Inpainting: now you see it, now you don’t!

The Inpainting Brush Tool is perfect for removing unwanted content from a scene—as if by magic! In this article, Andy explains how it works and how to achieve the best results.

From its early pre-release development, naughtily called the mother-in-law-removal tool, the Inpainting Brush Tool simply blew away Affinity staff that caught up with early live demos.

Why such a stir? For starters, the tool is visibly powerful, with results both immediate and dramatic. It is also very simple to use, replacing cloning and healing operations when simple unwanted content removal is needed.

In this example, the tool is painted over the unwanted safari jeep, completely removing it in one stroke.

How does it do that?

Technically, the tool is sampling areas outside the area you are trying to remove, then painting in replacement pixels from those sampled areas—hence the name Inpainting Brush Tool.

The size of the sampled area (green tint; for illustrative purposes only) is proportional to the size of the red brush stroke overlay.

Can I use a different brush or brush settings?

You can, but there’s no reason to. The soft round brush used by default is perfect for the job. The opacity, flow or hardness settings don’t need adjustment either.

Inpainting using brush strokes

When using the Inpainting Brush Tool, you paint away unwanted objects with one or more brush strokes.

  1. Select the Inpainting Brush Tool.
  2. Adjust the brush width to be slightly greater than the area you want to remove.
  3. Drag over the area you want to remove, revealing a red semi-transparent overlay.
  4. Release the mouse button.

The unwanted painted area is replaced with surrounding image content.

Inpainting filled regions

One overlooked aspect of inpainting is the ability to replace previously selected areas of an image as opposed to the pixels under a brush stroke.

  1. Make a pixel selection with the Freehand Selection tool or any shaped selection tool.
  2. Choose Edit > Inpaint.

The unwanted selected area is replaced with surrounding sampled image content.

Inpainting—other methods

Cropping and straightening

When straightening during a cropping operation, you may end up with unwanted post-crop transparent regions, which can be removed using the same Edit > Inpaint method as above.

Creating panoramas

When stitching panoramas, you may have spotted an Inpaint Missing Areas button top-centre in the Panorama Persona—this replaces post-stitch transparent areas with surrounding content automatically on exiting the Persona, avoiding subsequent manual cropping or inpainting.

Comparison with other apps

If you are (or have been) a Photoshop user, you’ll have come across the Content Aware Move Tool and Content Aware Fill feature. Affinity’s Inpainting Brush Tool and Inpainting Fill features are equivalent to these.

Top five tips for great results

  • Use zooming
    Getting in close to your working area is always a great idea. Use the Zoom Tool or Alt/Option+mouse scroll wheel down.

  • Set an appropriate brush width
    Use as small a brush width as you can, as this will preserve good pixels around the unwanted area. Try the [ and ] shortcut keys to quickly size the brush to specific areas.

  • Use multiple strokes
    For long thin objects (e.g., hairs) try using a small brush width and paint a little bit at a time.
  • Watch out for shadows and reflections
    Removing an object might be quick and easy but check for any leftovers—a person’s shadow or the reflection of an unwanted boat on the water. Try removing both in one operation if you can!
  • Work non-destructively!
    The Inpainting Tool—like the Clone Brush Tool, Healing Brush Tool and Patch Tool—lets you apply inpainting strokes to an empty pixel layer directly above the image’s layer. Just paint on that empty layer with Current Layer & Below set on the tool’s context toolbar—you’ll be removing objects without affecting the original image.

Give the tool a try—but if you have a mother-in-law, don’t let her see you!


Documentation manager
Andy manages our software documentation here at Serif and is our chief technical writer. In-between falling off his bike cycling into work, he keeps himself busy ensuring all our apps have up to date and accurate help content, and is editor-in-chief of our stunning Affinity Workbooks.
Credits & Footnotes

Licensed content used:

Lion Image Copyright Ana Gram, used under license from Shutterstock.com (736795084)

Zebras Image Copyright Sergey Novikov, used under license from Shutterstock.com (571055767)

Temple Image Copyright gary78, used under license from Shutterstock.com (148359581)

Lake Image Copyright Yunsun_Kim, used under license from Shutterstock.com (601048877)

Leopard Image Copyright Gudkov Andrey, used under license from Shutterstock.com (779942101)

St Michaels Mount, Cornwall (Andy Capstick)