No squash with Content-Aware Scale

In this tutorial you’ll learn how to stop parts of an image distorting during scaling. The image shown above needs to be scaled horizontally without distorting the young boy.

A normal scale will cause the whole image to be distorted as seen above – poor boy.

Content-Aware Scale

Photoshop CS 4 introduced a feature called Content-Aware Scale, which stops important parts of an image from getting distorted automatically – lets give that a go.

  1. First I double-clicked the background layer to to turn it into a regular layer.
  2. Content-Aware Scale was selected by choosing Edit > Content-Aware Scale. A bounding box then appears around the image.
  3. A handle on the bounding box was used to scale the image. Unfortunately, the boy still gets squashed, as Content-Aware Scale was unable to distinguish the boy from the landscape correctly, see above screenshot.
  4. The scale was cancelled by pressing the Esc key.
  5. We can help Content-Aware Scale to do its job by using a selection. Using the Polygon Lasso Tool I made a selection around the boy, see screenshot above. You can see the selection is roughly done and contains some of the beach too – and that’s exactly what is needed.
  6. The selection was saved as Boy by going to Selection > Save Selection.
  7. The selection was then removed by going to Select > Deselect.
  8. Content-Aware Scale was selected by choosing Edit > Content-Aware Scale. A bounding box then appears around the image.
  9. The bounding box handles were then used to scale the image, again the boy gets distorted. Next, I chose Boy from the Protect drop down menu to protect the boy from being distorted. I then pressed Enter/Return to complete the scale.

The Content-Aware Scale Tool is an amazing tool that sometimes can automatically protect important objects in your images. But in this example we just had to help it a little by using the Protect option and selecting our saved selection. So next time you have an image that isn’t the right size and cropping isn’t an option then try this technique.