Photoshop's Select Subject Tool Is Now so Good That You Might Never Use the Pen Tool Ever Again

The bane of many photographers' existence over the last couple of decades has been endless hours spent creating complex masks in Photoshop using the Pen tool. Unmesh Dinda of PiXimperfect shows you how much faster your workflow can be with the Select Subject tool, which was recently updated in the latest version of Photoshop.

Photoshop’s Select Subject tool was something of a game-changer when it was first introduced, but it often left some jagged edges and frequently struggled with complex edges such as hair. A few months ago, Adobe updated Photoshop, and the Select Subject tool underwent a fairly significant upgrade to the extent that you might never use the Pen tool ever again.

No doubt, the Pen tool offers some advantages, but as Dinda notes, the amount of time that you save by at least trying the Select Subject tool first is massive.

As usual, Dinda packs in a ton of other techniques as part of demonstrating how the Select Subject tool can be used as part of a workflow. For example, I never knew that I could create a shape and apply it to the layer below (see 18:10). 

Have you been taking advantage of Photoshop’s updated tool? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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I use subject select all the time and the only reason I know it “changed” is because I later read about it. There’s been no noticeable difference in its ability for me before and after the update. Still a time-saver to be sure; also still not totally dependable. Just like it’s always been.

Very cool, my main goal is not to open Photoshop, but when I do I always try to get in and out aa quickly as possible. Need to update my software.

No it's not better than the pen tool. It still leaves things to clean up even against a solid background. Sure it will get there eventually since that's the only thing Adobe is ever working on apparently.

Yeah well, they always pick perfect examples for those tutorials.
I can be as quick on any subject using channels and dodge and burn on the mask.

Just tried with several images.
1 - if the file is small, it works terribly bad!
2 - even with 50mb files, model shot on a middle grey background, the tool doesn't really work on hair, even when there are NO flyaways at all...

Ya, no. What you're writing is simply not true. The tool is a starting point at best. The claim that it does away with the need for the finer control offered by the pen tool is laughable. Any Photoshop expert who claims otherwise is hoping for a warmer relationship with Adobe. Makes you wonder...

I agree. Not a great tool till this last AI update. It’s spot on. I use it all the time now.

The Pen Tool was already obsolete when the layer masks were added. How on earth could you use the pen tool with blurred objects or selections of hair anyway?

Why would you shoot something you plan on cutting out at f1.8? I shoot f8 and it's nowhere close to being obsolete as long as their tools just use the "eh screw it, guess" algorithm.