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How to Remove an Unwanted Element from an Image in Photoshop CS6

By Barbara Obermeier

Follow these steps to seamlessly remove an unwanted element (in this case, a person) from an image in Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 6. When you first attempt this technique, start with an image that has an element that isn’t attached to something you want to keep in the image.

  1. Open an image that contains something you want to remove.

  2. Use the selection tool of your choice to select the element that you want to remove.

    You don’t have to be super-precise, so feel free to grab the Lasso tool. When you make your selection, be careful not to cut off any portion of your element. Otherwise, you leave some stray pixels — a dead giveaway that something was once there.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/motionstock Image #11837058]

    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/motionstock Image #11837058
  3. Position your cursor inside the selection marquee, press and hold the mouse button and hold down the Shift key, and then drag your selection to move it horizontally (or vertically, if the image warrants it) to an area of the photo that you want to clone.

    The selection marquee was the only thing that was moved.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/motionstock Image #11837058]

    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/motionstock Image #11837058
  4. With the Move tool selected, position your cursor inside the selection marquee, hold down Alt+Shift (Option+Shift on the Mac), and then drag to move the cloned area on top of the element that you’re removing.

    Carefully match up the edges, release your mouse button, and then release the Alt and Shift keys (Option and Shift on the Mac).

  5. Choose Select→Deselect.

    The cloned area now covers the element that you want to remove. In the example, the beach/ocean selection now covers the woman.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/motionstock Image #11837058]

    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/motionstock Image #11837058

    Depending on your image, you may want to choose Select→Modify→Feather and enter a pixel or two before you move the cloned area. Feathering softens the edges and smoothes out the transition between the cloned area and the background. This selection wasn’t feathered because it didn’t really need it. Try it both ways to see which looks better. Use the History panel to undo your steps, if necessary.

    The final step is to clean up any telltale signs that the element was there.

  6. Select the Clone Stamp tool and select a medium-size feathered brush from the Brush Preset picker on the Options bar or from the Brushes panel, hold down Alt (Option on the Mac), and click a good area next to a flaw; release Alt (Option on the Mac) and then click the flaw.

    Repeat this step until you fix all the flaws and the clone blends in seamlessly with the background. Don’t get carried away with the Clone Stamp tool, or you end up with a smudgy mess. Being light-handed is a good thing. Nobody can tell that only two people stand where three people once stood.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/motionstock Image #11837058]

    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/motionstock Image #11837058

A newer way to quickly eliminate objects is to use the Content-Aware Fill and new Content-Aware Patch features. However, many find that the Content-Aware features don’t always work perfectly on all types of images. If you find the same, you can always go “old school” to get your fix.