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Now, when you make a basic selection in Photoshop, it does its best to show you and reflect what the actual selection looks like. Well, let's get the Rectangular Marquee tool and I will tell you what I am talking about here. If I go ahead and make a selection, a rectangular shape, it's pretty easy to see that what's inside the rectangle is selected and what's outside the rectangle is not. That's fine when you just have basic shapes with hard edges, but when you start wanting to make a soft edged selection, where there is transparency involved, where something might be only partially selected then the marquee kind of is problematic.
It kind of lies to you. So, let's say I wanted to create a classic vignette effect, where this fades off over a wide range of pixels to a transparent background or to a white background. Instead of having a hard edge, I want this to be a very soft transition. Now, the typical way that people do that when they first start out is they make a selection and they find or discover the Feather command under the Select menu. There is Select > Modify > Feather. Now, Feather, what it's really doing is just softening the edge, but because you are viewing this as a selection marquee, the marquee is not going to quite accurately reflect what's going on here.
I am going to do a very aggressive feather here. I am going to type in 30 pixels here for my feather, go ahead and click OK. You will see that it just looks like the selection got rounded corners. Well, it's actually much more complex than that. There is actually a blend between opaque and transparent, but that marquee can't show you that. The marquee only shows you the 50% opacity line, between 0% and 100%. If you actually want to see what a real selection looks like, you want to use something called Quick Mask. Quick Mask is your friend because it honestly shows you what the real selection looks like.
To get to Quick Mask, you simply press the letter Q on your keyboard for Quick Mask. Now, you can see, everything that's solid red is 100% protected. Right, that's not selected. Everything that's clear in the middle there is selected. You can see there is a much softer transition between completely selected and completely unselected. Now, the default color of the Quick Mask overlay is this red color. Sometimes the red overlay color conflicts with the colors in the image. So, there is a lot of red in this flower.
You might want to pick a different Quick Mask color. Well, to do that, at the bottom of the Tools panel is the mode. Clicking on that button is the same thing as typing the letter Q. So, it's a toggle to go in and out of Quick Mask mode. Q is the same thing. Q to go back and forth. If you double-click on the icon, that brings up the Quick Mask Options where you can actually choose a different color that's a little bit more contrast-y with the image that you are currently working with. So, I am going to click on the red color chip. I am going to choose a color that's not in the image, like this really bright green. Click OK. Click OK again.
If I press the letter Q again to toggle into Quick Mask mode, now you can see it's much easier to see what the real selection looks like. It's not just this hard line that the marquee was showing you. There is a real nice area of softness between selected and protected. Press the letter Q again. It takes you back out to the regular standard view of a selection. Press Q again to go back into Quick Mask mode. Then there is one other way to view this selection while you are in Quick Mask mode. Maybe the color overlay is still just not quite accurate enough.
If you press the Tilde key, that's the little squiggly key. On English keyboards, that's to the left of the number 1 key. If you are using Photoshop in a different language or with a different keyboard, you will need to locate where that key is on your keyboard. This is now viewing your selection as if you had saved it as an alpha channel or a mask. Kind of geeky terms there, but basically, a selection and a mask are the same thing. Everywhere it's white, it's selected. Everywhere it's black, it's protected. And everywhere it's gray, it's somewhere in between.
So, while you are in Quick Mask mode, the Tilde key is a toggle to view your mask as the color overlay, so you see the image and the mask at the same time. The Tilde key is a way to focus in and really see the edge quality of that mask or selection that you are working with, while you are in the Quick Mask mode. If you press the letter Q, regardless if you are in the overlay mode or the viewing it as a mask mode, that will toggle you back out to the standard mode here where you are just seeing the marquee now. So, there you have it, a couple of different ways to view your selections, from kind of just a basic way to a more accurate way.
To get to that accurate preview of a selection, you go into Quick Mask mode. Press Q to toggle back and forth. It's a much better way to think and visualize about your selections.
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