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Refining Selection Edges in Adobe Photoshop CS5

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Use the improved Refine Edge dialog to apply refinements, such as feathering, to your selections. In this excerpt from Photoshop CS5 for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide, Elaine Weinmann and Peter Lourekas show you how.

Practical uses for this dialog are illustrated on pages 162–165 and 237.

To refine the edges of a selection: star.jpg

  1. Create a selection. With your selection tool still chosen, click Refine Edge on the Options bar or press Ctrl-Alt-R/Cmd-Option-R.
  2. Set the zoom level to 100% or 200% by pressing Ctrl- +/Cmd- +.
  3. To control how the selection previews in the document, choose from the View menu.A You can also choose a view by pressing the letter shortcut that’s listed on the menu, or cycle through them by pressing F. We’re partial to these views:

    Overlay (V) to view the selection as a Quick Mask (useful for viewing areas beyond the selection).

    On Black (B) to view the selection against a black background (useful if you’re going to copy the selection to a dark background or if the background areas are light).

    On White (W) to view the selection against a white background (useful if you’re going to copy the selection to a light background).

    On Layers (L) to view the selection on top of the layer immediately below it (useful for judging the selection edge against an underlying layer, if there is one).

  4. Check Smart Radius to allow the Radius to adapt to hard and soft edges in the imagery.

    If you want to widen the refinement area to include pixels just outside the selection edge, increase the Radius value (use the scrubby slider).

    To view the current refinement area, check Show Radius (J), then uncheck it before proceeding.

    • At any time, press P to toggle between the original selection and the refined one.
  5. In the Adjust Edge area, move any of the following sliders, if desired:

    To smooth out small bumps or jagged edges, raise the Smooth value slightly.

    To soften the transition between selected and unselected pixels, raise the Feather value.

    To heighten the contrast between pixels within the refinement area to remove noise from a high Radius value and produce a crisper selection edge, increase the Contrast value.

    To shrink the selection edge inward (to eliminate background pixels) or expand it outward from the edge, adjust the Shift Edge value slightly.

  6. In the Output area:

    If you want to replace background pixels along the edges of the selection with colors from within the selection, check Decontaminate Colors, then raise the Amount value.

    Choose Output To: Selection to refine the selection without putting its contents on a new layer. Or to copy the selection contents to a new layer, choose New Layer (no mask) or New Layer with Layer Mask (the shape of the selection appears in a layer mask). If Decontaminate Colors is checked, only new layer options will be available.

  7. Optional: Check Remember Settings to have the current settings become the new default values for the dialog.
  8. Click OK.

Refine a Selection Edge and Create a Silhouette — All in One Dialog!star.jpg

Using the Refine Radius tool in the Refine Edge dialog, along with the sliders, you can extend a selection border into specific areas manually. Here we’ll use these features to refine a selection of hair. Although these steps won’t work magically on every image, it’s a timesaver when they do.

To refine a selection of hair via the Refine Edge dialog: star.jpg

  1. Optional: Duplicate the Background, then create a solid-color layer between the Background and the duplicate image layer.
  2. In a photo that contains fine hair strands, use the Quick Selection or Magic Wand tool to create a selection.A
  3. Click Refine Edge to open the Refine Edge dialog. Set all the sliders to zero and uncheck Decontaminate Colors.
  4. Choose On White or On Black view. (Or if you created a solid-color layer below the duplicate layer, choose On Layers view.) Check Smart Radius and set the Radius value to 20–30 px.B
  5. Click the Refine Radius tool,radius.jpg and press X to view the original image layer. Press ] or [ to change the brush to a medium size, then drag over the fine hair strands. Your brush work will display as green strokes (AB, next page).
  6. Press X to return to your View choice. Raise or lower the Radius value to better define the hair strands. Also try increasing the Shift Edge value slightly to reveal more strands. (Keep the Contrast, Smooth, and Feather values at 0 so they don’t hinder the Refine Radius tool effect.)
  7. Check Decontaminate Colors, then raise the Amount value until any background colors are removed (CD, next page).
  8. Choose Output To: New Layer with Layer Mask, then click OK. Now, wasn’t that easy?
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