Monday, March 21, 2011
Perfect Selections In Photoshop—03/21/11
The Refine Edge tool is invaluable for detailed selections
If you ever try to isolate subjects from backgrounds, the Refine Edge tool can do it better and faster than you ever have before. I used to spend hours tweaking the edges of my selections with the magic wand, lasso tool and many other edge modifiers. Of course, all of this work was tedious and done by hand. Manual adjustment seemed like the best way to exert fine control over precise selections, but in fact the Refine Edge tool does it better than I ever could, and infinitely faster.
To use it, simply create a basic selection of your subject with whatever approach you prefer. That could be the magic wand tool to preliminarily separate subject from background, or the quick selection tool to do the same sort of thing, or maybe you prefer to use the lasso in one of its popular configurations. However you make your selection, it’s probably not perfect. If it’s a person, I can bet that you’ve got dozens of stray hairs popping out of the selected area around their head. If it’s a tree, you’ve surely missed some leaves. Either way, this is where the Refine Edge tool shines.
The Refine Edge tool doesn’t just work with areas of high contrast—like a silhouetted person against a bright white background or a big green tree in front of a pretty blue sky. I recently used the tool to help make a selection of a person standing against a relatively crowded and busy background, with only the depth of field acting to distinguish subject from background. And you know what? The Refine Edge tool was able to easily separate the two simply by examining the depth-of-field sharpness.
For my own workflow, the Refine Edge tool is just about the coolest thing I’ve used in Photoshop in years. If you haven’t yet discovered it for yourself, or if you haven’t yet upgraded to a recent version of the software, this alone makes the investment in Photoshop worthwhile.