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Often you are going to want to fine-tune your selections. Fortunately, Photoshop gathers all the fine-tuning controls into one convenient location for you called the Refine Edge panel. From there you will be able to soften your selection edges, contract and expand them, and otherwise refine your selections to make them fit your images. Before I show you the Refine Edge panel, I need to have a selection going and so I am going to use my favorite Selection tool, which I showed you in another movie, the Quick Selection tool here. I am going to go to the Options Bar and set it back to its default icon, which is the first one here, and then I am going to come in and just drag down the river with a very small brush, letting the tool select the river for me.
Then I will go back to the Options bar and I will click on the minus icon and I will come in and go over these small areas that the tool added to the selection and I really don't want them in here because I want only the river selected at this point. I am not going to be too careful because I am going to let the Refine Edge dialog do a lot of this work for me. Here is just a couple of spots to get and I am done. Now I actually wanted to have the banks of the river selected rather than the river itself. So to do that, I am going up to the Select menu and I am going to choose Inverse and now everything is selected except the river.
So now I am going to open the Refine Edge dialog to refine the edges of the selection along the trees here. I can access the Refine Edge dialog from the Options bar for this tool and for other selection tools or I can go to the Select menu and open the Refine Edge dialog box from here. The first thing to notice about the Refine Edge dialog box is that it shows the selection not as marching ants by default but rather against a white background. Alternatively, I can view the selected trees against a black background or against this mask view or I can see the actual mask that Photoshop is creating from this selection.
A mask is just another way of displaying a selection and in this case, when you look at the mask, the selected areas are white, the non-selected areas are black, and the partially selected edges of the trees are various shades of gray. In this case, I prefer to use the white background. So with that option selected, I am going to use these controls to refine my selection. I usually start by putting everything over all the way to the left back to 0 to see how the selection would look without any changes. As you can see, it's pretty rough.
Then I am going to go to the Radius slider at the top and I am going to move that over to the right. I will go a little ways and then I will release my mouse and as I go, I see that the edges of the trees, including the individual branches, are starting to come back as I refine that selection edge. And you will notice that when I am hovering over the Radius control, at the bottom of this dialog box, there is a description that tells me that radius will improve the edge in areas with either soft transitions or fine details. These are certainly fine details and I think the Radius slider is doing a pretty good job of it for me.
Now along with radius, I will sometimes use Contrast because when you increase the radius, you do sometimes get a little bit of fuzzy artifact along the selection edge as the description tells us here. So I am going to move the Contrast slider over a little and you can see the edges on my trees filling in with a little more contrast there. There are some other sliders that sometimes come in handy. Sometimes, I will move the Contract/ Expand slider over to the left a bit to contract a selection edge. That helps you move any fringes of dark or light pixels that sometimes appear on the edge of the selection.
And sometimes I will use Feather, particularly when I am making a selection of an object that I want to include in a collage. So I'll want to have a soft edge that blends with another background. So you can see that when I pull Feather over to the right, it blurs the edge of this selection. I am going to take that back to 0 in this particular case and finally, there is a Smooth slider that does what it says. It makes selection edges smoother. And again, I don't want that in this case. So when I am all done, I am just going to click OK, and that takes me back out to my normal selection view with the marching ants.
When you are viewing your initial selection with marching ants, like reviewing this selection, it's almost impossible to judge the quality of the edge. So it's always a good idea to go into Refine Edge to review your selection against the various backgrounds offered there and to use the sliders in Refine Edge to fine-tune the selection that you have made with any of the selection tools.
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