Remove objects from images with Photoshop Elements

Sometimes we don’t notice objects 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 distractions from our photos. There are several ways to do this in Photoshop Elements. This guide covers the clone tool, pipette, and content-aware healing.

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

  1. Delete objects
  2. Using the clone tool
  3. Using the content-aware recovery brush
  4. Using a pipette
  5. Done

Delete objects

This is Willie. Willie is a big horse with even more character. One of Willie’s many vices is coffee, and after drinking coffee, he tends to stick his tongue out at you. It was a funny shot and we didn’t pay attention to my camera settings. For example, we got too much depth of field in the photo and the high-voltage lines behind Willy were still visible. While we’re removing the power lines and pylons, we’re also going to remove the wire fence.

Using the clone tool

The most important object removal tool for most people is the clone tool. This allows you to copy part of your photo and paste it on another part of your photo. Cloning is usually your best bet when you need to modify a complex area.

In our sample photo, we’re using a clone to remove the barbed wire above the grass and between Willie’s frenulum and face. We also use a clone to remove the power pole right next to his ear.

To use the clone tool, click clone tool icon † Then you need to select the point you want to copy. Do this by placing the cursor at the desired location and holding down the key alt and then with the left mouse button. You will now see the copied area as a preview above any other part of the screen you hover over.

Before pasting this new area, look at the Clone tool menu bar and set the brush type to one blurred edge (to help blending) and change the brush size to match the area you’re replacing. Keep in mind that the best way to ensure a good blend is usually to use small strokes with the clone tool and re-sample areas as needed to avoid harsh lines.

When working in hard-to-reach areas, such as near Willy’s ear, it is often helpful to select the area you want to protect and then invert the selection. At this point you can let your Clone Brush cover the selection without affecting it. Once you’re done with bulk cloning, you can switch to a smaller brush, delete the selection area, and gently blend any edges.

Using the content-aware recovery brush

The spot healing tool has a wonderful setting called content awareness. This option does not select a copy location as you would with the clone tool. With this option, Photoshop Elements samples the surrounding area and matches the selected areas. If it works correctly, it’s a one-swipe fix. However, like all algorithms, it’s not perfect and sometimes it doesn’t heal at all.

This tool is best for areas surrounded by many similar colors and shapes. Like the barbed wire that crosses Willie’s chest in our sample photo, and the small pieces of utility pole that can be seen through the woods in the back left of the photo.

To use the Spot Healing Brush, just press tool icon , then adjust the brush shape, style, and size from the tool’s menu bar. Also make sure content aware marked. Then click and drag over the area you need to “heal”. You will see the selection displayed as a semi-transparent gray selection area.

Work in small areas to increase the likelihood that the algorithms are working behind the scenes to get the correct filling, and remember that there is always one in case you need to cancel the treatment and try again.

Using a pipette

The last most commonly used correction tool is a combination of an eyedropper and a brush. This tool is one of the easiest to use, but it does take some practice to get it right. Basically you draw a solid color on top of the object you want to remove. Because of this, this method works best with small objects for a solid color. In this case, the top of the pole behind Willy’s head is barely visible against the sky and the far right pole.

Select pipette and click on the color you want to draw, usually very close to the object you want to remove. Then click brush and adjust the brush size/shape/opacity in the brush menu bar. For this method, we recommend low opacity and multiple passes to blend as smoothly as possible. As with other methods, small steps at a time work best. Don’t forget to enlarge your photo if you want to see what you do better.


That’s all. As you can see from our sample photo, Willie no longer has a fence in the front and power lines and poles in the background. Regardless of your preferred process for removing objects, remember that it is often a combination of techniques that will yield the best results and never be afraid to press a command key. check z Assignment z on a Mac) and try again.

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