ActionFx.com Resources for Photoshop
The ability to select an object in an image to either remove it from its background or isolate the object for specific correction/manipulation has certainly been available in earlier versions of Photoshop forever. The problem people seem to have has always been the quality of the selections. For instance, isolating and extracting flyaway hair on a model from a background is a bane for many if not most people. Some pixels invariably get left behind, background pixels travel with the hair or a combination of both.
Adobe Photoshop CS3 comes to the rescue by adding a truly powerful selection tool that gives the user incredible control over the quality of their selections. Called the Quick Selection Tool, it is found in the toolbar and has been coupled in a group with the Magic Wand. Adobe has recognized the strength of this tool over the wand, so much so that it has given the Quick Selection Tool top billing in the palette (the Magic Wand now resides in the fly out for the two tools).
Enough of me talking… let me show this thing in action. Let’s start with an image from Photos.com:
The Quick Selection tool is found close to the top of the Toolbar, and resembles the Magic Wand somewhat.
Like so many other tools, the Quick Selection holds roots in the Brushes. That is to say you ‘paint’ your selection. Select a larger brush size for the areas further from the edges, and as you get close to the edge of the object reduce the brush size to refine the selection and reduce the chance of grabbing background pixels.
This tool is smart too… I find it to be much more intuitive and exact than the Magic Wand. You need not paint over the entire area to be selected, as the tool adjusts the selection as you paint to find and isolate the edges.
So what happens when an area is selected that wasn’t intended? Simple. Simply reduce the size of the brush, then hold down the Option/Alt key and paint away that area!
So how did that selection turn out? If it were removed from the background now, would the pixels be jagged or blurred?
Ah, young grasshopper, we are not finished just yet. You can not only check the selection before it is applied, you can actually refine the selection before you accepts it, AND view what it will look like in a Quick Mask, on a white or black background, or even as a layer mask.
In the options bar there is a button titled ‘Refine Edge’. This opens a dialog box for the selection tool. From here you can control Radius and Contrast, as well as feather the selection, increase or decrease the selection size (by small amounts), smooth the selection edges to remove ‘the jaggies’ without blurring the edges of the selection and any number of combinations of these settings to refine the edge. You get to watch the adjustment in realtime, ensuring before you accept it that the selection is exactly what you want.
With the selection refined to your taste, you can accept the selection and then remove the image, edit it without altering other objects or the background, and so forth.
This overview is brief, but I hope it gives you an idea of the power behind this newest and most welcome of tools in the Adobe Photoshop software. Don’t simply take my word for it… go try it yourself! You’ll be pleased as punch that you did.