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In Photoshop CS5: Selections in Depth, author Jan Kabili offers a comprehensive tour of Photoshop CS5's selection features. Selection options are the key to performing creative imaging tasks, such as isolating photo adjustments and making image composites. This course covers selection basics as well as the nuances of selections, including selecting hair, refining masks, saving and recalling selections, working in Quick Mask mode, and creating selections based on image properties, such as luminosity and color channels. Exercise files are included with the course.
Before you make a selection, my advice is to take a second to analyze the image, and consider whether it's going to be easier to select what you're ultimately after, or the opposite of what you're after. In this case, for example, I'd like to select the foreground items: the stoplights and the street sign. But I'm guessing that it's going to be quicker and easier to select that solid color background, the light-blue sky, then to use the Invert command to invert that selection to select the foreground items. I'll give it a try using the Magic Wand tool.
With the Tolerance option in the Options bar set to its default of 32, I'll click in the blue sky. That selects most of the sky on the first click. I'll hold down the Shift key, and I'll click in this area down here that wasn't included in the initial selection. That's an almost perfect selection of the sky. But my ultimate goal isn't to select the sky in this case; it's to select the foreground items. So, I'll go up to the Select menu, and I'll choose Inverse. Now I've got the stoplights and the street sign selected.
To confirm that, I'm going to select the Brush tool. With a contrasting color, in this case white, I'll click and drag over the image. The areas where the white appears are the selected areas. That confirms that I do have the foreground, and not the background selected. Because sometimes I find it's a bit difficult to tell, particularly in a more complex image than this. I'm going to press Command+Z on the Mac, Ctrl+Z on the PC to undo those white paint strokes. I might clean up this selection a bit more by selecting the Lasso tool in the toolbar, and then making sure that in the Options bar, I have the Add to selection icon selected.
Then I'll come into the image, and I'll click and drag around those small marching ants that indicate a couple of pixels inside of the street sign, and the stoplights that didn't get fully selected. So, the next time you're making a selection, do take a second to analyze your image and consider whether it's going to be faster and easier to select the opposite of what you really want, and then use the Invert command to select the items you're really after.
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