1. Technology

Inpaint Review

Inexpensive Windows and Mac Software to Remove Unwanted Elements from Photos

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Inpaint User Interface

Inpaint has a very clear and easy to understand user interface. View Larger

© Ian Pullen

What is Inpaint?

Inpaint is a software application that makes it very easy to remove unwanted objects from your digital photos without any specialist knowledge. Adobe Photoshop users will recognize this as being a similar feature to Content Aware Fill, which was itself predated by the Resynthesizer plugin that is freely available for GIMP.

Inpaint, however, is much cheaper than buying a copy of Photoshop and is considerably more user-friendly than installing Resynthesizer into GIMP. For these reasons there is likely to be a large potential audience of digital camera users who desire this powerful photo editing functionality in a low cost and easy to use package. So, does Inpaint satisfy these needs?

Inpaint User Interface

Inpaint is a very focused piece of software designed to do one job and the advantage that this offers is a very simple user interface. If you look at the tool bar at the top of the interface, there are only four specific tools for working on your images, with the other tools being for saving, undoing/redoing, zooming and help. There is an especially refreshing brevity to the menus which just replicate the controls from the toolbar in the four drop downs, offering users two ways to access the same controls.

I tested Inpaint on a Windows 7 laptop in Spanish, so if you look closely at the accompanying images, you may notice the menus are in Spanish. I couldn't see any way to change the interface language, either through the application itself or by removing language files in Explorer, but that's an issue that is unlikely to affect any great number of users.

Inpaint Ease of Use

Inpaint Hay Bale Example

In this image Inpaint has made a very neat job of removing the large haybale that dominated the original image. (Click for full-size)

© Ian Pullen
The very simple user interface makes this a welcoming environment for new users. While I have the advantage of almost two decades working with various image editors, I'm sure that less experienced users will quickly be able to get to grips with the application.

I produced better than expected results on my first image without reading any of the online help or tutorials, but I have worked with similar tools before and Inpaint felt quite familiar. If you're new to this type of software, clicking the question mark button in the tool bar will open the support pages of the website and a few minutes reading here should be plenty to get you using the software effectively.

To summarize the usage process, you can use the Marker tool to paint over the areas you want to remove or use the Magic Wand to automatically select an area based on color values. If the background is split into distinct types of texture, you can use the Guide Lines tool to divide the area that is being removed into sections so that only specific textures will be applied to them. When you're happy with your masking, clicking the blue 'play' arrow button will run the process. Depending on the size of the object that is being removed and the speed of your processor, this may take some time.

One last tool on offer is the Multi View Inpaint, that allows you combine different areas of two or more pictures to produce a single composite image. This can be extremely useful for removing people from photos of busy tourist scenes, for example. You can, however, also use this feature to add objects to a scene. I made a composite image with three of me in it. Whether using it for the intended object removal or for adding people or other objects, this is simplicity itself to use.

Inpaint: Does it Work?

As mentioned already, Inpaint effectively offers just four tools for specifically for working with images and removing unwanted objects. However, don't make the mistake of thinking this undermines the power or usefulness of this application as it is capable of extremely impressive results.

While the developers have made it as easy as possible to use, those who take a little more care with their work will garner the most impressive results. You do need to be aware of things such as shadows and reflections in your final result that don't coincide with the newly edited scene. That said, however, the results should be more than satisfactory for most enthusiast users and often it's only the more trained eye of a professional that will notice such visual anomalies.

The advice on the Inpaint website is to work on small areas rather than trying to remove everything in one go and this is excellent advice. Also be prepared to apply the procedure to areas more than once as sometimes you may see a recognizable feature repeated as an irregular pattern. It should be said that this is common to other tools that are designed for this task and is not a complaint leveled specifically at Inpaint.

Inpaint Conclusion

Inpaint Multi View Option

The Multi View Inpaint option makes easy to combine images to remove objects or also to add objects.

© Ian Pullen
Inpaint is an application that has been developed to do one thing and it does it very well. Even total newbies should be able to produce impressive results after just a few minutes reading the online tutorials.

Despite just a few tools being available, they combine to offer enough power and flexibility to work effectively on a wide range of images and you can achieve some highly impressive results.

If I had to pick fault, it would be that Inpaint can be a little slow in use when removing objects. In fairness, I've tested Inpaint on a rather average i3 powered laptop that I generally use for coding and is far from ideal for processor intensive applications such as this. Also, considering the quality of the results that I've had from my short time using Inpaint, I suspect that the developers have favored better quality over speed. As they're targeting less experienced casual users who will just want very easy to use software that automates the process as much as possible, I think potentially sacrificing a little speed would be a fair trade off for most users.

All in all I think Inpaint is a great little application that brings a lot of power to casual users, with a very user friendly interface. In very little time, anyone should be able to achieve impressive results and, combined with its competitive price, I believe Inpaint is well deserving of 4.5 out of 5.

You can download and purchase a copy of Inpaint from http://www.theinpaint.com

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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