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How To Extend A Background In Photoshop (Best Methods)

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There are many reasons a photographer would want to extend the background of an image, such as changing a portrait image to a landscape, helping if a subject is too close to the edge of the frame, and so much more. Fortunately, Adobe makes extending the background possible, and I am very excited to show you how to extend the background in Photoshop! 

Make note that extending the background of your image does have limitations, which I will explain in detail and explain their solutions. So, let’s explore three of the best ways to extend backgrounds and what to do if things aren’t working correctly!

Video Tutorial

Option 1: Extend The Background In Photoshop Using Generative Expand

Step 1: Select The Crop Tool (C) On Your Open Image

With your desired image open in Photoshop, press C to open the Crop Tool (you can also select it from the left-side tool panel). 

Step 2: Select Generative Expand In The Fill Dropdown Options Menu 

In the Options Bar, by default, the Fill option will be Background (Default). Change this to Generative Expand by clicking on the dropdown menu and making your selection from there. Go ahead and make all of your other adjustments in the Options bar as well. 

Step 3: Expand Your Crop And Type In A Prompt (Or Don’t!)

Use the Crop Tool as normal (by grabbing the sides or corners and expanding) and press Enter (Win) or Return (Mac) once you’ve pulled to the desired crop. After, the Generative AI Prompt menu will appear asking what you’d like to generate. 

If you leave the prompt blank, Generative AI will determine how the generated content should look based on its own analysis. If you want to take the wheel, go ahead and type in what you’d like Generative AI to do. Generative AI isn’t a perfect science yet, so it’s okay if it takes a few tries to achieve the right look. 

Step 4: Select A Variation From The Properties Panel

Each generation offers three variation options; if none match what you need, you can re-generate. These variations are in the Properties Panel on the right side of the screen. 

Original Image
Extended Image


Option 2: Extend The Background Using Content-Aware Cropping

Step 1: Select Content-Aware Fill In The Options Bar

Like with Generative Expand, select the Crop Tool (C) from the toolbar, and in the Fill dropdown menu, select Content-Aware Fill.

Step 2: Drag To Make Your Crop

Click anywhere on the side or corner of the crop box to drag it out in the direction you want to extend the image. Once you have dragged the box as wide as you want, press Enter (Win) or Return (Mac) on your keyboard as a shortcut.

When using Content-Aware cropping, Photoshop will use the edges of your image to duplicate the content around those areas. If your subject is closer to the center, it won’t be affected. This method stretches the sides of the image to extend the background.

This method is not recommended if your image has a complex or detailed background, as Content-Aware Cropping may cause distinct inconsistencies in your image. The repeated content will not look intentional and may not create a realistic look. 

If you are working with a complex background, use Content-Aware Fill in a more moderate manner – expand the background less. Keep extending it in small increments until the image reaches your desired size. If you still see discrepancies, you can use the Spot Healing Tool to fix any weird spots.

Option 3: Extend The Background Using Content-Aware Scaling

Step 1: Select The Crop Tool (C) And Expand The Crop

To use the content-aware scaling method, start by selecting the Crop Tool (C) from the Toolbar. Once the crop tool is selected, have the Fill stay as Background (Default). Before extending the image, ensure the crop tool is set to Ratio and the dimension boxes are empty on the top options bar.

To create a landscape image, extend your image to the sides as far as you like. Once the crop is made, your image should have extra transparent space on the sides.

Step 2: Select The Content-Aware Scale Tool

To use the content-aware scale tool, first, make sure that your image layer is selected in the Layers panel. Then, navigate to Edit > Content-Aware Scale or use the shortcut Alt + Shift + Control + C (Win) or Option + Shift + Command + C (Mac).

Once the tool is selected, a transform box will appear around your image. You can select any side anchor point and slowly drag out the image. As you drag the anchor point, you will notice the image extending to the side.

Step 3: Extending The Background In Stages To Avoid Discrepancies

To prevent your image from stretching (such as the subject stretching instead of the background), slowly extend the image in stages.

Start by extending by a small amount. Right before you notice the subject of your image starts stretching, stop extending your image at this point and save the changes. You can then continue extending the image by selecting the content-aware scale tool and dragging out your image. Continue repeating these steps until you have filled the entire extra space of your image.

This might take a while if you’re working on a rather large extension – for something faster and easier, you can use the marquee tool to select the areas of the image you want to extend.

You can use the Marquee Tool once you have cropped the image outwards with the transparent areas around the image. Select the Marquee Tool from your toolbar or press M.

Create a rectangular selection around the area on your image that you want to be extended. Make sure to not include elements of your subject inside this selection. Photoshop will only extend the information that is within the selection.

Once the area is selected, navigate to Edit > Content-Aware Scale or use the shortcut Alt + Shift + Control + C (Win) or Option + Shift + Command + C (Mac).

You will notice that only visible pixels that are within the selection will be extended. Use the anchor point on the transform box and drag it out to the side of the image.

The background will now extend outwards without affecting the subject of your image. If you see any problems, the Spot Healing Tool can fix them.



Photo of author
I'm a Canadian photographer and photo retoucher turned founder of bwillcreative.com. Around here I help you to decode the mystery of photo editing with no-fluff videos and written guides to help you achieve your creative goals. Outside of shooting photos and my passion for educating, you'll find me mountain biking or on the trails with my dog, Sunny!

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