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Photoshop CS4 offers an abundance of helpful shortcuts and hidden tricks that allow designers and photographers to get more done in less time. In Photoshop CS4 Power Shortcuts, Michael Ninness reveals hundreds of tips to boost productivity, including the top 20 power shortcuts every Photoshop user must know. He covers strategies for better document and panel management, and offers techniques for becoming quicker and more nimble when using layers, adjustment layers, and layer masks. Exercise files accompany the course.
Download the keyboard shortcut guide from the Exercise Files tab.
If you've watched a few videos by me, you've probably picked up that every once in a while I have some pet peeves about Photoshop and this video is about one of those pet peeves. Specifically, that the marching ants, when you draw a selection and you get what we call the marching ants here, those lie to you. They really are not a very accurate representation of what your selection really looks like. Now in the case of just a rectangular selection, probably not a big deal, the lie isn't that big. But let's say I wanted to create a vignette effect, you know, where the edges fall off, fade out to transparency and you have a nice soft feather effect. So what most people do is they make a selection, but before they are going to apply a feather to their selection.
So my problem with the Feather command here is that you are flying blind. You've really no idea of what this feather is going to look like but let's just run with it for now. We'll put in a pixel, let's say 25 pixel Feather, hit Return to apply that and then I draw my selection. And when I let go, okay. Is it feather? I don't really know because those marching ants can only show you the 50% opaque line. Everything above that or below that can't be reflected by a solid line. You'll also notice that all you get as an indication of the feathering is that you have these little rounded corners. So let's take a look at what the selection really looks like and the way we are going to do that is by using the Quick Mask Mode.
To enter the Quick Mask mode, I'm going to press the letter Q on my keyboard. Don't do Command+Q or Ctrl+Q, because that will quit the app. Just Q for Quick Mask. And you'll see now a more accurate representation of what your selection really looks like. Now it may be tough to tell in this particular image because there are reds in this image. The default Quick Mask color is set to red. You can of course change that. If I double-click on the Quick Mask icon at the bottom of the Tools panel, I can change its color. So I'm going to change it from red to a color that's definitely not in this image, this obnoxious green, click OK.
I'm going I go back to the Quick Mask mode by pressing Q again and now you can see that I have these nice soft edges. So Quick Mask is your friend because it gives you an accurate view of your selection. I'm going to go ahead and go out of Quick Mask. It's a toggle; just press Q again and deselect. Okay, I'm going to do Command+D or Ctrl+D to deselect that. I am going to encourage you if this is what you are after, creating a nice vignetted or soft edged selection, to not use the Feather option in the Options Bar. F or one reason, you are going to come back a week from now and you are going to get a Rectangle tool and you are going to draw what you think is a square rectangle. And then when you let go, you are going to be like "why are my corners rounded, what's going on there?" It's because this feather value is sticky. It stays at 25 pixels here until you change it. So I'm going to deselect Command+D or Ctrl+D. I'm going to take this back to 0, okay. I'm going to go ahead and make my selection again.
You're like okay, well, I am, don't use the feather here. Maybe I'll go to Select > Modify and use Feather here. Again I'm going to encourage you not to do that because while it works if you happen to memorize what a particular feather value will get, you that you get no preview. You have no real way of knowing how wide that transition zone is going to be. So I'm going to cancel that. Instead, I'm going to go to the Quick Mask mode again and here I see a nice, crisp, straight edge selection here. But when you are in the Quick Mask mode, you will note that many or all of your menu commands are still available. So I'm going to go to the Filter menu, pull down to Blur > Gaussian Blur, and here is a little insider trick for you.
Blurring a mask is the same thing as feathering a selection. When you view your selection in the Quick Mask mode, you are viewing it not as a bunch of marching ants selection. You are viewing this as a temporary Alpha channel. Kind of some geeky words here, but you are viewing your selection as a mask, as if you had actually gone to the Channels panel and saved it as a channel. Filter menu commands can work on masks because they are really grayscale images. So if I blur this say 5 pixels, I'll get the exact same result as using a 5 pixel feather when I make the selection. But the great thing here is I actually get a live preview. I can actually see just how soft my feathering is going to be. I'm going to go ahead and click OK.
To get back to Selection mode, I'll just press the Q key to exit out of Quick Mask mode. So Quick Mask is your friend because it gives you a more accurate preview of what your selection really looks like. And of course, if I want to turn this into a nice vignetted effect, I'm going to convert this Background layer by Option or Alt+Double-clicking on the word Background and then choosing the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers panel and there is my final result.
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