Repositioning Image Parts with the Content-Aware Move Tool

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

The Content-Aware Move tool in Photoshop Elements allows you to select and move a portion of an image. What’s great is that when you move that portion, the hole left behind is miraculously filled using content-aware technology. In other words, Elements analyzes the area surrounding the selected portion you’re moving and then fills the “hole” with matched content.

Here’s how to use this great editing tool:

1In Expert mode, open your image and select the Content-Aware Move tool.

It’s the tool that looks like two arrows. You can also press the Q key.

2Choose your Mode, either Move or Extend.

When you choose Move, Elements moves your selection to a new location and then fills in the remaining “hole” with content-aware pixels. The Move mode works well when you need to move an object, or objects, in your image for a more desirable composition. Keep in mind that this technique works best when the background of the new location of the object is similar to the background from which it was extracted.

When you choose Extend, Elements attempts to extend your selected area, while maintaining any lines and structural elements and blending them into the existing object. This option works great for expanding or contracting objects such as hair, fur, trees, buildings, and so on.

3Choose your desired Healing setting.

Healing controls the amount of flexibility that Elements uses in determining how to shift pixels around and how strictly regions are preserved when determining the content-aware fill. The default setting is smack dab in the middle.

You can also choose Sample All Layers to use content from all your layers. If you leave this check box deselected, you will only use content from the active layer.

4Drag around the area of your image that you want to move or extend.

If you need to fine-tune your selection, you can use the Path Operations options on the Options bar. Or, you can press the Shift key to add to your selected area or press Alt (Option on the Mac) to delete from your selection.

5Move your selection to your desired location and touch up any areas that require it.

You can break out any of the healing tools or the Clone Stamp tool to fix any mismatches or remaining flaws.

Note that you now also have the option of filling any selected area with a Content-Aware option. Make a selection and choose Edit→Fill. Under Contents, choose Content-Aware from the Use pop-up menu.