Edit and refine selections

Edit selections

Making selections is a crucial part of editing. Photoshop Elements has a tool named Refine Selection Brush tool. This tool helps you add or remove areas to and from a selection by automatically detecting the edges.

The cursor for the tool is a set of two concentric circles. While the inner circle is the size of the brush, the outer circle indicates the area within which to look for an edge.

The Selection Edit toolbox provides the tools to refine your selection:

Add to selection (A)

Manually add to the current selection

Subtract from selection (B)

Manually subtract the current selection

Push Selection (C)


  • Placing the cursor inside a selection expands the selection within the outer circle to snap to the first image edge found
  • Placing the Cursor outside the selection contracts the selection within the outer circle to snap  to the first image edge found

Smooth selection (D)

Smoothen the current selection

Size (E)

Set the selection cursor size

Snap Strength (F)

Set the snapping of selection boundary to the edges

Selection Edge (G)

Set the selection edge radius

View (H)

Options to help view the selection being made. Select to have an overlay color with an opacity that you can set, or hard black or white.

Opacity (I)

Set the opacity of the overlay selected in the View option.

To refine the selection of an image:

  1. Open an image in Quick/Expert mode.

    Select an image that has minute and detailed edges

  2. Select Refine Selection Brush tool (A).

  3. From the four modes available (Add, Subtract, Push, Smooth), select the Add mode.

    Selection cursor in Add mode

  4. Press and hold cursor on the image you want to make precise and refined selections on. The selection within the concentric circles of the cursor begins to grow. Note a lighter-colored region on the outer periphery of the growing selection. This is the Selection Edge that will help you make a precise selection.

    Selection Edge (region enclosed between areas B and C in the image below)

    The size of the Selection Edge is determined by the Selection Edge slider. Experiment with the hardness and softness of this setting to get the right effect.

    A growing selection within the Refine Selection Brush cursor (Add mode)

    • A - Inner circle of the cursor, where the selection area begins to grow. Region within is automatically selected.
    • B - Outer edge of the Selection Edge.
    • C - Inner edge of the Selection Edge
    • D - Outer circle of the cursor, where the selection area stops growing if you keep the mouse pressed indefinitely.

    You can also use the cursor to 'paint' the region you want to select.

  5. Any texture like fur, hair, grass in the Selection Edge area are captured in fine detail.

    To capture more of the fine details, hover the mouse pointer over the edge of the selection, until the cursor turns to the Selection Edge cursor mode. With the tool in this mode, click and paint the areas that contain fine details.

    Selection Edge cursor


    The cursor turns to this mode when you hover the inner dark grey portion of the cursor over the edge of a selection. Also, the size of the darker portion of the cursor is determined by the Selection Edge slider setting. The larger the setting, more area can be painted over.

  6. Continue to select more regions, and refine the selected edges, until the areas you want to select have been selected. Use a different overlay option to view the details you are able to capture.

    Select the minute details captured in your photograph, using the Selection Edge cursor.

  7. Continue to experiment and perform Step 6, changing your selections and using the Subtract, Push, and Smooth modes of the Refine Selection Brush tool.

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