TWO-STEP PROCESS For Better Cut-Outs! – Select and Mask Workspace in Photoshop


In this tutorial, you will learn the TWO-STEP PROCESS to cut out anything in the Select and Mask Workspace in Photoshop!

You will learn to extract a foreground from a background using the Select and Mask workspace.

This will be a mini crash course on select and mask, but also, as an explanation of my masking workflow.

You will learn what all tools and sliders in the select and mask workspace in Photoshop, what they do, and how to use them properly to make professional masks.

Select and Mask View Modes

With any of the selection tools, you can go to the Options bar and click on the Select and Mask button. 

On the Properties panel, set the View mode to Onion Skin or press the O key on your keyboard. 

With Onion Skin, it shows the selected pixels full opacity and the unselected pixels show at your desired transparency.

Make a Selection in Select and Mask Workspace in Photoshop

To start selecting, click on the Select Subject button on the Options bar. The Select Subject command is powered by Adobe Sensei, an Artificial Intelligence (AI), that automatically detects the subject and creates a selection around it. 

Automatically Select One Subject in a Two Subject Photo

If you are working with a photo that contains two subjects but you only want to select one subject, start by enabling the Object Selection tool from the Toolbar.

On the Options bar, set the Mode to Lasso and freehand a loose selection around your preferred subject. Upon releasing the mouse, Photoshop will utilize the same AI to create a smart selection around the subject.

STEP 1: Global Refinements Adjustments

To better view the selection’s edges, change the View mode to On White or press the T key on the keyboard. 

Then, set the Opacity to 100%.

Click here if you want to learn how to select and mask glass (or any other transparent objects) in Photoshop!

On the lower half of the Properties panel is where you’ll find the Global Refinements. You can use the Smooth, Feather, Contrast, and Shift Edge sliders to fine-tune the edges’ appearance. 

The Smooth slider controls the smoothness and the sharpness of the edges.

The Feather slider controls the blurriness of the edges.

The Contrast slider controls by darkening the dark pixels and brightening the bright pixels. To see the results better, you can change the View mode to Black & White when adjusting this slider.

The Shift Edge slider controls the edges by contracting or expanding it, and it also helps remove the white outlines that are also called “fringing.”

Why You Shouldn’t Do It In One Step

With the View mode switched to On White, select the Refine Edge brush tool from the Toolbar. Click-and-drag around the edges of the hair. 

Upon release, you’ll see how the hair strands along the edges of his silhouette are more defined, but the adjustments made on the Global Refinements are also applied onto the hair—controlling the feathering and smoothness on areas where it shouldn’t. 

That is why it’s crucial to make a second adjustment that only focuses on the hair.

Output Settings

Undo the recent step and scroll down along the Properties panel to find Output Settings. 

Set the Output Tto option to Layer Mask.

Press OK to exit the window.

That step prompts Photoshop to apply the changes you made on the Global Refinements and apply a Layer Mask.

Click on the Layer Mask thumbnail to go back and work on the subject’s hair. 

On the Properties panel, click on Select and Mask

Once again, select the Refine Edge tool, then click-and-drag along the edges of the subject’s hair to start extracting the hair details with a better appearance this time.

How Edge Detection Works

With the Refine Edge tool selected, you can see its controls in the Properties panel. 

Check the box for Show Edges and increase the Radius to see how it concentrates on the outline of the subject and shows you where the refinement occurs for smaller details such as hair strands.

If you check the box for Smart Radius, you will notice a varied thickness along the edges, which may not give you the best results. Therefore, uncheck the Smart Radius and reset the Radius to 1px so you can see where the mask’s edge is.

STEP 2 – Refine Edge Tool for Hair

With the Refine Edge tool active, you can start painting over the subject’s hair just by following along the edges. In a simpler term, it’s as if you’re telling Photoshop where it needs to refine the edges. 

However, the bigger the value of the Radius, the more it may start damaging the quality of your image and include parts of the subject that do not need refinement. 

With the hair extracted, you can fine-tune it with the Brush tool. Use it as a regular Brush tool by “painting in” the areas that need to show. 

You can also switch between adding and subtracting from the selection by clicking on the icons on the Options bar. 

Minimum Filter to Contract the Mask

Click on the Layer Mask thumbnail.

Choose Filter > Other > Minimum to control the fringing that is visible along the edges of the subject. You’ll see its effect if you dramatically increase or decrease the Radius value.

The Preserve has two options: Squareness and Roundness

Roundness serves best for living creatures as they have rounded edges, and Squareness serves best for inanimate objects since it sets straighter edges. 


And that’s exactly how you can do it in a two-step process that will simplify your workflow anytime that you have to select and mask workspace in Photoshop!

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