Make selections and add masks

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Supercharge your Photoshop workflows with selection and masking on your iPad.

Making selections and adding masks are two powerful ways to edit selective areas and add effects to your composites.

Know your selection tools and actions

A selection isolates one or more parts of your image. By selecting specific areas, you can edit, and apply effects and filters to portions of your document while leaving the deselected areas untouched.

Double-tap or long-press the active selection tool from the toolbar to bring up more Selection toolsLasso, Object Select, Quick selection, Marquee rectangle, Marquee ellipse, and Magic wand. Lasso is the default selection tool.

Actions allow you to quickly achieve an outcome such as selecting a subject.


  • Use Object Select to select one of the objects or part of an object in your composite having multiple objects.
  • Use Select Subject to identify and select all the main subjects in your composite.

When you tap a selection tool, the associated tool options appear. From the tool options, you can choose whether to add to your selection (), subtract from your selection (), or select the areas that intersect with the current selection (). 

When you make a selection, the active selection properties appear at the bottom of the workspace. It gives you the option to Deselect, Mask, Erase, Invert, Refine edgeTransform the selection, or Select similar.

Know your selection tools

Select with the Lasso tool

The Lasso tool is the default selection tool in Photoshop on the iPad and is useful for drawing freeform segments of a selection. Tap  from the toolbar to select the Lasso tool and choose from the tool options that appear. Simply draw a freehand selection on your document to proceed.

  • Add to selection (): Next selections will be added to the current selection.
  • Subtract from selection (): Next selections will be subtracted from the current selection.
  • Select the areas that intersect with the current selection (): Select the intersection of current and next selection.
  • Lasso settings (): Feather - Select the number of pixels to feather the edges of a selection.
Select with Lasso tool

Select with the Object Select tool

To select an object using Object Select, do the following:

  1. Double tap or long press Lasso (default) or any other active selection tool from the toolbar to bring up more selection tools.
  2. Tap Object Select (). 
  3. (Optional) From the associated tool options that open, you can choose to create a new selection, add to your selection (), subtract from your selection (), select the areas that intersect with the current selection (), or tap () to open Object Selection settings.
  4. (Optional) Under Object Selection settings, you can choose a selection Style — Rectangle (default) or Lasso. You can also choose to enable — Sample all layers, Enhance edge, and Object subtract.
  5. Tap and draw a rectangular area or a rough lasso, based on the chosen selection style in step 4, around the object you want to select on your composite. Photoshop automatically selects the object inside the defined region.
Object selection tool

Select with the Quick selection tool

The Quick selection tool allows you to quickly paint a selection using an adjustable round brush. As you drag, the selection expands outward and automatically finds and follows defined edges in your document.

Select with Quick Select

Double tap or long press the Lasso tool from the toolbar to reveal the Quick selection tool . As you tap the Quick selection tool, choose from the tool options that appear:

  • Add to selection (): Next selections will be added to the current selection.
  • Subtract from selection (): Next selections will be subtracted from the current selection.
  • Brush size: Determines the pixel size of the quick selection tool.
  • Hardness: The hardness setting controls the size of the brush’s hard center.
  • Quick Select settings (): Enable/disable Use pressure for size.

Select with the Marquee tools

The marquee tools allow you to select rectangles and ellipses. To make a marquee selection, choose one of the marquee tools and simply drag over the area you wish to select. If you have a physical keyboard connected to your iPad, you can also press M (Shift) to select the Marquee tools.

Use the Elliptical marquee tool () for makins an elliptical selection.

Elliptical marquee

Use the Rectangular marquee tool () for making a rectangular selection.

Rectangular marquee

  • New selection: Creates a new selection for you.
  • Add to selection (): Next selections will be added to the current selection.
  • Subtract from selection (): Next selections will be subtracted from the current selection.
  • Select the areas that intersect with the current selection (): Select the intersection of current and next selection.
  • Lasso settings (): 
    Feather - Select the number of pixels to feather the edges of a selection.
    Style - Select a style from the drop-down list.

Select with the Magic Wand tool

Magic Wand ( ) is useful for quickly extracting objects from a flat background, quickly selecting an irregularly shaped area, or selecting a distinctly colored element.  

To make a selection using the Magic Wand tool, do the following:

  1. Double-tap or long-press Lasso (default selection tool) from the toolbar to reveal all selection tools and actions. Select the Magic Wand tool.
  2. From the tool options that appear, specify a selection option: New Selection, Add to Selection, Subtract from SelectionIntersect with Selection, Brush size, and more Magic wand settings.
  3. In the Magic wand settings menu, you can set a sample size for your selection. You can also choose to enable or disable the following —  Anti-alias, Contiguous, and Sample all layers options. Disable Contiguous if you want to select nonadjacent areas of similar color.
  4. Tap the color in your image that you want to select to make your selection.
  5. Once your selection is done, you can see the Active selection properties bar appear at the bottom of your workspace. You can further choose to — Deselect, Mask, Erase, Invert, Refine Edge, Transform selection, or Select similar.
Extract an object with the Magic Wand tool

Select with the Select Subject tool

Powered by Adobe Sensei, the Select Subject () tool is trained to identify a variety of objects in an image—people, animals, vehicles, toys, and more, while working with Photoshop on the iPad. Select Subject uses the power of Sensei to analyze a layer, identify the most prominent subjects in your document and make a selection — in a single tap of an icon. 

The Select Subject tool saves time by quickly isolating the main subjects from the background. It gives the best results when your composition is less cluttered, free of reflective surfaces, has a good amount of contrast between the main subject and the background, and has sharp edges around the main subject. You can further refine the automatic selection using other selection tools to fine-tune your selection. 

To make a selection using the Select Subject tool, do the following:

1. Double-tap or long-press Lasso (default) or other active selection tools from the toolbar to bring up more selection tool options.

2. Tap Select Subject (). The Select Subject tool automatically selects the main subject in the active layer of your document.

Active selection properties

Once you make a selection, you can see active selection properties at the bottom of the workspace:

  • Deselect: Deselects the current selection.
  • Mask: Turns the current selection into a mask for the layer.
  • Erase: Allows you to erase the selected area.
  • Invert: Inverts the selection so that the deselected area becomes the selection.
  • Refine edge: Refines your complex selections.
  • Transform selection: Allows you to transform the selection.
  • Select similar: Adds pixels to the selection that are similar to the ones already selected.
active selection properties

Refine edge

Use Refine edge () to further fine-tune the boundary of your selection. Refine edge helps make complex selections such as strands of hair, fur, or other tricky edges of your subject easier. 

To use Refine edge, do the following:

  1. Make a selection with any of the selection tools in Photoshop on your iPad.
  2. In the active selection properties bar that appears at the bottom of the workspace, tap More () and select Refine edge.
  3. In the Refine edge mode that opens, from the tool properties bar, you can adjust the Refine edge brush size, add to selection (), subtract from the selection (), or tap  to open Refine edge brush settings. Under the Refine edge brush settings, you can modify the Hardness, Spacing, Angle, and Roundness sliders per your requirement.
  4. In the Refine edge mode,  the properties panel on the right lets you select:
    1. View mode: This setting allows you to choose a view mode depending on the complexity and colors in your composite — Marching ants, Overlay, On black, On white, and Black and white.
    2. Edge detection:  Move the Edge detection radius slider toward the right to soften the edges and toward the left to have sharp selection edges. Enable Smart radius to keep the width of refinement dynamic around your selection boundary. This helps reduce the pixels with no data and makes your selection appear more natural.
    3. Global refinements:
      - Adjust the Smooth slider to smoothen out the uneven edges of your selection.
      - Adjust the Feather slider to blend your selection boundary with the background of your composite.
      - Adjust the Contrast slider to add more clarity to your selection edges.
      - Adjust the Shift Edge slider left to make your selection smaller and right to widen the selection. By default, the value is set to 0.
      - Enable Invert to make your deselected area the new selection.
    4. Output as: You can choose to output your refine edge selection as — Selection, Layer mask, New layer, and New layer with mask. Before you are ready to output your selection, you can enable Decontaminate colors and use the Amount slider to adjust and remove any color fringe present in your selection. This is helpful when your selection is made against a sharp color contrasting background.
  5. Tap the undo () icon to revert the last action performed. Tap redo () to restore the undone action.
  6. Tap Done to apply your Refine edge selection settings. Tap Cancel to exit the Refine edge mode.
Make a selection Use Refine edge

More options on taskbar

  • Cut: Allows you to cut a selection or layer
  • Copy merged: Allows you to copy a merged selection or layer to be pasted over another layer.

Apply masks

You can use masks to hide portions of a layer and reveal portions of the layers below. Masks are nondestructive, which means you can go back and edit the masks again without losing the pixels they hide.

  • A layer mask hides part of a layer from view.
  • A clipping mask uses the contents of one layer to clip or hide the contents of one or more other layers from view.
Easily create accurate selections and masks in Photoshop on your iPad.
Easily create accurate selections and masks in Photoshop on your iPad.

Layer mask

You can create a layer mask to show parts of a layer and hide others by turning a selection into a layer mask, or by painting on the layer mask after creating it. In areas where the layer is masked or hidden, the layers below are visible. Masking layers is a valuable compositing technique for combining multiple documents into a single document or for removing unwanted objects from a composite.

Create a layer mask from a selection

  1. Make sure the layer you wish to mask is selected. Simply tap a layer thumbnail from the taskbar to select a layer.

  2. Create a selection using one of the selection tools.

  3. Tap the layer mask icon on the taskbar ().

You can view the selected area while the rest of the layer gets masked.

From the compact layer view, you can swipe left and right on the layer thumbnail to switch the view from layer view to layer mask view. Both thumbnails are visible on the detailed layer view. To learn more about layer views, see Work with layers.

Create a layer mask and edit the mask with a brush

  1. Make sure the layer you wish to mask is selected. Simply tap a layer thumbnail from the taskbar to select a layer.

  2. Tap the layer mask () icon on the taskbar to create a mask.

  3. Tap the brush () icon.

  4. Set up brush properties as desired. Choose black to fully mask where you paint. To learn more about brush properties, see Draw and paint with brushes.

  5. Paint over the mask layer.

To learn more about layer masks, see Work with layers.

Clipping mask

A clipping mask allows you to use the content of one layer to mask the layers above it. To learn more about clipping masks, see Work with layers.

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