Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Adobe Photoshop Elements 9: CS5 Content-Aware Fill for the Masses?

When Photoshop CS5 first came out, its headline feature was content-aware fill, which removed objects and filled gaps seemingly out of thin air, as if by magic.  In truth, careful cloning could have done the same but content-aware fill was a lot faster.  The only problem for me was Photoshop's exorbitant price tag.

At Photokina 2010, Adobe announced Photoshop Elements 9 with two major features: a souped-up spot healing brush (similar to content-aware fill) and photomerge styles (copying the 'style' of any photo and applying it to another photo).

Does the new spot healing brush work?  Take a look at the original version of the shot above:

The spot healing brush removed the light pole with a single stroke. Awesome!!!  I then refined the results further by additional applications of the spot healing brush and by cloning small areas.

As for the photomerge style, it was disappointing.  I couldn't get good results from it.  I'll continue to experiment with it.

Another new feature of PSE 9 is layer masks.  Finally!  Previous versions required workarounds and plug-ins.  Still no real curves adjustments though.  Or vibrance, or clarity (outside of the RAW lab).  I've gotten used to Corel Paintshop Photo Pro, and am a bit frustrated at the missing functions in PSE.

I'm nonetheless excited about the new content-aware fill "lite" of PSE 9, and I think it's a good enough reason for me to upgrade from PSE 8.  I'm hoping though that Paintshop will have a new version soon and that new version hopefully has an answer to content-aware fill.  Meanwhile, you may want to take advantage of a $20 rebate on PSE9, plus a $20 gift from Shutterfly.

Update: PSE 9 is available at for $49.99 through 11/28/10 while supplies last!

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