Join Jan Kabili for an in-depth discussion in this video Selecting hair, pt. 1, part of Photoshop CS5: Selections in Depth.
You may have found it challenging, in past versions of Photoshop, to select soft edges composed of fine detail, like my hair in this photograph, or a cat's fur, or the leaves of a tree. It's a lot easier to do that now in Photoshop CS5, thanks to new and improved selection and masking technology. In the next couple of movies, I'm going to show you how to refine the edge of a soft selection, like hair, using controls in the Refine Edge dialog box. What I'd like to do is make a selection around my hair in this photograph, so that I can mask out the plain background to see through to the more interesting background on the sky layer below.
I'll start by checking that the hair layer is selected in the Layers panel. I'm going to make an initial rough selection around my hair. I can use any of the selection tools. I'm going to use the Lasso tool, because it's quick and easy in this case. I'll click and drag just inside the edge of my hair, I'm going to go around the entire document and back to the beginning and release my mouse. I left the edge details out of the initial selection because I found that I get better results in the Refine Edge dialog box that way. I'll open the Refine Edge dialog box, either by going up to the Select menu and choosing Refine Edge or by clicking the Refine Edge button in the Options bar for any of the selection tools.
The first stop in the Refine Edge dialog box is the View menu. From this menu, I'll choose the way that I'm able to view the selection here in the Document window while I'm refining it. I normally don't bother opening this menu. I'll just press F on my keyboard to cycle through these views as I'm working in the Refine Edge dialog box. Or if I remember the keyboard shortcut for a particular view, which is displayed to the right of each of the views in this menu, I can just press that shortcut. Let's take a quick look at the different views.
The Marching Ants view is the standard selection view. The Overlay view shows the non-selected areas behind this red translucent mask. This is similar to Quick Mask view in Photoshop proper, a subject that I'll cover in other movies in this course. There is also an On Black and an On White view. I might use one of these views if I'm working with an image that has just a single layer, selecting an area that I know I'm later going to put on a light background or on a dark background.
The Black & White view displays the selection as a grayscale mask, much like a layer mask or a mask in an alpha channel. In this view, the white pixels represent the fully selected area, the black pixels the fully non-selected area, and in-between there are some great pixels that represent a partially selected area. I can zoom in to see that by selecting the Zoom tool in the Refine Edge dialog box and clicking with it, and there you can see those gray pixels. To go back to 100% view, I'll double- click the Zoom tool in the dialog box.
I'll go back to the View menu to show you another view, the On layers view. With this view, I can see the area that I've selected against the content of the layers below. I like to use this view when I'm making a composite, as I'm doing here, because it's most like my final result. Finally, there is a Reveal layer view that shows the image as if it weren't masked or selected. I'm going to start with the On layers view. To close this menu, I'll click in a blank area of the dialog box, and I'll start refining my initial selection edge by going to the Radius slider and dragging the Radius slider to the right.
As I do so, I'm bringing back more of the fine detail in the edges of my hair. If I take the slider too far, the background starts to break through. That isn't the result that I want, so I'm going to back off a bit on the Radius slider. In this case, I'll put it just about here. I'd like you to understand just what the Radius slider does, because I think that will help you to use it correctly. Contrary to what you might think, moving the Radius slider does not directly move the selection edge; instead, the Radius slider defines a transition area between pixels that are selected, and those that aren't.
I can show you that transition area by going up to the Show Radius command and clicking its check box. Now, you can see the transition area, which is the clear area here in the middle of the image. Defining a transition area is like saying to Photoshop, "Hey! I can see which pixels to select and which pixels not to select, but I'm not sure exactly which of the fine details of my hair should be selected. So I'm just going to tell you where the transition area is and then Photoshop, I'm going to back off and leave it to you to decide what to select in that transition area and how selected the pixels should be there." And the way that I define that transition area for Photoshop is with the radius controls.
So if I drag the Radius slider to the left with Show Radius checked, you can actually see that I'm narrowing the transition area, and if I drag to the right, I'm expanding the transition area. To say this in more precise terms, the radius value that I set in this field is the maximum number of pixels in each direction from my initial selection edge in which Photoshop will refine the selection. Notice that there's another command here, the Smart Radius command. If I check that command, I'm letting Photoshop define the transition area for me.
In this case, it's made the transition area pretty narrow. So if I uncheck Show Radius, you can see that in this case, I'm not getting a great result using Smart Radius. That's not to say that Smart Radius isn't helpful in some images, but in this image, I think it's better for me to define the radius myself using the Radius slider and the other radius controls that I'll show you in the next movie. So I'm going to uncheck Smart Radius. So this is a pretty good start to selecting the fine detail at the edge of my hair.
There's more that I can do, however, making use of some other controls like the Refine Edge tools here, the Shift Edge slider, and the Decontaminate Colors control. I'm going to show you those in the next movies. So at this point, I'd suggest that you leave your image open and leave the Refine Edge dialog box open and move right on to the next movie. You might also want to check Remember Settings here, so just in case you close the Refine Edge dialog box, the next time that you open it on this image, it will have the same settings that you see here.
- Understanding the when and why of making selections
- Combining and transforming selections
- Selecting fine detail with Refine Edge
- Capturing soft and hard edges in one selection
- Understanding the relationship of selections to masks
- Removing color fringe around selections
- Using the Marquee and Lasso tools
- Working with the Color Range command
- Selecting with the Pen tool and paths
- Making easy selections with the Quick Selection tool
- Working with Refine Mask
- Sharing selections between images