Removing Objects From Pictures With Photoshop Elements

Woman using computer and drinking tea

Tooga/Getty Images

Sometimes we don't notice objects are in our viewfinders until we open the photo on our computers later. When that happens, be it people or power lines, we need to remove the distractions from our photos. There are several ways to do this in Photoshop Elements. This tutorial will cover the clone tool, the eyedropper, and content-aware healing.

The current version of Elements is Photoshop Elements 15. The steps outlined in this tutorial still apply.

Removing Objects

Removing Objects from Photos in Photoshop Elements

Liz Masoner

This is Willie. Willie is a big horse with an even bigger personality. One of Willie's many vices is coffee and after he drinks coffee he tends to stick his tongue out at you. This was just a fun, spur of the moment, shot and we paid no attention to my camera settings. As such, we wound up with too much depth of field in the photo and the power lines behind Willie were still visible. As long as we're removing power lines and poles, we're going to remove the wire fence as well.

Using the Clone Tool

Using the Clone Tool to Remove Objects in Photoshop Elements

Liz Masoner

The primary object removal tool for most folks is the clone tool. This allows you to copy a piece of your photograph and paste it onto another piece of your photograph. Clone is generally your best choice when you have a complex area to change.

In our example photo, we're using clone to remove the barbed wire over the grass and between Willie's bridle and face. We're also using clone to remove the power pole right beside his ear.

To use the clone tool, click the clone tool icon. Then you'll need to select the point you want to copy. Do this by placing the cursor over the desired location and holding down the Alt key and then using the left mouse button. Now you'll see the copied area floating as a preview over any other part of the screen you move your cursor over.

Before you pasting this new area, look up at your clone tool menu bar and adjust the brush type to one with a nice fuzzy edge (to help with blending) and change the size of your brush to one appropriate for the area you are replacing. Keep in mind that the best way to ensure a good blend is usually to use small strokes with the clone tool and reselect sample areas as needed to prevent sharp lines.

When working in a tight area, such as next to Willie's ear, it is often helpful to select an area you need to protect, then invert the selection. At that point, you can let your clone brush overlap the deselected area and it will not affect it. Once you have the bulk cloning done you can move to a smaller brush size, remove the selection area, and carefully blend in any edges.

Using the Content Aware Healing Brush

Using the Content Aware Healing Brush to Remove Objects in Photoshop Elements

Liz Masoner

The spot healing brush tool has a wonderful setting called content aware. With this setting, you don't select a spot to copy as you do in using the clone tool. With this setting, Photoshop Elements samples the surrounding area and does the work of matching the selected areas. When it works correctly it is a one swipe fix. However, like all algorithms, it isn't perfect and sometimes gets the healing spectacularly wrong.

This tool is best for areas surrounded by a lot of similar colors and shapes. As in the barbed wire crossing Willie's chest in our example photo and the small bits of power pole showing through the tree in the back left of the photo.

To use the spot healing brush tool just click on the tool icon, then adjust your brush shape/style and size in the tool menu bar. Also, make sure that content-aware is ticked. Then just click and drag across the area you need to "heal." You'll see that the selected area shows as a translucent grey selection area.

Work in small areas to better the chances of the algorithms working behind the scenes getting the fill correct and remember that is always there if you need to undo a heal and try again.

Using the Eyedropper

Using the Eyedropper to Remove Objects in Photoshop Elements

Liz Masoner

The final most common correction tool is the combination of eyedropper and brush. This tool is one of the simplest in function but really takes some practice to get right. You will basically be painting a solid color over an object you want to remove. Because of this, this method works best with small objects in front of a solid color. In this case, the top of the pole behind Willie's head that is barely visible against the sky and the far right pole.

Select the eyedropper and click on the color you wish to paint with, generally, very close to the object you will be removing. Then click on the brush and adjust the brush size/shape/opacity in the brush menu bar. For this method we suggest a low opacity and several passes to blend as smoothly as possible. As with other methods, small passes at a time work best. Don't forget to zoom in on your photo if you need a better view of what you are doing.

All Done

Final Edited Photo

Liz Masoner

That is it. As you can see in our example photo, Willie no longer has a fence in front or power lines and poles in the background. Regardless of your favorite object removal process, remember that it is very often a combination of techniques that return the best result and never be afraid to hit the key-command Control+Z (Command+Z on Mac) and try again.