Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Content-aware scaling, part of Photoshop CS4 New Features.
Now for what has to be the most jaw- dropping new feature to be added to Photoshop in years, Content Aware Scaling. This is a highly automated feature. I'm not going to suggest for a second that it always works. It doesn't. Sometimes it fails miserably. But it works often enough and when it works, it works amazingly well. Now you have to see it to truly appreciate it, but here is the idea. Content Aware Scaling is capable of scaling just the low detail information inside of an image while keeping the actual real identifiable objects intact. So for example, we are going to take this horizontal image right here and convert it into a vertical image while keeping each one of the boats intact. We are even going to take this dingy and scoot it a little bit under these boats and it's going to happen all automatically. Thanks to the single command.
All right, so here I'm in the Bridge, I'm going to double-click on this image to open it up inside Photoshop, going to press Shift+Tab to bring up my panels. Now Content Aware Scaling is ultimately a transformation function just like regular scaling and rotation and transformation functions work best on independent layers. So I'm going to go ahead and double- click on the Background layer and I will call this new layer 'boats' and click the OK button. Now I want to give myself some headroom, so I will go up to the Image menu and I will choose the Canvas Size command. Now let's go ahead and convert this image to an 8x8 inch square like so and click OK and now I have got some room to work at the top here.
Now for the command itself, I will go to the Edit menu and choose Content Aware Scale and I'm going to reduce the width of the image and watch this. See? I was I telling you that dingy, it's going to scoot underneath that other boat right there. Watch it go and look how far we can compress this image before we start messing up the boats. I mean these guys are going to run into each other here. The land mass and the background is getting pretty squished, the foreground water is getting squished as well, but it's hard to identify that where it's easy to see that the boats are still in great shape. We don't what to go quite that far with the modification, so I will take it a little wider and then I will go ahead and scale the height too.
Now you can do all of this in a single operation if you like, like so. But if you do you are going to start reeking havoc in certain parts of the image. For example, I'm going to go ahead and zoom-in to the bottom of this image and you can see how this wave pattern is really getting distorted. It's almost as if we are seeing the image from a different perspective at this point, like we are looking straight down at the water here and then we are seeing it at an angle up here and we definitely don't want those kinds of misalignment. So I'm going to zoom back out and what I would suggest you do in this case is approach the image in two operations and two passes. So I will scale it quite a bit horizontally and then just a little bit vertically, then I will press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to complete the operation and then once it's done, I will go back up to the Edit menu, choose Content Aware Scale again and go ahead and finish off the effect like so and then press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac to apply. Finally, I'm going to go up to the Image menu and I will choose the Trim command and I will trim away my transparent pixels, click OK and there is my vertically formatted image.
So here is the difference, folks. This is before and this is after. Now there is still some distortion in the wave patterns. I could have taken it in three or four passes instead if I want to avoid that, but we aren't harming the boats. Before, after. It's absolutely stunning. All right, let's go and close this image, take a look at a different image. Let's see what kind of problems we might run into. Here is this woman that's jumping in the sky. I want to change her from a horizontal format to a vertical format as well and the funny thing is that I just recently used this image as an example of what Photoshop CS3 could not do; now it becomes an example of what Photoshop CS4 can do. I have already converted this woman to an independent layer so I'm going to Shift+Tab away those panels. Then I will go up to the Image menu and choose Canvas Size and let's go ahead and give her a height of 6 inches, so once again she is square and now I will go to the Edit menu and choose Content Aware Scale and I will make her narrower and noticed that she holds up pretty well, as I make this image narrower. I have to go pretty far before she starts getting stunted.
So right about here, she is still normal. She hasn't been harmed, but as soon as I make her taller, notice that we do run into a bit of a problem. I think that's fairly recognizable as being a mess. And it's a big mess and this is pretty typical for Content Aware Scaling. When it goes wrong, it goes very, very wrong. Fortunately, we have some protection up here in the Options bar. We have got this little icon here that allows us to protect skin tones and by skin tones we mean actual exposed skin, warm stuff inside of the image. So if I turn it on, noticed that everything but her pants is now protected. I'm going to zoom-out and if I scale her all the way like so, then I'm going to expand her pants and we don't want that.
So I will go ahead and drag this top handle down a little bit, until we get some normal sized pants and then I will press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac and I will follow it up with the second application of Content Aware Scale and drag that top handle all the way up and she remains completely intact, which is fantastic. Let's go ahead and trim away those transparent pixels once again and now I'll zoom- in. This is the after version of the image, this is the before version. So it's absolutely amazing that we can get away with this kind of modification. We have stretched her pants just a little bit but looks like they are being buoyed up because, you know, she is in air.
So looks fine. Oh my goodness. All right, one last example. I'm going to switch back to the Bridge here. Let's go down to this image. Now this image is fairly cluttered with a lot of detailed information. So this is the kind of photograph that gives Content Aware Scale some problems. I'm going to go ahead and double click on it in order to open it up inside of Photoshop. Once again, I have already established that image on its own independent layer and I'm not going to try to scale this one taller, because we don't have any headroom to work with. We have nothing to scale, but I am going to make it narrower. So I will go up to the Edit menu and I will choose Content Aware Scale and I will drag this fairly far over to the right. Now you can see, that even though I have my Protect Skin Tones option on, I'm ruining my child's arm, right here. This is quite bad I think, so I will go ahead and turn this option off and see if it fairs any better and it doesn't.
Now we have a much more disturbing problem. So what's the solution? Well, I will go ahead and escape out for a moment by pressing the Escape key of course. Let's check out the channels. I have gone ahead and created a Mask channel down here and wherever we see white, that is potential protection and wherever we see black that is open to modification. So we can see if I turn on the RGB composite at the same time, we can see that I'm allowing this area to scale right here and everything else is protected. All right, so let's go ahead and turn the mask off, click on RGB in order to make it active once again. Shift+Tab away those panels and I will go up to the Edit menu and I will choose Content Aware Scale and I will make this image narrower just like I did before, but this time I will go up to the Protect option and I will change it from None to Mask. You have to have an alpha channel prepared in advance to take advantage of this option. I do of course and I will go ahead and set it and now you can see both this platform in the background and Sammy are relatively protected. Sammy being my son there. And if I drag this farther part, you can see this area right here, right in this area, this unprotected area is the area that's getting scaled.
So I can't scale this one too far but I still can make a fair difference, much more than I could in the past, thanks to of course, Content Aware Scale. I will go ahead and press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac, go up to the Image menu, choose the Trim command, go ahead and get rid of those transparent pixels and there is my final photograph, my final scaled photograph, with all of the action happening in this little region here and you can barely tell anything occurred. Content Aware Scaling, it's a latest miracle of imaging technology here inside Photoshop CS4.
- Getting around the revamped interface
- Mastering continuous zooms, the Rotate view, and birds-eye navigation
- Using the Target Adjustment tool
- Understanding dynamic masking options
- Doing brush scaling on the fly
- Scaling a background independently of its foreground
- Removing panoramic vignettes
- Blending different depths of focus