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In my humble opinion, one of the most significant and most important new features in Photoshop CS5 is how we work with Selections, in more particular terms, how we make, and then refine, and improve our selections. And let's take a look at how we can leverage this new functionality inside of Photoshop CS5, and let's do so by working on this image here. Let's say that what we want to do is we want to remove the Background so that we just have the leaf on its own layer. So, let's say we could put a different perhaps solid color behind the leaf.
Let's start off this Project by changing our Background layer to a regular layer. We can do so by holding down the Option or Alt key and then double-clicking on that Background layer. Next, let's double-click the layer name and rename this leaf. All right. Well, let's go ahead and use one of our Selection tools. This time, we're going to press the W key in order to select Quick Select, and I'm simply going to click and drag across the leaf. Now in doing that, I have a pretty decent selection, but let's say I want to make this selection even better. Well there are a couple of options here.
One thing that I can do is I can click on Refine Edge here. I'm going to go ahead and do so to show that Refine Edge dialog, or another way that I can access these same controls is by going ahead and creating a mask. I'm going to do so by clicking on the Add Layer Mask icon. Now here we can see the beginning of the removal of the Background. Well, if I want to refine this even further, all that I need to do is to navigate to Mask Edge and this then opens up that same Refine dialog with those same controls.
It's just that here we have a little bit more flexibility because we've already created this Mask. Well, one of the first things that we want to do is get familiar with this dialog. Notice there are a couple of tools. We have a Zoom tool, a Hand tool and also a tool that helps work on our Radius, or our Edge of our photograph. The other thing that we have is we have the ability to change the View. If I zoom in on this image by pressing Command+Plus or Ctrl+Plus, I can see that on white, my Edge doesn't look very good. In contrast, if I change this View to one of the other views, for example, let's just go to this transparency, I may think, 'Okay, yeah. My selection is fine. I'm good to go.' Well, that's definitely not the case.
So, these different views can help us determine how good our selection actually is, and you'll notice there are a couple of shortcuts here. The F key allows you to cycle through these different views, and you can do this without this window even open and sometimes that can be really helpful. Also, let's say, for example, we choose one of these Views or we could press its shortcut there, which is the W key and then we're viewing this and we want to see the underlying layers. We can simply press the X key, and that will temporarily toggle that View on or off.
And so now that we see that our edge isn't very good, what we can start to do is make our way through this dialog. Now the first option is called Smart Radius and what Smart Radius is about is it's about extending an area, so it helps Photoshop define hard or soft areas of the photograph. So, I'm just going to bring this up a little bit. You can always view this Radius by clicking this icon on here. It will then show you which area it's targeting to try to create a better transition. Now with this image, for the most part, the Edge is hard so I don't really need to even use this Edge Detection, although even with harder edges, I find just a little bit works pretty well.
Okay, well let's turn the visibility of that off, and let's go to Adjusting our Edge. Here what I'm going to do is Smooth this Edge out. I'm going to go ahead and increase the Contrast. I want a nice crisp edge, but I want it to be just smoothed out a little bit. I can Shift the Edge one way or another, making it smaller or making it bigger and again, a lot of times you just kind of want to find the sweet spot. I found that with these controls when you're using them say, whatever the control is, sometimes the amount that you add maybe a little bit too much. For smaller amounts, you can go ahead and click on the word Feather there or whatever word it is in order to click and drag to the left or right, to increase or minimize that particular adjustment. All right.
Well, so far so good. The Edge is looking much better. I'm going to add a little bit more Contrast and here you're seeing that I'm jumping around to these different controls. So, just keep that in mind. As you Smooth this, you need to add more Contrast. As you add more Feather, you maybe need to take a little but of Smoothing away. Then add a little bit more Contrast and so on back and forth, until you have a really good Selection. Now the next option has to do with Decontaminating Colors. Well this would be really important, say if we had a bright colored Background and we could see some of that color in this image.
Now in this case our Background was actually pretty dark and so that dark edge, if anything, is going to help us out, so I don't want to Decontaminate Colors here. Now at this juncture, all that we need to do is click OK to apply this, yet before we do so, it's always a good idea to press the P key. That will toggle on and off your before and after. So, here's the original file. If I press P once, we can see the original. Press P again. There we can see the after. And I'll zoom a little closer in on that so you can see it. Again, here's before: jagged, not a very good edge. Press P again.
There's after. That's looking really nice. Now all that we need to do is simply click OK in order to apply this. Keep in mind when we go back to our layers we're going to see this on transparency, because the only reason we're seeing that white background was because that was the View option that we chose inside of that Refine dialog. So, now that we have this nice transparent background, what we can do here is perhaps create a solid color in our Background, and we'll do that by clicking on the Adjustment layer Icon, choosing Solid Color. And here I'm going to go ahead and pick a color.
Let's pick blue and then click OK. Now simply click and drag this to the underlying layer. We can see now that this leaf is sitting on top of that color. Now the nice thing about these Solid Color layers - just as a side note - is you can double-click the icon, and then from there you can choose different colors. And I'll go ahead and just try to find a little bit more of a muted tone, perhaps even something like a nice slate color would look interesting with this photograph. I will go ahead and click OK in order to apply that. And in closing, through this short movie, you can see that this Refined Edge or Refine Mask dialog can really help us refine and improve our selections.
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