10 Incredible Tips and Tricks to Make Perfect Selections in Photoshop

In this Photoshop tutorial, we’ll unleash the full potential of the selection tools in Photoshop. I’m going to share with you 10 incredible tips and tricks! In this tutorial, you’ll learn the secrets to getting better masks and making perfect selections every time. Discover the power of artificial intelligence in Photoshop, and how to use channels and blend modes to take your selections to the next level. Explore the unexpected ways of using the brush tool and learn how to harness the power of smart objects, layers, Select and Mask, and much more. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced user, these tips and tricks will help you achieve professional-level results in no time. I hope you enjoy it!

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Tip 1: Interesting ways to get base selections

Getting the base selection is the most important part of being able to make the edges look good. Photoshop has a number of tools and methods. The tools are things like the Lasso tool, the Pen tool, Object Selection tool, the Quick Selection tool, and yes, even the Magic Wand. We’re going to focus on the methods, these are things like the Select Subject, Select Focus Area, Select Sky, and Select Color Range.

We’ll quickly test selecting the sky and then the subject on the photo of the horse jumping.

Using the image of the three friends, let’s say we wanted to change the color of the blue glasses to match the yellow glasses. Selecting sky, subject, based on what is in focus, etc… would not work. But we have the ability to select everything that is of a specific color or tone using Color Range.

We’ll use the Rectangular marquee to help Photoshop target the glasses first. Then using Color Range, we can add colors to our selection. TIP: change the selection view to see the selection better. 2x TIP: when sampling colors with this eyedropper, it retains your eyedropper settings and if you are selecting a large area of color (31×31, etc…) you will not get a good selection for a thin object like these glasses. You can change the eyedropper setting even with this dialog box open.

Once you have a selection, use a simple Hue/Sat to make the glasses yellow.

Using the Macaw image, we’ll explore the Select Focus Area and dial this in using the slider for the in-focus range. To help with seeing what selection will be made, toggle the view modes. This is my favorite of the AI selection features because of the customizing and preview functionality that you get so quickly. TIP: you can also take this initial selection into Select and Mask right from this dialog.

Depending on how the selection turns out, you can tick on the soften edges feature and see if it makes a better selection. Output this selection as a new layer with layer mask.

You also have an AI option to select and mask everything in one-click, but it’s not really up to snuff yet. Cool to see, though.

Tip 2: Reducing mask density

Add a solid color below the macaw to check the selection. Notice that some parts of the bird are missing. Select the mask and use the Properties panel to reduce the density of the mask to 2-3% and find areas that are missing and use the brush tool to paint them back in.

Tip 3: The Smudge tool and masking is a superpower

With something as complex as the macaw, we have bit deep in the divergence of two feathers where the selection didn’t really get it done. We could use the brush tool and painstakingly use a round-edges tool to try and make this look good, but it’s not going to work very well.

The trick is to use the Smudge tool on the mask. Simply drag the mask edges around and naturally use the fading effect of the Smudge tool to make it look natural. Getting rid of all those bad edges is easy work now.

Tip 4: Getting true clean, sharp edges with Select and Mask

Place a layer filled with the color black under the donuts. Use Focus Area to select the donuts and enter the Select and Mask mode.

Clean up areas of the selection that need to be added or removed with the brush or quick mask tools. TIP: Quickly change the brush head size Alt (PC) or Ctrl+Opt (Mac) and clicking and dragging side-to-side. Slide up and down for adjusting the softness.

Now use the smooth slider to get rid of some of the bumpiness and then use feather to expand a glow out from the edges to smooth it even more. Finally, use the contrast slider to pull the halo effect out of the smoothed edge and tweak the shift edge slider to get a perfect edge.

NOTE: Use the smudge technique if the selection has some corners that need to be cleaned up.

Tip 5: Brush trick for better edges

Create a selection around the dog with Select Subject and enter Select and Mask mode. Use the Refine edge brush tool to clean up around the puffy hood edge and output to a layer mask. This will show through the background we have in place.

If we zoom in on the edges, we will see some subtle haloing. This we can target and remove effectively by using the Brush tool set the blend mode Soft Light and paint with black until the edges clean up. TIP: You can use this same large, soft-edged brush to clean up some of the glow around the puffy hoodie edge as well.

Tip 6: Lighten or Darken Edges

One good way to do this correction is to duplicate the subject and set it to the Multiply blend mode (Screen blend mode if you wish to brighten the edges) and then select the original mask, contract it, and then feather it and use that selection to save only a faded edge all around the subject. TIP: You can also clip this edge darken/brighten layer to the subject to clean up the edges further.

Another way to brighten or darken an edge is by duplicating the layer and setting the lower layer to Screen or Multiply and then applying a layer mask to the top layer and painting black to hide parts of the edges that need to have better blending with the background. TIP: You can either drag the layer into a layer group (Cmd/Ctrl + G) or convert the layer to a Smart Object if it already has a mask. This will allow you to add a layer mask to the group, or the smart object.

Tip 7: Ultra complex selection with one simple trick

With certain ultra-complex subjects, you can take advantage of the channels to quickly create extremely complex, yet shockingly accurate selections. With this photo of a tree, we can grab the blue color channel and duplicate it. Then, use Levels to adjust the black and white to get edges that look more like we would want.

The white areas of this channel will be what is selected, so you can invert this entire channel if you think it would be more useful.

Use that channel to make a selection and replace the entire background around the tree with white.

Tip 8: Clean all mask edges with one adjustment

To build on a mask like we just created with the channel, you can target the mask and use the Levels adjustment directly on it to expand, contract, or feather the edges of every single edge of this tree mask with a simple slide back and forth in the Levels adjustment.

Tip 9: Double Select and Mask for complex and simple selections

Make the rough first selection using any of the selection tools. Enter Select and Mask. We will focus on getting a good edge for the sweater and her hand, before worrying about her hair. First, set this to output to a Layer Mask. Then try different view modes to double check that we aren’t losing any parts of her hand or sweater, etc…

Use the Edge detection slider to see if that will pick up and help the edges look a little more natural. Something like 3-5px should be enough for many images to find a good edge and see what Photoshop can do.

After that, a little edge smoothing, feathering, and contrast might help. These settings all depend on your image size and how well Photoshop is able to find the edges of your subject. Keep playing with them until you get a better result.

Commit this change and then immediately go back into Select and Mask. Notice that all the sliders have been zeroed out. This means we can now focus just on her hair and get a good selection without worrying about smoothing or feathering it.

Use the Refine Edge brush, as small as you can while still having it straddle across the edge for Photoshop to examine, and paint along the edges of her hair and see how Photoshop does picking out a selection for you.

Place a lighter solid color adjustment layer beneath her. #dfd0b3 NOTE: Some images simply work better with light background, others are better with dark backgrounds, and some images seem to work with everything.

Use Soft Light brushing and the Smudge tool to clean up the hair edges as needed.

Tip 10: The enigma of decontaminate edge

If we take a complex and semi-opaque thing like this burst of powder smoke, we can create a selection with Select Subject and tweak it with the Quick Selection tool. Then enter Select and Mask and refine the edges with the Refine Edge Brush tool. After doing that, tick on the Decontaminate Edge button and maybe even play with the slider. This is where it can be useful to have your background image in place and change the view mode to see the cut out object over the image.