10 tips to make selections that cut out anything in Photoshop

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Photoshop’s selection tools seem to evolve and change with every new update. Techniques and technology evolve to make selections a little easier than they were before. At least, that’s the theory, sometimes they just get more frustrating. But, there’s still no one technique that works for everything.

This video from Nathaniel Dodson at Tutvid is a long one. At 37 minutes, you’re not going to be finding any instant fix magic bullets. But, he goes through several different selection methods to explain how they all works, how to use them and what kind of images they work best on.

The techniques Nathaniel describes are going to produce different results on different types of images. A super busy location background will probably require a different technique than a clean white seamless studio backdrop, for example.

  1. 00:35 Start every selection with Quick Selection
  2. 03:35 Use Select and Mask to cut out hair
  3. 08:58 Poly Lasso tool + tips and tricks for straight selections
  4. 12:42 The mighty Pen Tool
  5. 16:54 Using a channel to create a complex selection
  6. 22:54 Calculations for complex selections w/ lots of straight lines
  7. 26:19 Color Range to create selections based on color or tone
  8. 29:09 Quick Mask tools to paint selections FAST
  9. 31:13 What do I do once I have a selection?
  10. 32:26 Defringe your selections and objects for amazing edges

Nathaniel also threw in a little bonus tip that many Photoshop users will very much appreciate.

  • 07:14 Bonus tip: Getting back to the older Refine Edge feature

One of the most commonly used methods is the pen tool. For hard edged shapes, there really isn’t much else that has the power and versatility that the pen tool offers. But, it can be a difficult one to master, and I know a few people who’ve given up completely after just a few attempts. But it really is worth learning. This is one of the methods I use most commonly for making selections.

Channels are also a very powerful tool for making selections, especially when you have channels which contain a lot of contrast. Human skin, for example, shows up extremely dark on the blue colour channel, and brightly on the red colour channel. If you’re shooting against a darker background, red might be the channel to go for. On a lighter background, as demonstrated here, blue might be your best option.

As you can see, though, just like most things in Photoshop, there’s a bunch of different ways to essentially do the same thing. And the reason is because there are so many different types of images from which you might want to cut something out. No single technique will work for everything, so we have multiple options.

For some, the quick selection tool along with Refine Edge covers most of their needs. But, when it doesn’t, it’s handy to have a few more tricks up one’s sleeve.

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