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How To Make Difficult Selections Easily in Adobe Photoshop Using Channels

One of the most hated aspects of editing in Photoshop is making selections for masks, composites, and localized edits. The more difficult the selection, the more disliked it is, but there may be an easier way you aren't using.

Bill Gates said, "I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it." This is a sentiment I've always agreed with and whether out of laziness or respect for my own time, I always look for better ways to complete tasks. Generally speaking, when it comes to Photoshop, if what you're doing is taking a long time, there's probably an easier way. Every time I've encountered any new task that is taking more time or is more intricate a task than I think it needs to be, I start looking for alternative methods.

However, one of the key offenders for this is one that I've never truly overcome: making selections. I have to make selections often in my work for a variety of reasons. While I've improved the speed at which I make them, automation is rarely possible and so it just takes time. If there are intricate and difficult selections to be made, I have to grin and bear it. That said, there are undoubtedly better ways to do most things. This video shows one of them.

Although I haven't used this technique a great deal, the times I have used it I've been impressed. With the right narrowing of parameters, channels in Photoshop can be a fantastic way to make complex selections, easily.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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Literally every new "trick" to make selections easier is a false hope.
I have used channels, luminosity masks, endless apps and plug-ins and they all fall short.
Even when they demo the technique there is far too much handwork.

Tree branches/leaves against a sky is a very common task yet I have yet to see a technique that works reliably or even well.

Ironically, Photoshop's "Select Subject" or "Select Sky" tools are startlingly better than many "tricks" and is a single click.

This video covers a lot of techniques and concepts very quickly, but it is well thought out and clearly delivered. So - top marks to the presenter. Selecting hair etc is always difficult, but using Channels is a genuine option. One day our phones will do all this. Meanwhile, I think this is as good as it gets.