Use Refine Edge to Select Soft-Edged Objects in Photoshop CC
Selecting soft-edged objects using Refine Edge
In order to select the soft-edged object like this dog, we are going to use the Quick Select tool to start the selection, but then we are going to need to go in and modify that edge using the Refine Edge command. In this case, I want to desaturate the background color so that the dog stands out a bit more as the main subject. So in order to select the Quick Select tool I can tap the W key, or we can select it here from the tool pallette. Now I want to click and drag over the dog, and what I really want to do is I want to select areas that are 100% dog. And I don't want to select areas necessarily that are transition of dog and background.
So I want to make sure I get his paw and. His ear but I don't want this area here. So I can either switch to the Subtract From tool, or we can just hold down the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key on Windows, and I'm just going to go in here and drag through that area and right in here. Oh. And then if it goes to far then I just release the Option or the Alt key and we can add those colors back in. And I think I want to just zoom in once using Command or Control plus, and then just subtract this little area right here in the front of his paw.
Alright, so if I zoom in again using Cmd+plus, what I mean by selecting the dog is all the areas within the marching ants are almost 100% dog. There's a few areas like here where there's transitional areas, but I don't want to try to select every single piece of fur here. I can go ahead and do that using the Refine Edge. I just want to make sure that if there's something that really isn't part of the dog that I subtract it. So here, for example, I might want to just subtract right down here. Again, I might need to go back in and just kind of play back and forth between what I'm subtracting out of and what I'm adding back into. And, of course, we can always touch up this mess when we come out of the Refine Edge.
I'm really using the Refine Edge for the areas like this of the hair. Alright so once we've got that selected we'll click Refine Edge. And there are several different ways that we can view Refine Edge. You'll notice that there's a drop down menu so if I just want to see the marching ants I can or an overlay. I can view it on black or on white we can look at the black and white mask. Or on layers or we can even reveal the layer. And you can see that each one of these options has its own keyboard shortcut. So let's go ahead and do this against white for now. And what we need to do is we need to use a combination of the radius, and the smart radius to detect the edge. So let me just show you what the radius looks like. I'm going to check on the option up here.
And then let's increase the radius. So the radius is the area that I'm telling Photoshop to look in. It's the transitional area. It's the area that I say, okay we're transitioning from my subject, in this case from dog to background. So those are the areas that I want refine edge to go in and create a soft edge mask. And there might be some areas in the image that are softer than others. You might be really fuzzy on the tail, but then maybe on the front of the paw it's a little harder edge. So I want Photoshop and Refined Edge to be smart, so I'll turn on the Smart Radius as well.
Now, as we're actually doing this, we don't want to show the radius, so I'll turn that off, but you can see that the mask is very different. I'll use the space bar here and just scoot over so that we can see the dog's face. And although the mask looks kind of weird right now. And this kept me away from using Refine Edge for a while. But what I didn't realize is that the mask that's being shown in Refine Edge. It's only showing you varying levels of transparency, and sometimes when those levels of transparency get too low, it's really hard to see the mask.
so let's go ahead and work on this and just go with me on this, and you'll see in the end that it actually creates a really nice mask. In order to refine it, I need to select the Refine Radius tool. And I'm going to click and drag, and you can see as I paint, what I'm telling Refine Edge is that that hot spot I'm painting on the dog on the fur, but I want it to look in the entire circle area for transitional areas, and I want it to recalculate it. So when I let go of my cursor, you can see that Refine Edge has recalculated that area.
And this enables me to go in and find additional areas that it might have missed initially. Now it also kind of made this part of the dog semi-transparent, which is not a good thing. So I can either hold down the Option or Alt key, or we can switch over to the Erase Refinement tool. And I'm just going to paint in and say, you know Photoshop I need that to be pure dog, I don't want you to have any transparency in that area, and then I'll go ahead and fix that. Then we'll switch to the refined radius, and we'll just come down in here and just kind of refine this. And then I definitely need to go here to the tail because this selection would be way too harsh, and I just need to drag out around those little fuzzy areas of the tail.
It looks like it's cutting up into the mask too much, but it's really not. And are you noticing that where ever there's more contrast in the image, usually Refine Edge does a much better job. Now there I'm going to undo that Command or Ctrl+ z, I want to see what that looks like. I actually think the mass there will be just fine the way it is. And then we'll scoot around. And I'm just visually kind of looking at the mask right now to see areas that I might need to touch up. But it's looking pretty good. Oh, let's see on this ear here. Are there any areas there it needs to grab? Probably not. Let's undo that and I'm just going to get just a smaller area right there. I just wanted to look in there again.
Okay, now it's cutting in a little bit too far into the dog. So I'll just hold down the Option or the Alt key. We'll just say nope that is pure dog right there. So now I've got the mask refined, and now all I need to do is decide what I want to output. Because we have a bunch of options. I'm just going to chose a selection, but you could output directly to a layer mask, or to a new layer, in which case it would copy this and paste it on its own layer. A new layer with a layer mask, a new document, or a new document with a layer mask. I just want to selection, because I'm not trying to lift the dog off the background.
Remember, I'm just trying to get a selection of the dog so that then I can invert that selection, and desaturate that background to make that dog stand out more. So I'll choose Selection, click OK, I see my marching ants. So now I'm going to add a hue saturation adjustment layer. I'll select that, the only thing is when I desaturate we can see that just the opposite is happening. The dog is being desaturated. So instead, what I need to do is scoot over to my mask. Well at the top of the Properties panel you can see this is the icon for my adjustment.
But if I just click on this icon for my mask, now we're working with a mask and there's a button right here that says, Invert. So now my mask is inverted, we can move back to the hue saturation adjustments, and we can continue to decrease the saturation. I'm going to take it all the way down, just to show you when we're working on the mask, you might actually want to. Desaturate completely if your going to bring it back up, then fine no problem it's not going to hurt anything to make sure that your mask is really a good mask with complete desaturation.
Alright, so we've got the mask selected here and let's just collapse the properties. You can see where the mask is white, we're seeing the adjustment, where the mask is black it's hiding the adjustment. So if I need to hide the adjustment. In any other areas, well then I'll select my paintbrush. So we can tap the B key, that will select your paintbrush. And just to make sure that our setting are all the same, let's go ahead and on the Mac hold down the Control key. And then click here and choose Reset Tools. On the Windows you can just right mouse click and choose Reset Tool.
That way I know that all these settings are the same, and we all have the same size brush. And then, I need to figure out what color I'm going to paint with, and what I want to do is I want to hide the mask right here. See where the fur is becoming desaturated? Well I need to hide that, so I need to paint with black. Well, right now, white is my foreground color so if I just tap the x key. The X key will exchange my foreground and background color, so that now I can just paint in a little bit right down here, in that fur area to hide, remember I'm hiding my adjustment layer, because the adjustment layer's what's taking it to grayscale.
I can scoot up here. All this looks really good. Let's scoot around to the back. Tail looks great. Right here I might want to just paint a little bit more. And then here I can see a little bit of saturation down in the foreground. I actually don't want that, so what I need to do is I need to exchange my foreground and background colors, so now I'm painting with white, and I'm painting in my adjustment, cause my adjustment's what taking this to gray scale. I'm just going to paint that in right there. So, just a few little touch ups and that's looking much better.
Let's go ahead and zoom out. And I'm going to decrease the amount of adjustment by double-clicking on the Adjustment icon in the Layers panel. And then just increasing back the saturation a little bit. And of course we could do other things. We could change the hue or we could actually colorize the whole background if we wanted to map it to a single hue, and then just desaturate that. Maybe get a bit, a little bit of sepia tone or something. Lots of different things you can do with the adjustment layers. The point being, something that's really soft edge like the dog. It's going to be quite difficult to paint a mask by hand. It's going to be much easier if you select a tool like the Quick Select, and then use Refine Edge in order to refine those soft edges of a mask.
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