Photoshop CS4 Essential Training
Illustration by Don Barnett

Using the Quick Selection tool


Photoshop CS4 Essential Training

with Jan Kabili

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Video: Using the Quick Selection tool

The Quick Selection tool, which was introduced in the last version of Photoshop, is so often the most useful of the Selection tools. With this tool, you get to paint in your selections. You just click-and-drag over part of the image and the tool selects similar colors and tones to those you are dragging over. It will even find the edges of a tonal area to set selection boundaries for you. I am a real fan of this tool. Let me show you how it works. Let's say here that I want to select the sky. I am going to go over to my toolbox and I am going to select the Quick Selection tool here.
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  1. 2m 31s
    1. Welcome
      1m 27s
    2. Using the example files
      1m 4s
  2. 25m 14s
    1. Touring the interface
      4m 25s
    2. Working with tabbed documents
      5m 15s
    3. Using tools efficiently
      3m 51s
    4. Arranging panels
      3m 53s
    5. Customizing keyboard shortcuts
      2m 50s
    6. Saving a custom workspace
      3m 0s
    7. Changing screen modes
      2m 0s
  3. 19m 3s
    1. Touring the Bridge interface
      6m 31s
    2. Opening images from Bridge
      1m 20s
    3. Reviewing images
      4m 42s
    4. Finding images
      6m 30s
  4. 44m 53s
    1. Setting preferences
      4m 23s
    2. Choosing color settings
      8m 11s
    3. Zooming and panning
      5m 27s
    4. Resizing and image resolution
      3m 17s
    5. Adding to the canvas
      2m 2s
    6. Rotating the canvas
      1m 44s
    7. Choosing color
      4m 49s
    8. Sizing a brush tip
      3m 4s
    9. Undoing and the History panel
      5m 0s
    10. Saving and file formats
      3m 29s
    11. Creating a file from scratch
      3m 27s
  5. 37m 58s
    1. Making geometric selections
      6m 14s
    2. Modifying selections
      4m 43s
    3. Combining selections
      3m 16s
    4. Using the Quick Selection tool
      5m 34s
    5. Refining selection edges
      4m 12s
    6. Using Quick Mask mode
      2m 18s
    7. Selecting with the improved Color Range command
      4m 32s
    8. Selecting with the Magnetic Lasso tool
      2m 28s
    9. Using the Background Eraser tool
      3m 7s
    10. Saving selections
      1m 34s
  6. 39m 56s
    1. Understanding layers
      5m 43s
    2. Creating layers
      5m 12s
    3. Working in the Layers panel
      2m 19s
    4. Locking layers
      4m 17s
    5. Working with multiple layers
      4m 6s
    6. Merging and flattening layers
      3m 55s
    7. Adding a shape layer
      4m 43s
    8. Basic layer masking
      4m 23s
    9. Using layer blend modes and opacity
      5m 18s
  7. 23m 19s
    1. Cropping
      3m 26s
    2. Straightening
      3m 17s
    3. Transforming
      4m 42s
    4. Working with Smart Objects
      6m 48s
    5. Using Content-Aware Scaling
      5m 6s
  8. 1h 10m
    1. Reading histograms
      4m 21s
    2. Using adjustment layers and the Adjustment panel
      6m 4s
    3. Adjusting tones with Levels
      7m 49s
    4. Limiting adjustments with layer masks
      5m 40s
    5. Using masks in the new Masks panel
      6m 9s
    6. Limiting adjustments by clipping
      3m 6s
    7. Adjusting with Shadow/Highlight
      5m 7s
    8. Adjusting with Curves
      7m 37s
    9. Adjusting with Hue/Saturation
      3m 42s
    10. Adjusting with Vibrance
      2m 16s
    11. Removing a color cast
      4m 26s
    12. Using the Black & White adjustment layer
      2m 39s
    13. Using the Dodge Burn and Sponge tools
      4m 11s
    14. Reducing noise
      2m 39s
    15. Sharpening
      4m 42s
  9. 38m 0s
    1. Using the Spot Healing Brush tool
      5m 17s
    2. Using the Healing Brush tool
      5m 51s
    3. Using the Patch tool
      4m 52s
    4. Using the Clone Stamp tool
      4m 8s
    5. Enhancing eyes
      9m 29s
    6. Changing facial structure
      5m 0s
    7. Softening skin
      3m 23s
  10. 44m 38s
    1. What's a raw image?
      4m 25s
    2. Touring the Camera Raw interface
      7m 35s
    3. Working in the Basic panel
      7m 54s
    4. Working in the Tone Curve panel
      2m 21s
    5. Working in the HSL/Grayscale and Split Toning panels
      3m 46s
    6. Looking at the other Camera Raw panels
      3m 45s
    7. Using the Adjustment Brush tool
      4m 2s
    8. Using the Graduated Filter tool
      3m 56s
    9. Working with multiple files
      6m 54s
  11. 21m 6s
    1. Using the Brushes panel
      8m 30s
    2. Filling with color
      3m 49s
    3. Replacing color
      4m 14s
    4. Using gradients
      4m 33s
  12. 16m 55s
    1. Working with point type
      9m 59s
    2. Working with paragraph type
      3m 17s
    3. Warping text
      3m 39s
  13. 25m 23s
    1. Adding a layer style
      4m 6s
    2. Customizing a layer style
      3m 35s
    3. Copying a layer style
      3m 5s
    4. Creating a new style
      3m 32s
    5. Using Smart Filters
      5m 22s
    6. Working in the Filter Gallery
      5m 43s
  14. 13m 14s
    1. Auto-blending focus
      4m 47s
    2. Creating Photomerge panoramas
      4m 2s
    3. Combining group photos
      4m 25s
  15. 23m 27s
    1. Creating an action
      7m 16s
    2. Batch processing with an action
      6m 36s
    3. Using the Image Processor
      9m 35s
  16. 29m 20s
    1. Printing
      11m 32s
    2. Making a contact sheet from Bridge
      6m 12s
    3. Creating a web gallery from Bridge
      7m 17s
    4. Preparing photos for the web
      4m 19s
  17. 30s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CS4 Essential Training
7h 55m Beginner Oct 13, 2008

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Photoshop has become an indispensible tool for photographers, designers, and all other creative professionals, as well as students. Photoshop CS4 Essential Training teaches a broad spectrum of core skills that are common to many creative fields: working with layers and selections; adjusting, manipulating, and retouching photos; painting; adding text; automating; preparing files for output; and more. Instructor Jan Kabili demonstrates established techniques as well as those made possible by some of the new features unique to Photoshop CS4. This course is indispensable to those who are new to the application, just learning this version, or expanding their skills. Example files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Learning and customizing the interface and workspace
  • Utilizing various manual and guided selection techniques
  • Working with Adobe Camera Raw
  • Adding special effects with layer styles and Smart Filters
  • Creating Photomerge panoramas
  • Optimizing photos for the web and creating web galleries
Jan Kabili

Using the Quick Selection tool

The Quick Selection tool, which was introduced in the last version of Photoshop, is so often the most useful of the Selection tools. With this tool, you get to paint in your selections. You just click-and-drag over part of the image and the tool selects similar colors and tones to those you are dragging over. It will even find the edges of a tonal area to set selection boundaries for you. I am a real fan of this tool. Let me show you how it works. Let's say here that I want to select the sky. I am going to go over to my toolbox and I am going to select the Quick Selection tool here.

In the Tool Options Bar, I do have an option to sample all layers. You can see in the Layers panel that I do have more than one layer in this file but I don't want to sample them both. All I want to do is sample the photo layer because that's where the sky is located. So I will not check Sample All Layers. I am also not going to check Auto-Enhance. What Auto-Enhance does is attempts to give me a very smooth selection, and I don't really need a smooth selection here because I have a lot of sharp corners at the edges of the building and the sky. So I am going to leave Auto- Enhance Unchecked as well.

Then I am going to come into the image and I am going to resize my brush. I'd like to size the brush right in the image rather than up in the Brush Picker in the Options Bar up here because in the image, I really get a sense of how big the brush tip is going to be on this particular image. So I am going to press my Left Bracket key to make the brush small. It's best to work with a very small brush when you are using the Quick Select tool. Now I am going to go over and start selecting the sky. So I am going to press down on my mouse and start dragging as I paint in this selection.

You can see that Photoshop has just run off in front of me and selected the whole thing for me and I am done. Well, I am almost done because as you can see, this isn't a perfect selection yet. One thing about the Selection Brush is that after you make your initial selection, it immediately is ready to add to the selection. You don't have to go up to the Options Bar and click on the Add To icon. So if I wanted for example to add this extra bit over here, I would make my brush even smaller and just click on that portion and it would be added to the selection. Then if you want to eliminate some areas from the selection, like this bit here and over on the right, you would go to the Options Bar and select the minus sign, and then come in and drag over the areas that you want to subtract from the selection.

And this sometimes works well, but sometimes you end up going back and forth between adding to and subtracting from. So there you see I went too far and now I have to go back and add to and to, and that can be a little time-consuming. So there is something else that you can do instead, and that is you can train the Quick Selection Brush before you use it, teaching it what you don't want to be included in your selection. That's just so great that I have to show you. So I am going to delete the selection I have now by pressing Command+D on a Mac, or Ctrl+D on the PC. And I am going to go back and this time, with the Quick Selection Brush, I am just going to select a small area to start and then I am going to go up to the Options Bar and I am going to click the minus icon.

And now with the minus icon, I am going to go over all the colors and tones that I don't want to have selected here. We just have to go around the edges of the buildings and I am even going to make my brush small enough to travel up that little chimney there, going all the way around. It's kind of hard to draw with a mouse. It's like drawing with a bar of soap, isn't it? All right, here we go. I am almost done. There. Now if I go back to the Options Bar and click the plus icon there and come back into my image and start drawing a selection, notice that Photoshop obeys my training and it did not include in the selection, the buildings over here this time, and it even left out of the selection that small chimney that I trained it to avoid.

So that's the way that I suggest that you use this really amazing tool. That's just to show you that there is a reason to have made this selection, I am going to press the Delete key on my keyboard. That's the Backspace key on a PC to cut that sky away and that allows me to see the pink sky on the layer below, and then I'll press Command+D on the Mac, Ctrl+D on the PC to delete that selection. I am going to revert this file to its original, and if you are working with me with the Exercise Files, I suggest you do that too. By going up to the File menu at the top of the screen and choosing Revert, and that will bring back that gray sky.

Before we had the Quick Selection tool in Photoshop CS3, the only similar tool that we had was the Magic Wand. It's still there and you may still use it but it just isn't as useful as the Quick Selection tool mostly because you can't control which areas it's going to select as well as you can with the Quick Selection tool. So just to see what the Magic Wand does, I am going back to the Quick Selection tool slot and I'll chose Magic Wand tool. Now with this tool, depending where I click in the sky, Photoshop is going to select different areas. Now here it went too far and included some of the blue and brown.

If I click somewhere else, it'll take a different selection and so on like this. So the difficulty here is controlling exactly what will be selected. What the tool does is looks at the color and tone of the pixel you happened to click on and then it selects within a range of similar colors and tones. So what you can try to do is to change that range of tones by changing the number in the Tolerance field here in the Options Bar. So maybe, I'll try 50 and see what happens and now I'll come in and I'll try clicking again. Well, that time is selected too much.

So although the Magic Wand is still there, I prefer using the Quick Selection tool whenever I can because it just gives me more control over selecting by color and tone.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photoshop CS4 Essential Training .

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Q: How can artwork be transferred from Photoshop CS4 to Illustrator CS4 without the background?
A: Save the image in Photoshop’s native PSD format. The background in Photoshop must be transparent, meaning there should be no background layer. (To remove a background layer, move your artwork to a separate layer by selecting and copying the content, minus the background, to a new layer, and then delete the background layer. A checkboard pattern behind your image indicates transparent pixels.) 

In Illustrator, select File > Open, and select the PSD file. In Photoshop Import dialog box, select Convert Layers to Objects.

Q: How do I retouch an image I have of an old photograph I scanned?
A: There are a few courses that address image restoration. Check out the Photoshop CS4 Portrait Retouching Essential Training course, and for problems dealing specifically with old photographs, watch the Restoration movies in chapter 15 of the Enhancing Digital Photography with Photoshop CS2. Additionally, learn how to research and date photos with our Growing and Sharing Your Family Tree course.
Q: A client has asked for artwork to be delivered as JPEGs or BMP files in 16-bit format. In Photoshop CS4, there does not appear to be an option to save an image as a 16-bit JPEG. Is there a way to save JPEG files as 16-bit in Photoshop?
A: Unfortunately, JPEGs cannot be saved in 16 bit. JPEGs, by nature, are 8-bit. So if you open a high-bit image into Photoshop CS4, you will see no option in any of the save dialog boxes to save the file as a JPEG. You would first have to convert the image to 8 bit (by choosing Image > Mode > 8 bits/channel) and then save it as an 8-bit JPEG. If you open a high-bit image into Photoshop CS5, you will see the option to save it as a JPEG in the Save, Save As, and Save for Web dialog boxes.  But the JPEG will not be saved as 16-bit. Instead, Photoshop will downsample it to 8-bit for you  before saving it as JPEG.
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