I have no idea how many posts I’ve written about making selections in Adobe Photoshop by this point, but I know it’s a lot. The sad part about all the work I’ve put into this topic is that I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. There is so much to selecting objects in this application because it’s such an important task. Adobe has done a lot of work to make it easier for us to create accurate and efficient selections with the least amount of effort. The problem is, there are many different methods for obtaining the same goal.
In today’s post, I’m going to show you how to make a selection starting from the inside out. In many of my previous posts about doing this sort of thing, I generally began by using one of the selection tools in the normal workspace in Photoshop. After I made a rough selection, I’d move into the Select & Mask workspace to make refinements. Well, unbeknownst to many editors out there, it’s possible to skip the initial selection and jump right to the Select & Mask workspace and begin the selection there. It’s actually easier to do things this way because there are so many tools at the ready.
Below, I’ll be working through the process of selecting a dog from a photograph. In the photo I’ll be using, the edges of the dog are clear, but I’ll still take advantage of a few different tools the Select & Mask workspace offers. What I’d like to show you is how simple it is to work in a streamlined manner in such an area. Everything is right where it needs to be.
The Demo Image
This is the image I’ll be using for this post. I’m going to be selecting the dog, which will be very straightforward. I’ll be using some of the refinement tools to select some of the fur and whiskers though, so I’ll need to take things slow at spots.
Moving into the Select & Mask Workspace
As I mentioned above, I’d normally use a selection tool such as the Quick Selection Tool out in the normal workspace to start things off, but today’s going to be a little different. What I’ll do is click on the tool in the left vertical toolbar to activate it, but when I see the Select & Mask button appear in this tool’s option bar, I’ll go ahead and just click that. This will bring me into the new and specially designated workspace.
Making the Selection
It feels somewhat strange to move into this area without having made a selection, but that’s fine. I’ll just do it in here. In the upper right corner, there’s a drop-down box that offers all sorts of viewing options. To start off with, I’ll choose Onion Skin as my viewing option. This view will give me sort of a translucent background that will turn solid as I begin making my selection.
Once that’s set, I’ll make sure the Quick Selection Tool for this workspace is active by clicking on its button over in the left toolbar.
After that, I’ll size my selection brush by pressing the [ and ] keys on my keyboard and then I’ll paint inside of the dog to select it.
Now I understand that all selection aren’t going to go as smoothly as the one I just made. Sometimes extra material will be selected that will need to be removed. In cases such as these, you can either press the Alt (Option) key on your keyboard and paint over those areas or you can click the – button up in the options bar to accomplish the same thing. When you’re finished removing and you’d like to add more selected area, simply press the + button to carry on.
Making a Closer Inspection
Now that I’ve got the majority of the dog selected, I’d like to look at things a bit more closely. While the Onion Skin view is wonderful for bulk selections, I’m going to switch over to the Overlay view and then zoom in a bit to see what’s going on. If anything needs to be added or removed, I’ll take care of it.
I can adjust the transparency of the overlay by pushing the Opacity slider directly below the drop-down.
Here’s the red overlay at 40% opacity.
Refining the Selection
Because I’m selecting something with fur or hair, I’ll need to take advantage of another tool that was created specifically for this purpose. Actually, there are two tools that are great for accurately refining selections. Before I show them to you though, I’m going to change views once again. This time, I’ll select Black & White from the drop-down box.
This black and white view really gives an accurate glimpse of the selected edges. Take a look.
If you look closely, you can see that there’s some fur, but it’s not as cleanly selected as it can be. I’d like to fix that.
The first option I’ll take advantage of is the Radius slider. I’ll push this slider to the right until it reaches the value of 10px. After that, I’ll check the Smart Radius box. Both of these options are contained in the Edge Detection section and they help with really drilling down into the intricate edge details.
I can already see the edges being cleaned up, just from using these two options. The next tool I’ll use is called the Refine Edge Brush Tool and it’s located over in the left toolbar.
With this tool, I’ll trace the edges of the selection. This will basically magnify and dig into the nuances of the edge and make micro-selections. The trick with this tool is to decide what you want it to accomplish. If you’re working with a furry edge, you may want to hold down the Alt key as you work. Doing this will remove any blur or softness you may have picked up with the Quick Selection Tool. If you think you missed some areas, such as those that contain whiskers or something like that, go ahead and use it the regular way to include them. Take a look at the detail I was able to add to the selection below.
Not bad, right?
Saving as a New Layer
When I’m all done with my refinements, I’ll output the selection as a new layer with a layer mask. The way I’ll do this is to choose the New Layer with Layer Mask option down at the bottom of the right column. It’s the Output To option, to be more exact.
This is what I’ll end up with in the regular workspace when I’m finished. The first screenshot is the output itself and the second is the Layers panel. You can see the original layer in there as well as the output layer with the mask.
At this point, I can do whatever I want with the dog. It’s been separated from its background and it’s at my disposal.
I hope I demonstrated yet another method for making an accurate and efficient selection, this time using the Select & Mask workspace in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!