Content Aware Fill After Effects Tutorial - Learn In 2 Minutes

Discover the Hidden Superpower of After Effects 2023: Vanish ANY Object from Your Video in Seconds With Content Aware Fill - No Experience Needed!

February 11, 2024
Content Aware Fill After Effects Tutorial - Learn In 2 Minutes
"It's Like Video Editing On Steroids!"
- Sebastian Navarro, FreeVisuals Editor
Endorsed by Adobe, Motion Array is the ULTIMATE tool for creating high-quality videos! Browse 15M+ assets for Premiere Pro, After Effects, FCPX & DaVinci!

The magic of Adobe After Effects and its Content-Aware Fill feature - it's like having a digital wizard at your disposal. Imagine you've shot a really cool video, but there's this pesky microphone peeking in from the corner, or a random stranger photobombing your perfect scene. Worry not, Content-Aware Fill is here to save the day.

This feature, powered by the AI tech of Adobe Sensei, acts like a time-traveling artist, meticulously erasing any unwanted objects or areas from your video, as if they were never there in the first place. It's surprisingly simple - you just draw a mask around the object you want to vanish, like highlighting text with a marker, and It's gone!

But it doesn't just leave an empty void behind. The tool is temporally aware, which is a fancy way of saying it smartly examines your video over time to understand the environment. It then fills in the now-empty space with new pixels that match the surrounding scene, synthesized from other frames. It's like it borrows bits from the rest of the video to cover up the removed part.

The Content-Aware Fill panel is like your personal control center for this process. It provides a range of options that help you make sure the filled area blends perfectly with the rest of the image. So, even if you're a beginner, you can get professional-level results.

What is content aware fill in After Effects paint?

Alright, picture this: you're working on a video project in Adobe After Effects. But, oh no! There's an unwanted object in your shot. Maybe it's a photobomber in the background, a misplaced prop, or just a stray coffee cup. Well, that's where the Content-Aware Fill feature comes into play, acting like your own personal video cleanup crew.

Think of Content-Aware Fill as a smart eraser. It doesn't just delete the thing you don't want; it also fills in the gap left behind. How? It's a bit like a time-travel detective, scanning the rest of your video to find matching pixels it can use to fill in the erased area. In essence, it pulls a little bit of this and a little bit of that from other frames to make the deleted area blend in seamlessly.

With Content-Aware Fill, you don't need hours of painstaking editing to achieve a polished, flawless look in your videos. It's like having a tiny, hyper-efficient editing assistant living inside your computer, ready to save the day at a moment's notice.

In short, Content-Aware Fill is a tool in After Effects that helps you erase unwanted parts of your video and automatically replaces them with bits from the rest of the video. It's a massive time-saver, and even though it sounds complicated, it's pretty intuitive to use once you get the hang of it. Imagine it as a magic wand, waving away video blemishes and leaving behind perfect footage. Quite cool, huh?

How Does Content Aware Fill Work?

As mentioned above, Content-Aware Fill starts scanning the other frames in your video, picking up bits of pixels here and there, like a bee collecting pollen from flowers. It uses this pixel-pollen to create a fill that matches the area around the removed object. The amazing thing is that it's temporally aware, meaning it understands the continuity of movement, light, and color across time, which helps it fill in the gap more convincingly.

After the fill is ready, it's applied to the blank space where the object used to be, and just like that, the unwanted object is gone! What's left is a seamless video that looks like the object was never there. No need for hours of frame-by-frame editing.

The Content-Aware Fill panel

To start using content aware fill, you will first need to get familiar with the content aware panel.

Fill Target

This is your visual feedback space. It gives you a preview of the area that Content-Aware Fill is working on. The transparent area that's being analyzed and filled is outlined in a cool pink color. It's like your own personal map, showing you exactly where the magic is happening.

Alpha Expansion

This slider is like your magic wand's focus adjuster. By increasing the alpha expansion, you can broaden the size of the area to fill. This is handy because Content-Aware Fill doesn't need exact masking. In fact, sometimes it works even better when the area includes a bit of the space outside the object you're removing.

Fill Method

This is where you choose your approach. There are three options: Object, Surface, and Edge Blend.

  1. Object: This mode is ideal for moving targets. It removes an object from your footage and fills the transparent area by borrowing pixels from the current and surrounding frames. Imagine it as painting over a moving car with the colors of the road and surroundings.
  2. Surface: This one's best for static and flat surfaces. It replaces the surface of an object, using the motion estimated in the composition under the transparent area. Picture it as digitally ironing out a stain on a shirt.
  3. Edge Blend: This mode is great for static objects on textureless surfaces. It fills the transparent area by sampling and blending pixels at the edges, and it's super quick too. This is like an expert digital artist carefully blending in colors to hide text on a piece of paper.

Lighting Correction

This is your secret weapon for dealing with tricky lighting changes. It tweaks the fills to account for dynamic lighting shifts in your footage. There are three strengths to choose from - Subtle, Moderate, and Strong. If you're unsure, start with Strong. If it seems too intense, you can dial it back to Moderate or Subtle.


Here you decide the scope of your fill layer - whether it's just for the work area or the entire duration of the composition. If you want to keep things contained, setting it to work area prevents Content-Aware Fill from pulling in content from outside of that area.

Create Reference Frame

This feature is like a helping hand for Content-Aware Fill. It creates a single-frame fill layer and opens it in Photoshop. Here, you can use Photoshop's tools to create a clearer picture of what the fill layer should look like. This is especially useful for videos with complex backgrounds. After you're done, you generate a new fill layer, and Content-Aware Fill borrows pixels from your reference frame for the new frames in the fill layer.

Generate Fill Layer

This is the "go" button. It creates a new fill layer and shows you the progress of the analysis and rendering at the bottom of the panel. The cool part? You can prioritize a frame by moving the Current-Time Indicator (CTI) to it, helping you see if the results look good before the entire fill layer is generated.

And there you have it! The Content-Aware Fill panel is your command center, letting you control and fine-tune your video editing magic. With a bit of practice, you'll be navigating it like a pro.

How do I use Content Aware Fill in After Effects 2023?

Step 1: Import Your Video

First things first, we need to get your video into After Effects. To do this, simply click on File > Import > File... and then select the video file from your computer. Once imported, drag the video onto the 'New Composition' button at the bottom of the Project panel. Voila! Your video is now in After Effects and ready to be worked on.

Step 2: Select the Object to Remove

Now, we need to tell After Effects what part of the video we want to disappear. In this case, it's the girl running across the beach. To do this, we'll use the Pen tool from the toolbar to draw a mask around the girl. This works just like a highlighter, marking the area you want to remove. Don't worry about getting it super precise; Content-Aware Fill is pretty forgiving.

Step 3: Open the Content-Aware Fill Panel

Next, we need to open the Content-Aware Fill panel. Go to Window > Content-Aware Fill to open it. This is your control center for the removal process.

Step 4: Choose Your Fill Method

In the Content-Aware Fill panel, you'll see a dropdown for 'Fill Method'. Since we're dealing with a moving object (the girl), we'll select 'Object'. This tells After Effects that we're removing an object that moves throughout the footage.

Step 5: Generate Fill Layer

Now, it's time for After Effects to do its magic! Hit the 'Generate Fill Layer' button in the Content-Aware Fill panel. This will create a new layer where After Effects will paint over the girl. You'll see a progress bar at the bottom of the panel; this shows how far along the process is.

Step 6: Review Your Video

After After Effects has finished rendering, it's time to check out your video. Hit the spacebar to play the video and see the girl magically disappear from the scene. If there are any spots where the fill doesn't look quite right, you can create a new mask over that area and generate a new fill layer.

Step 7: Export Your Video

Finally, once you're happy with how your video looks, you'll want to export it. Go to File > Export > Add to Render Queue. In the Render Queue panel, click on the text next to 'Output To', choose where you want to save your video, and then hit the 'Render' button.

And that's it! You've successfully used the Content-Aware Fill feature in After Effects to remove an object from your video. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don't worry if it feels a bit tricky at first. Happy editing!

Reference Frames

Think of a Reference Frame as your personal assistant, guiding the algorithm to better understand how the finished scene should look.

Step 1: Recognizing the Need for a Reference Frame

As you work with Content-Aware Fill, you might find that sometimes it's not quite getting the results you want. Maybe the fill doesn't quite match the background, or there's a complex element it's struggling with. When this happens, it's time to bring in the big guns: a Reference Frame.

Step 2: Creating a Reference Frame

To create a Reference Frame, click on the "Create Reference Frame" button in the Content-Aware Fill panel. What this does is it exports a frame from your video directly into Photoshop. It's like taking a snapshot of your video and handing it over to Photoshop.

Step 3: Editing in Photoshop

Once in Photoshop, you're given a whole suite of tools to make the removed area look just right. One of the most useful tools for this is the Clone Stamp tool. This tool lets you sample a part of the image and then paint it over another part. So, you can grab bits of the background and use them to fill in the removed area. Once you're happy with how it looks, save and close the image in Photoshop.

Step 4: Importing the Reference Frame

After you've saved your image in Photoshop, it's automatically imported back into After Effects and added to your composition. You don't have to do anything - After Effects takes care of it all for you.

Step 5: Using the Reference Frame

With the Reference Frame in place, Content-Aware Fill has a much better idea of what you want the filled area to look like. It will consider this reference image when creating the fill throughout the rest of the video, leading to potentially much better results.

And that's it! You've now added another tool to your video editing toolkit. Remember, the Reference Frame is there to help Content-Aware Fill when it needs a bit of extra guidance. Like any tool, it takes a bit of practice to master, but once you've got the hang of it, you'll be amazed at what you can achieve.

Color & Lighting Correction After Content Is Filled

The improved version of this Content Aware-Fill includes a Lighting Correction feature that helps manage shifts in lighting, producing a more realistic result.

Understanding Lighting Correction

Lighting Correction comes in three strengths - Subtle, Moderate, and Strong. You select a strength based on the level of lighting changes in your footage:

  1. Subtle: Ideal for footage with slight lighting changes.
  2. Moderate: For scenes with moderately dynamic lighting.
  3. Strong: This setting is used when there are significant lighting changes in the scene.

The older version of Content-Aware Fill, which doesn't include the Lighting Correction feature, remains true to the reference frame and doesn't account for lighting changes. This may not yield a clean result when dealing with footage containing lighting shifts, like shadows, highlights, lens flares, and auto exposure changes.

Benefits of Lighting Correction

With Lighting Correction, you have the option to correct the lighting of the fill layer directly inside the Content-Aware Fill. This means you don't need to create multiple fill layers to correct the lighting, which saves you time and effort. Even better, enabling Lighting Correction does not affect the speed of the performance. In fact, the overall workflow is faster when working with footage that has variable lighting because there are fewer manual clean-up steps involved.

How to Use Lighting Correction

  1. Analyze the Shot: Look at your footage carefully. Pay attention to changes in lighting and movement, and decide which objects need to be masked out.
  2. Choose Your Fill Method: Remember, Lighting Correction is not required when you're using the Edge Blend fill method.
  3. Select the Right Strength: Start with the Strong setting. If it seems to be over-correcting the footage, switch to Moderate or Subtle.
  4. Generate the Fill Layer: Once you're happy with your settings, click 'Generate Fill Layer' to apply the changes.

Best Practices

While Lighting Correction is a powerful tool, it might not always yield the best results. For instance, footage with flickering lighting conditions, such as scenes on grass or sand reflecting light, might not fare well with the Strong setting. It might over-correct the color, introducing more flickering. In these cases, try using the Subtle or Moderate strength settings.

Remember, practice makes perfect. So, keep experimenting with different footage and settings to get a feel for how Lighting Correction works. Before long, you'll be able to remove objects from your footage seamlessly, regardless of lighting conditions.


As with any software, Adobe After Effects and its tools can sometimes run into issues. Two common problems you might face while using the Content-Aware Fill function are:

  1. The Content-Aware Fill option is missing.
  2. The Content-Aware Fill function is not working properly.

Don't fret, though! There are some simple steps you can take to troubleshoot and hopefully resolve these issues.

Content-aware fill after effects missing

Can't find the Content-Aware Fill tool in your After Effects workspace? Here are some solutions to check out:

Step 1: Verify Your After Effects Version - The Content-Aware Fill feature was introduced in After Effects version 16.1. If you're using an older version of After Effects, you'll need to update your software. To do this, open the Adobe Creative Cloud app, find After Effects in the list of installed apps, and click "Update" next to it.

Step 2: Check Your Workspace Layout - If you've updated your software and still can't find the tool, it might be hidden due to your current workspace layout. Go to "Window" in the top menu, then select "Content-Aware Fill" from the drop-down menu. This should open the Content-Aware Fill panel.

Content-aware fill after effects not working

If the Content-Aware Fill function is not working as expected, here's what you can do:

Step 1: Check Your Selection - Content-Aware Fill works by replacing the area you've selected with pixels from the surrounding footage. If the tool isn't working, check to make sure you've made a proper selection or mask on your footage. An inaccurate or insufficient mask could cause the tool to malfunction.

Step 2: Adjust Content-Aware Fill Settings - Sometimes, the default settings might not work for your specific footage. Try adjusting the settings like "Fill Method" or "Range". Experiment with different settings to see what works best for your video.

Step 3: Clear Your Disk Cache - After Effects stores rendered frames and layers to save time when you're working on a project. Sometimes, this cache can become overloaded or corrupted, causing issues like the Content-Aware Fill function not working properly. To clear your disk cache, go to "Edit" -> "Purge" -> "All Memory & Disk Cache". After Effects will prompt you to confirm that you want to delete all items from the disk cache. Click "OK".

Quick Tips & Tricks

To help you get the most out of Content-Aware-Fill, here are some tips and tricks that can elevate your editing game:

Practice Precise Masking

Tip: The success of the Content-Aware Fill tool largely depends on the quality of your mask. Spend some extra time refining your mask for the object you want to remove, making it as precise as possible. Remember, you can always adjust the mask path if the object is moving in the footage.

Consider Frame by Frame Editing

Tip: For complex movements or changing lighting, consider going frame by frame. It might be time-consuming, but the extra effort can significantly improve the result.

Use the Right Fill Method

Tip: After Effects offers three fill methods: Object, Surface, and Edge Blend. Object is best for moving items, Surface is ideal for stationary items, and Edge Blend is useful when the color of the background is changing. Choosing the right method can make a big difference in the quality of your final output.

Experiment with Lighting Correction

Tip: If your footage has lighting changes, don't forget to enable the Lighting Correction feature. Experiment with the three strengths (Subtle, Moderate, and Strong) to see which one delivers the best results for your footage.

Expand or Contract the Mask

Tip: Sometimes, expanding or contracting the mask by a few pixels can help the Content-Aware Fill tool deliver a better result. You can do this by going to "Mask" -> "Mask Expansion" in the mask properties.

Use Alpha Expansion

Tip: The Alpha Expansion setting in the Content-Aware Fill panel can help improve results by extending the fill area slightly beyond the mask. Experiment with positive and negative values to see what works best for your footage.

Try Different Range Options

Tip: The default range option is "Work Area", but you can also select "Entire Duration" or "Custom Duration". Try different range options to see which one suits your project best.

Be Patient

Tip: The Content-Aware Fill tool might take some time to process, especially for high-resolution footage or complicated scenes. Patience is key. Let After Effects do its magic!

Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you experiment with these tips and tricks, the better you'll become at using the Content-Aware Fill function in After Effects. Happy editing!