Use the Object Selection tool and Refine Edge to create precise selections and masks.

What you learned: Refine Edge lets you improve selections to get even complex edges looking just right

Start with the Object Selection tool

With the Object Selection tool you can draw a rectangular or freeform marquee around a subject, and Photoshop intelligently determines which pixels to select.

  • The Object Selection tool works best in scenes with good contrast between the subject and the background.
  • Select the Object Selection tool in the Toolbar. Click the three dots in the Tool Options, and choose the Rectangle or Lasso style.
  • Drag over object(s) you want to select. You do not have to enclose the entire subject with the marquee or lasso; if you enclose enough of it, the tool will select the entire subject.
  • If the selection needs to be modified, use the Add or Subtract controls in the Tool Options.

Use Refine Edge for subjects with rough or irregular edges

Refine Edge offers controls for fine-tuning selection edges. It’s very useful for selections that have a mix of both smooth and rough edges.

  • With a selection active, go to the bar at the bottom of the screen, tap the three dots, and choose Refine edge
  • In the Refine Edge workspace, choose a View Mode menu to preview the selection and the refinements you make. The Overlay view mode is useful for seeing the areas that need improving. The Black & White view mode is good for viewing fine details.
  • Turn on Smart Radius for subjects that have both smooth and rough edges.
  • Experiment with the Detect Edge Radius slider for simple edge refinements.

Apply guided refinements with the Refine Edge Brush

Some images with more complex edges require additional work with the Refine Edge Brush tool. 

  • Select the Refine Edge Brush on the left side of the Refine Edge workspace.
  • The Tool Options offer controls for brush size, as well as Add and Subtract controls. Tap the three dots at the bottom of the Tool Options to access additional brush settings.
  • Brush over specific areas of the selection edge to tell Photoshop where to improve the edge.
  • Apply the Refine Edge Brush changes in Overlay view mode to see the areas you need to work on. Then evaluate the fine details in the Black & White view.

Choose how to output the refined selection

In the Output As menu at the bottom of the Control panel on the right, choose the desired output setting for the modified selection. 

  • For the most flexibility for further editing, choose to output as a Layer mask or as a New layer with mask.
  • The Decontaminate Colors option is useful for subjects where a fringe from the original background is visible. This option expands the subject’s edge colors and can only be output as a new layer with a layer mask.
02/02/2021

Adobe Stock contributors: Alexander Y, Romolo Tavani, Jakob

Presenter: Seán Duggan

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