Learn how to use the dedicated Select and Mask workspace in Photoshop.

Creating accurate selections and masks in Photoshop is now quicker and easier than ever before. A dedicated new workspace helps you make precise selections and masks. Use tools like the Refine Edge Brush to cleanly separate foreground and background elements and do much more. 

The Select and Mask workspace replaces the Refine Edge dialog in earlier versions of Photoshop, offering the same functionality in a streamlined way. To learn more, see Tools.

Launch the Select and Mask workspace

Open an image in Photoshop and do one of the following:
  • Choose Select > Select and Mask.
  • Press Ctrl+Alt+R (Windows) or Cmd+Option+R (Mac).
  • Enable a selection tool, such as Quick Selection, Magic Wand, or Lasso. Now, click Select and Mask in the Options bar.
Select and Mask button in the Options bar
Options bar | Select and Mask button
  • In the Properties panel for a Layer Mask, click Select and MaskYou can set the default tool behavior, such that double-clicking a layer mask opens the Select and Mask workspace. Simply double-click a layer mask for the first time and set the behavior. Alternatively, select Preferences > Tools > Double Click Layer Mask Launches Select and Mask Workspace.

User interface

Select and Mask workspace
Select and Mask workspace

A. Tool options B. Tools C. Adjustable properties 

Tools at a glance

The Select and Mask workspace features a combination of familiar and new tools:

Selection tools
Select and Mask workspace tools at a glance: A. Quick Selection B. Refine Edge Brush C. Brush D. Object Selection E. Lasso F. Hand G. Zoom

Quick Selection Tool: Make quick selections based on color and texture similarity when you click or click-drag the area you want to select. The selection you make doesn’t need to be precise, because the Quick Selection tool automatically and intuitively creates a border.

For an even easier experience while using the Quick Selection tool, click Select Subject in the options bar to automatically select the most prominent subjects in your image with a single click.

Check out Make quick selections for more information about this tool.

Refine Edge Brush Tool: Precisely adjust the border area in which edge refinement occurs. For example, brush over soft areas such as hair or fur to add fine details to the selection. To change the brush size, press the bracket keys

Brush Tool: Begin with making a rough selection using the Quick Selection tool (or another selection tool) and then refine it using the Refine Edge Brush tool. Now, use the Brush tool to finalize or clean up details.

Use the Brush tool to fine-tune selections in two simple ways: paint over the area you want to select in the Add mode, or paint over areas you don’t want to select in the Subtract mode.

Object Selection Tool: Draw a rectangular region or a lasso around an object. The Object Selection tool finds and automatically selects the object inside the defined region.

Lasso Tool: Draw freehand selection borders. Using this tool, you can make precise selections.

Check out Select with the Lasso tool to learn more.

Polygonal Lasso Tool: Draw straight-edged segments of a selection border. Using this tool, you can make straight or freehand selections. You can select this tool from the options when you right-click Lasso Tool.

Check out Select with the Polygonal Lasso tool

Hand Tool: Navigate around an image document quickly. Select this tool and drag around the image canvas. You can also quickly toggle the Hand tool by holding spacebar while using any other tool.

Zoom Tool: Magnify and navigate around the photo.

Options bar

Options bar
Select and Mask workspace: Options bar

Add or Subtract: Add or subtract from the refinement area. Adjust the brush size if necessary.

Sample All Layers: Creates a selection based on all layers rather than only the currently selected layer

Select Subject: Select the main subjects in a photo in a single click

Refine Hair: Easily find and refine difficult hair selections in a single click. Couple with Object Aware for best results.

Refine the selection

You can refine your selection in the Properties panel of the Select and Mask workspace. To do so, adjust the following settings:

View Mode settings

View Mode: From the View pop-up menu, choose one of the following view modes for your selection:

  • Onion Skin (O): Visualizes the selection as an animation-style onion skin scheme
  • Marching Ants (M): Visualizes the selection borders as marching ants
  • Overlay (V): Visualizes the selection as a transparent color overlay. Unselected areas are displayed in that color. The default color is red. 
  • On Black (A): Places the selection over a black background
  • On White (T): Places the selection over a white background
  • Black & White (K): Visualizes the selection as a black and white mask
  • On Layers (Y): Surrounds the selection with areas of transparency

Press F to cycle through the modes and X to temporarily disable all modes.

Show Edge: Shows the area of refinement.

Show Original: Shows the original selection.

High Quality Preview: Renders an accurate preview of the changes. This option may affect performance. When this option is selected, while working on the image, hold down the left mouse button (mouse down) to view a higher-resolution preview. When this option is deselected, a lower-resolution preview is displayed even on mouse down.

Transparency/Opacity: Sets transparency/opacity for the View Mode.

Refine modes

Set the edge refinement method used by Edge Detection, Refine Hair, and the Refine Edge Brush Tool.

  • Color Aware: Choose this mode for simple or contrasting backgrounds.
  • Object Aware: Choose this mode for hair or fur on complex backgrounds.

Edge Detection settings

Radius: Determines the size of the selection border in which edge refinement occurs. Use a small radius for sharp edges, and a large one for softer edges.

Smart Radius: Allows for a variable width refinement area around the edge of your selection. Among other use cases, this option is helpful if your selection is a portrait that includes both hair and shoulders. In such portraits, the hair might require a larger refinement area than the shoulders, where the edge is more consistent.

Global Refinement settings

Smooth: Reduces irregular areas (“hills and valleys”) in the selection border to create a smoother outline

Feather: Blurs the transition between the selection and the surrounding pixels

Contrast: When increased, soft-edged transitions along the selection border become more abrupt. Typically, the Smart Radius option and refinement tools are more effective.

Shift Edge: Moves soft-edged borders inward with negative values or outward with positive ones. Shifting these borders inward can help remove unwanted background colors from selection edges.

Output Settings

Decontaminate Colors: Replaces color fringes with the color of fully selected pixels nearby. The strength of color replacement is proportionate to the softness of selection edges. Adjust the slider to change the decontamination amount. 100% (maximum strength) is the default value. Because this option changes pixel color, it requires output to a new layer or document. Retain the original layer so you can revert to it if needed.

Output To: Determines whether the refined selection becomes a selection or mask on the current layer, or produces a new layer or document.

output settings
Output settings

Note:

  • Click (Reset The Workspace) to revert the settings to the original state in which you entered the Select and Mask workspace. This option also reverts to the original selections/masks applied to the image when you entered the Select and Mask workspace.
  • Select Remember Settings to save the settings for use with future images. The settings are applied afresh to all future images, including the current image if it is reopened in the Select and Mask workspace.

Use the Select and Mask workspace

Adobe's Julieanne Kost explains how the Select And Mask in Photoshop makes creating selections and masks easier, efficient, and exact.
Julieanne Kost