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Learn how to use selections and layer masks in Photoshop to create composite images and apply targeted adjustments. After covering the key concepts behind selections and exploring Photoshop's selection tools, Tim Grey delves into a variety of advanced techniques that will help you make accurate selections, create seamless composite images, and apply adjustments that do exactly what you want them to do.
When the area of an image that you want to select can be clearly defined based on color values, the color range command can be very helpful. For example, with this image, I can use the color range command to create a selection of the blue of the sky or the various yellows, oranges, and other tones that are found in the leaves. To get started I'll make sure that my background layer is active. In this case, that's the only layer that I have For this image and from the Select menu I will choose Color Range. That will bring up the Color Range dialog. By default the initial selection will be based on a foreground color so right now I have a selection that is based on black, since black is my foreground color. The selection preview is shown here in the color range dialog. The white areas indicate areas that are selected.
And the black areas indicate areas that are not selected. Of course, this small thumbnail can be a little bit difficult to evaluate. But in a moment we'll take a look at how we can utilize the image itself to preview our results. I'll move the dialog out of the way so that we can see that image a little bit better. And our first step is to sample my initial color. So I'll go ahead and click in the image to define an area that has a color value I would like to include in my selection. That means I'm using the eyedropper, since that tool is active by default in the color range dialogue. And also, it's important to bear in mind that I'm using my sample colors option because I want to choose specific colors to include in my selection. With that initial color identified, now I can switch to the plus eye dropper and then click in the image in order to identify additional colors that should included in the selection. In fact I can also click and drag in order to sample a variety of colors as I'm essentially painting across the photo.
At this point looking at the preview in the color range dialogue, you can see that it looks like we're getting a pretty good selection started here. But of course that's a small view of the image. And so I need to check to make sure I'm really getting a good result. For that I can use the selection preview option. The default is none so that I just see the normal image without any Indication of the selection. I also can choose a grey scale view, which is essentially a larger version of the thumbnail we're seeing in the color range dialog. I can choose black matte, and that will cause the selected areas to appear normal, and the non-selected areas to appear black.
White matte is the exact opposite. Once again the areas that are selected will appear normal. And the non-selected areas will appear white. Or, I can utilize the Quick Mask option. This makes use of the setting for quick mask mode. The default is a red color that places an overlay on de-selected areas of the image. So the areas of the image that are selected once again appear normal. But areas that are not selected appear with this red overlay. In this particular case, that won't work very well because that red interferes with the colors in the fall colors, but I can also change my Quick Mask settings if needed, in order to get a better look.
But in most cases I'll actually just make use of the Gray Scale option. That's a larger version of the preview that I'm already seeing in color range, because I'm seeing that same preview for the full image. And I can even zoom in, of course. But right away we can see there are some grey areas that are not completely selected. They are partially selected. And I want them to be included in the selection. And so I will paint in some of those areas. It can be helpful at times to switch back and forth between the none option and then the greyscale option so that you can very clearly see whether or not an area that is not currently selected should be included in the final selection.
In this case there isn't too much ambiguity so, I'll just Paint along some of the areas that it looks like I need to add to that selection. I also want to make sure to click on some of the branch areas, so that those colors will be included. And then I can switch back to the none option as I need to in order to see the overall image and get a better sense of where things are. I can also Also utilize that Gray scale option and again, once I get to this point, that's when Quick Mask would tend to be a little bit more helpful. I'll zoom in on a portion of the photo for example and you can see quite clearly where that mask edge is.
In other words where the red overlay is being painted on top of the leaves for example Versus areas that are included in the selection, so we can see for example, if there are any areas of leaves that include the red overlay, and those I would want to add to the selection. And because that red overlay is translucent I can get a pretty good sense whether or not an area is just a hole in the reef, for example, or if it's actually part of the leaf and therefore should be included in the selection. So you can make use of these various selection preview options, but in most cases I find that that greyscale option provides a pretty good sense of whether or not I have a good selection created.
We can then adjust for the fuzziness and fuzziness is actually a really good name for this particular option. It essentially combines a couple of different capabilities. When I increase fuzziness, I am creating a more fuzzy selection. In other words, a selection with some feathering applied to it. But I'm also sampling additional areas of the image. But that setting is specific to the colors that I've sampled. Let me show you exactly what I mean. I'll go ahead and switch to the None option for Preview, and then I'm going to subtract some color values from my selection.
And then I'll switch back to the gray scale view. You'll see, of course, that I have a selection that doesn't include all of the fall colors anymore. But if I increase the fuzziness value, you'll see that I gradually increase the range of colors that are being included in the selection. But only similar colors to those that I've already sampled are being added to the selection. So you'll notice that I'm significantly altering the selection in the leaves but I'm not encroaching on the sky. Because the colors I sampled are being taken into account. So this can be very helpful in increasing the quality of the selection, because I don't have to worry too much about expanding that selection into areas that I don't want selected.
Of course in most cases, it's best to use a relatively low setting for fuzziness, and to sample additional colors as needed, in order to produce a great selection. So, I don't I don't want to just increase fuzziness after selecting a couple of colors. Rather, I want to use a relatively low setting for fuzziness and then sample additional colors in order to expand that selection. And in fact, I might even reduce fuzziness while I'm working so that I can make sure that I'm sampling a good range of color values within the image. But in situations where I have adjoining colors that are similar to each other And I want to have a little bit of a transition for the effect I'm going to add later, then I might increase that fuzziness at least a little.
It will help to soften up the overall transitions for the selection in the image. So often times, a little bit of fuzziness can be a good thing. It just depends on your particular needs for the selection and what you're going to use that selection for For. At this point though it looks like I have a pretty good result for my selection. Notice that I can also invert my selection on the fly, so I can switch to a selection of the sky versus the tree. But in this case I want that tree to be selected so I'll go ahead and click OK. And now I have a good selection of that tree and it was relatively easy to make based on the color values within the tree.
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