Achieve Selection Perfection Using This Technique

Creating an accurate selection of a subject's limbs is deceptively difficult. The edges often look sharp and easy to cut out, but that often isn't the case when you put the selection in the hands of Photoshop's AI. However, using this technique, you can accurately smooth out the ragged edges of the selection to create perfect edges and a crisp cut-out. 

While many Photoshop tutorials focus on the difficult task of creating an accurate selection around hair, in this tutorial, Colin Smith at PhotoshopCAFE demonstrates how to use channels along with the dodge and burn tools to create sharp edges along the subject's limbs. The edges of a subject's arms or legs are often softer and slightly more blurry than the rest of the limb, and highlights or shadows at the edge can make it difficult for Photoshop's automated processes to make the selection perfect. 

By using the dodge and burn tools to increase the contrast between the limbs and the background or to remove unwanted parts of the image, you can create the sharp edge needed to make an accurate selection. The bonus of this technique is that it also works on hair, which is always a tricky process. 

What techniques do you prefer to use to create crisp selections around the edges of your subject? Drop a comment below and let us know if this tutorial is helpful or if you prefer to use your own tried-and-true methods. 

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wesjones's picture


Nick Rains's picture

One of many, many techniques for masking, all of which are useful in different circumstances, and this is one everyone should know. It's good for landscapes too. It's also one of the oldest methods out there, dating back to probably Photoshop 3/4 in the mid 90s when Layers were first introduced.

davidlovephotog's picture

It took 10 minutes of fixing sloppy auto selection tools. Photoshop is a bad guesser and NEVER gets it right. The pen tool is boring to use and the fact that you can't make the anchor points larger for bigger monitors sucks, but when you're done the image is cut out perfectly. Every update they come out with has a new auto selection thing and they are all garbage and require time to fix the mess they leave behind, jagged edges, totally missing obvious areas, etc. Pen tool and save yourself some time.

Barry Strawbridges's picture

I agree. The pen tool is the correct tool for this type of work. My process would have been the pen tool and the history brush. It's good seeing different ways to tackle a problem, but this one is not the best way.

davidlovephotog's picture

Pen tool and background eraser tool do the job for me.