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Mastering the Photomerge Command (Part 2)

The following tutorial is adapted from the book Motion Graphics with Adobe Creative Suite 5 Studio Techniques from Adobe Press. This is the second part of the tutorial. Be sure to check out part 1 and download the source files as well. I’ll add part 3 on how to bring the file into After Effects as a virtual set.

[Please show your interest in the comments below the post, thanks TS]

Cleanup Unwanted Objects

Chances are, you’ll end up with a few unwanted objects in your panoramic photo. Perhaps it’s a power line that’s sagging in the frame. Or it’s an unwanted tourist walking through the shot. Fortunately, Photoshop offers a suite of tools for removing objects and hiding blemishes.

Content-Aware Fill

The Content-Aware fill option is a new command in Photoshop CS5. It allows you to select an area then fill it with a texture that was automatically generated based on pixels surrounding the selection. What happens is that Photoshop randomly synthesizes similar content to fill the area based on the surrounding source image. This is a great way to remove an object or blemish from a shot. In some cases it completes the job in one step; in others it offers a great jump-start and can be touched up with cloning or healing (Figure 12.16).

Figure 12_16

Figure 12.16

Figure 12.16 A rough selection was made with the Lasso tool (left). The Content-Aware fill command does a good job of removing the object (center). A quick use of the Clone Stamp tool completes the touchup (right).

In order to use the command, you’ll need a selection. I find that the Lasso tool works fine or the Quick Selection tool. You’ll want to make the selection slightly larger than the targeted area. To create a gentle transition zone, be sure to choose Select > Modify > Feather and enter a value of 5–25 pixels to blend the selection.

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To access the Content Aware Fill command, you’ll need to see the Fill dialog box. Choose Edit > Fill to bring up the Fill dialog box (Figure 12.17). Choose the Content-Aware fill from the Use menu and click OK. The command may take a few moments to process if you’re working with a high-resolution image. If you don’t like the first attempt Content-Aware fill generates, just choose Edit > Undo and then repeat the Content-Aware fill command.

Figure 12_17

Figure 12.17

Figure 12.17 To access the Fill dialog box (and Content-Aware fill) just press Shift+Delete.

Clone Stamp

If you’ve used Photoshop for a long time, you’ve surely come to rely on the Clone Stamp tool. It can produce predictable and accurate results with just a little practice. It works by sampling pixels from one area of an image and painting them in another (Figure 12.18). What makes the tool so useful is that it relies on the flexibility of Photoshop’s Brush panel. This allows you to adjust the size and hardness of the brush as well as the opacity of the stroke. When cloning, be sure to use a softer brush. You can quickly adjust the hardness of brush by holding the shift key and press [ (for softer) or ] (for harder).

Figure 12_18

Figure 12_18

Figure 12.18 The Clone Stamp tool is a quick way to remove distracting blemishes from an image.

The most useful option when cloning to is specify the desired alignment of the brush. In the Options bar, you have two choices.

• If Aligned is selected, the sample point and painting point move parallel as you brush. If you click again and start over, the sample point picks up relative to the current brush position.

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• If Aligned is deselected, the initial sample point is re-used. The second method ensures that you are always sampling from the same area but the first produces more visual variety if using a large textured area.

To set the source point for cloning, simply Option+click (Alt+click) within the current document. You can also use another open document as a source (just be sure that it is set to the same color mode). This defines the source point for sampled pixel data.

To get the best results, try these performance tips:

• Try cloning at a lower opacity from several different places to fill in a problem area. This way you can avoid too much repetition in the pattern.

• Try to “follow the line” by looking for edges to follow in the image. Look to follow the natural curves and linear paths that are present.

• You can clone from all visible layers by specifying Use All Layers. This is useful if you want to clone to an empty layer at the top of your document while sampling from the layers below.

Healing Brush

The Healing Brush is designed to correct imperfections in a photo. Similar in handling to the Clone Stamp tool, it successfully hides blemishes by taking cloned pixels and matching the texture, lighting, and shading of the sampled to the original pixels. This can generally produce results in which the repaired pixels blend seamlessly together (Figure 12.19).

Figure 12_19

Figure 12_19

Figure 12.19 While the Healing Brush takes a short while to process and blend, the results are usually seamless.

You can use all of the Clone Stamp tool shortcuts with The Healing Brush tool. Be sure to specify the tool alignment in the Options bar. If Aligned is selected, the sample point and painting point move parallel as you brush. If you click again and start over, the sample point picks up relative to the current brush position. If Aligned is deselected, the initial sample point is re-used. The second method ensures that you are always sampling from the same area but the first produces more visual variety if using a large textured area.

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The Spot Healing Brush works well if you don’t want to manually set a sampling point. Just be sure to avoid using too big a brush when painting or you’ll get poorer texture sampling.

Here are a few tips to get better performance:

• Because the sampled pixels are drawn from before you click, it may be necessary to release and start over occasionally to avoid sampling the problem area.

• Release the mouse to merge the sampled pixels. The stroke will most-likely look strange until then.

• To get better results on an area with strong contrast, make a selection before using the Healing Brush Tool. The selection should be bigger than the area to be healed and should follow the boundary of high contrast pixels. This way, when painting with the Healing Brush, the selection will prevent color bleed-in from outside areas.

• You can clone from all visible layers by specifying Use All Layers. This is useful if you want to clone to an empty layer at the top of your document while sampling from the layers below.

If we get ten comments asking for it, we’ll be back in two weeks with part three where we take the panorama into After Effects.

This tutorial is adapted from the book Motion Graphics with Adobe Creative Suite 5 Studio Techniques from Adobe Press.

About Richard Harrington (43 Articles)
A certified instructor for Adobe and Apple, Rich is a practiced expert in motion graphic design and digital video. Rich is a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals Instructor Dream Team, and a popular speaker on the digital video circuit. Rich is an internationally published author. His book, Photoshop for Video, was the first of its kind to focus on Photoshop’s application in the world of video. He is also a contributing author for Apple’s Aperture, iLife ’09 and iWork ’09, Video Made on a Mac, and Producing Video Podcasts. If you want even more Photoshop training, check out his book Understanding Adobe Photoshop CS4. If you have an iPod touch or iPhone, you can get <a href="http://tinyurl.com/upapps">Rich’s Training in your Pocket</a>

12 Comments on Mastering the Photomerge Command (Part 2)

  1. consider this the eleventh comment,

  2. Don’t start what you can’t finish.

    Let’s get the next part posted ASAP.

    Thanks for the inspiration and tips!!

  3. +13

    (Apparently, that is too short for this method of communications but you know what I mean… at least, I hope you do… in any event, this should be enough blabber to get myself posted.)

  4. Thank you for your posts and I would like to see part 3 please 🙂

  5. Emmanuele Congiu // February 28, 2011 at 10:14 am //

    Thank you so much for the inspiration and all the tips! See what I manage to do: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/9601281/Panorama_Fontana.jpg
    Keep up the great work Rich!
    Emmanuele

  6. Oh! You are not combining the “comments” from both articles. That’s too bad.

  7. Now… we only need 3 more comments.

  8. Bring it on baby!

  9. there must be a third comment here?

  10. or a second comment?

  11. or a first, omg Richard Harrington thats your three, looking foreard to your post,

  12. James Baty // March 29, 2011 at 12:29 am //

    Richard, thanks for the tutorials. Looking forward to part 3, hopefully!

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