Ever take a picture you love at first, only to discover it includes something you really wish you could remove? Then today’s your lucky day! I’m sharing a trick on how to remove an object from an image. The clone and patch tools in Photoshop are often helpful to remove objects, but here I want to show you an alternative technique — the “Horizontal Flip Trick.” It avoids the problems associated with cloning and patching, like fuzzy edges and repeating patterns.
At a recent wedding, I took the shot that you can see above of the bride and groom with some of their family members. I was a bothered by the light fixture sitting in the flowers on the left side of the picture. Not a huge deal, but I knew the bride would be happier with the picture if the light fixture was removed.
Whenever I am trying to remove an object from an image in Photoshop, it helps me to decide what should be there instead and where I can find the right material. In this case, instead of the light fixture, I’d rather have some greenery and yellow flowers. To get some greenery and yellow flowers, I am going to use existing material from the other side of the image. Here’s how:
Step 1: Create a duplicate later of the image. Open the image in Photoshop and create an identical duplicate layer of the image by selecting “Layer,” then “Duplicate Layer.”
Select “OK.” (Or, use the shortcut to create a duplicate layer: “Ctrl + J”).
You now have two layers that are identical; one is called “Background” and the other is called “Layer 1.”
Step 3: Add a black layer mask over the top layer. The layer mask allows you to use only part of the image. In this case, I just need the flowers that will cover up the light fixture. Select “Layer 1,” then click on the mask icon in the layers panel. It looks like a gray rectangle with a white circle in the middle.
A white mask doesn’t do anything, so you won’t notice any change in your image when it is added. To change the mask from white to black, click “Ctrl + I” to invert the mask and create a black mask covering layer 1.
This is because the black mask is hiding Layer 1. Both Layer 1 and the Background layer are still there, but only the Background layer is visible.
Step 4: Paint you the part of the mask you want visible. By adding the black mask, Layer 1 is entirely hidden. Carefully reveal the part Layer 1 that is useful. In other words, paint a hole in the mask so that part of Layer 1 will show, but the rest remains hidden. To do that, use a white brush on the black mask. What you paint in white shows on top of the Background layer; what is black remains hidden.
Select the brush tool by clicking on the brush icon on your toolbar (the shortcut is “B”):
The cover-up job is starting to look OK here, but some of the flowers are fuzzy around the edges because of the softness of the brush. Painting around the edges of the flowers rids them of that fuzziness and creates a natural look. Adjust the size and hardness of the brush if needed, using the sliders under the brush tool.
Here’s our before and after.
The light fixture is gone!
This “Horizontal Flip Trick” is useful in many circumstances; for example, removing a sign on a wall or using a tree to cover up a building in the background. Of course it will only work if you have material on the flip side of the picture that will cover up what you’re trying to hide on the other side of the image. It doesn’t work in every case, but quite often, it’s the perfect solution and creates another tool to have in your Photoshop bag of tricks. It might seem like a tedious process at first, but once you get the hang of it, the “Horizontal Flip Trick” edit can be done in less than a minute with great results.
Photo Credit: Liz Hansen and Kristen Duke