brush isn't necessarily the best approach. For example, if the area you're trying to clean up is close to other lines within the image, a selection allows you to focus the cleanup only in the areas you actually need them. Let's assume you're trying to remove blemishes on a tile floor in an interior architectural photograph. If the blemishes are very small, you could use the Spot Healing Brush with the brush size set very small. However, even then you might end up with bleeding into surrounding areas, which could harm the lines bounding each of the tiles. With a selection you can constrain the selection to only the areas you need.

So, in short, use the Spot Healing Brush for quick corrections where there isn't a high risk of blending the corrections into areas you don't want to change. When you need more precision than the Spot Healing Brush provides (or when achieving that precision will consume significant time) you should create a selection and use the Fill command. But I wouldn't create a selection unless you really need to.

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