How to use the Refine Edge tool
Make expert selections with the help of this clever editing tool in Photoshop CS5 and later.
Using the Refine Edge tool will dramatically improve the quality of your selections in Photoshop CS5 and above. This tool is a brilliant addition to Photoshop, as it allows you to create perfect selections quickly, on delicate subject matters like hair, fur or small, finer details. So, regardless of your Photoshop skill levels this tool will help you to achieve professional looking cutouts and significantly decrease the time you spend editing shots.
The Refine Edge tool is located in the Select menu in the top options bar, but is only available to use once an active selection has been created.
To create an active selection, use the Pen or Lasso tools to trace around the object you wish to remove from its background. Try to be as accurate as possible but don’t worry about the finer details such as flyaway hairs – the Refine Edge tool will allow you to make precise tweaks and edits once the selection is complete.
With the selection active, select the tool and familiarise yourself with the features available within the dialog box. You can alter the way you view your canvas, add and subtract parts of the selection and even alter the size of the selection. Read on to find out how best to use this tool to cut out hair naturally.
Step 1 – Bring up the Refine Edge tool
Once you have an active selection, go to Select> Refine Edge Tool. If the wrong part of your selection disappears then you need to Invert the selection with Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+I. Click View and select how you wish to view your layer to work most effectively.
Step 2 – Perfect your selection
Click the Refine Radius tool on the left of the dialog box, use this to paint over the edges of your selection bringing back finer details. Switch to the Erase Refinements tool to paint away areas. Combined together these tools can save all fine edge detail like shown.
Step 3 – Refine the settings
Cutting out hair requires a soft edge, so use the tools to suit your needs; move the Smooth slider right, then add a small Feather. Check Decontaminate Colors which will remove any visible traces of background colour, then move the slider to suit.
Step 4 – Explore the other features
Adjust the selection edge by checking the Smart Radius option, but use only if your selection features hard and soft areas. If your selection has a solid edge then stick to the Radius slider.
If you want your selection to have a sharp edge, move the Contrast slider – definitely one to avoid if working with hair as you can see from the example image. Use the Shift Edge slider to alter the edge position, moving it to negative numbers can help remove colour casts on the selections edge.