Tutorial Thursday

Seam carving (also known as content aware image resizing) has been the hit lately when it comes to photo editing. It all started with the presentation by Ariel Shamir who put together a nearly breathtaking demo. In it he showed how scaling images could be done without losing or distorting the important aspects of photos.

Just three weeks ago we got a glimpse of what an implemented version of such a technology could actually do, and as expected, applications and plugins are popping up all over that make use of the technology. This article will focus on one free application called Liquid Resize that has made huge progress over the last few weeks. Below we’ll highlight some of the features, and you can watch a video we put together on how to use the program.

–Liquid Resize (Free Windows/Linux Application)–

The primary way that you’ll want to use seam carving is with the free program called Liquid Resize. It has almost everything that the original demonstration included, and it produced decent results from the few photos I tried. It’s available for both Windows and Linux, and doesn’t require any installation to begin using it!

Liquid Resize Seam Carving

Here are some of the features it has:

  • Increase or decrease the size of the image using the seam carving algorithm.
  • Animate the process of scaling the images (as seen in the video demonstration below).
  • Mark areas of the photo that you want to be removed first, and other areas that you want to be removed last. This is actually pretty easy to do because the program offers a resizable brush to designate the respective areas (called masks).
    • You can temporarily store and recall masks, which is important because the masks are removed once you begin resizing the image.
    • You can also save and load masks which is meant for more long term storage.
  • Zooming capabilities are a nice touch if you’re working with a large photo.
  • A “Reset” option to restore the original image.

I would say that this works pretty well, and it’s actually not a bad way to quickly crop someone out of a photo (by marking the person as an area to be removed first). Sometimes you get unexpected results, but it’s normally only if you try to resize a photo more than 50% of the original size. And be careful when trying to use this on large images because the process can take quite awhile, and in cases like that I would disable the animation.

Here is a video that I put together to show the Liquid Resizer in action:

–Other Alternatives–

Liquid Resizer is the best seam carving app that I’ve come across, and it’s especially nice since it’s free! There are a few less-detailed alternatives available, and so I thought I would present those as well:

  • GIMP Liquid Rescale plugin – This just gives you input options for the desired width and height, and then makes the appropriate changes. Definitely not as extravagant as the standalone program I mentioned above.
  • Picutel Photoshop plugin – I didn’t actually try this one out because the free version only works with images up to a resolution of 640×480. Beyond that you’ll have to pay a whopping $95 for the plugin!
  • Web-based Flash version – This is a nice way to quickly try out the seam carving, but you’ll have to pick a photo that is already online. This is also extremely limited in what you can do.


There are still some things that I would like to see Liquid Resizer do, such as “blur” the seams that it adds/removes to the photos. That way the edges wouldn’t always look so jagged. Other than that I would say that this technique definitely has a good future in image resizing, and I can’t wait to see where it is taken.