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Advanced Masks in Adobe Photoshop

Lesson 2 of 4

Manually Select and Mask

Ben Willmore

Advanced Masks in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

2. Manually Select and Mask

Lesson Info

Manually Select and Mask

Let's do this with other images. Let's try it with a complex tree. So here I have a background to put this on, so I'm gonna choose tools, Photoshop, load files into Photoshop layers. I'll zoom up with command zero. And, usually, I'll pre-adjust these images like this one. You can't even see it, but there's a giraffe in there. And so I would usually optimize the picture. I'm just not spending the time to do that because I'm trying to concentrate on the masking. Now, that's the tough part. Now since I used load files into Photoshop layers, if you look in my layers panel, I have two layers. If I hide the top layer, that's what I want is my new background. And this was taken on a cruise ship, so there's a tiny little thing sticking out over here on the side. It's like the mystery thing. But, I think that will work fine. We might have to retouch out that one piece. To start this, I want to again select the subject of the photograph. And, I could go to the select menu and choose subject and ...

see what it does. But, I think what something this complicated, if I type the letter q, it's not very good. So I'm not gonna even let it do select subject, I'm gonna do it myself. And all I'm gonna do is go to the left side of my screen and I'm gonna grab the quick selection tool. With the quick selection tool active, I'm gonna paint across the bottom portion of my image. I'll just click here and start to drag towards the right and I'll make sure that I never get any over-spray on an area that I don't want selected. So I'm not gonna paint anywhere where the sky would be. I might get a smaller brush so that I could paint up the trunk of the tree. But, I'm gonna try not to touch any of those areas where you see the sky stick through. So there's kind of a clean spot coming this way, and then it seemed to grab most of the tree. Well, that'll be good enough. It's not necessarily ideal, but it's good enough. We want most of the work to happen here in select and mask. Photoshop really needs to take control. So I'm gonna choose select and mask. Now it remembers the last settings I used for the preview; therefore, the last time I had it set to on layers, but I don't usually use that as my starting point. I usually use overlay cause I find it to be easier to understand what's happening. Red indicating the area that is not selected, and then what I need to do is just grab that second tool from the top, it's already active. That's known as their fine edge brush, and I'm gonna paint in any area where the tree is covered with red. So, right here, covered with red and as I paint it's changing my end result cause I'm getting it control. But I'm trying to go for any portion where the tree is covered in red. Because, anything covered with red is thought of as something that should be thrown away. And so right now it's confused and it thinks well that stuffs sticking into the red should be thrown away and therefore I'm not gonna give you anywhere near as good as an end result if you make me think that the color of tree should be trashed. So, by covering up those areas that are covered in red, I'm at least making it so the area covered in red is much closer to what should be thrown away. Okay. Next, after I've covered up those areas, I'm gonna look for areas where the sky is not covered in red. Well that's where I need to get Photoshop control. Because, now wherever it is I paint, its gonna compare where I painted to what's covered in red. And, if it's similar to it, it's gonna put red on it. If instead, it's similar to what doesn't have red on it, it will prevent the red from applying. So, I'm just looking for anywhere where I can see a hint of the background and I'm gonna paint over it. That gives Photoshop control of those areas, and it's okay if it's a big area. It might be three quarters of the tree. But, if there's a blatant area of the tree where there's absolutely no hint of the background showing through then don't paint on it. Because, you're gonna be able to give Photoshop a better chance of doing a good job. So that area to the right of where I'm painting right now, I'm only gonna extend to where I can see hints of sky. I'm not gonna paint across the middle of it because then Photoshop has control over it and I need to have a large enough area where Photoshop doesn't have control. That tells it, what should be deleted and what should be kept. The area that has red on it is what it thinks should be deleted. The area where I have not painted at all and didn't have red on it is what it thinks should be kept, and I'm just looking for hints of the background where it needs control. Can't tell if that's a blue sky right there or not. But, if I think it could be, I wanna click on it. Now at this point, let's see where I've given Photoshop control to make sure we're given it enough. I'm gonna turn on the checkbox near my upper left called show edge and now the areas that have no red on it is where Photoshop has control. And, I just gotta decide if there's some other area where I should give it control over what's happening. Sometimes you end up these little chunks like this and if those little chunks are sitting on top of what you're trying to delete then get out of it. Because, Photoshop needs control or if your subject extends out into that outer red zone and overlaps it somewhere, then you want to give Photoshop control. Takes a little while to get used to it, but once you're used to it, its pretty straight forward. And it looks to me that I didn't bring up the radius slider. Most of the time I have that up at least to two which gives it control at least two pixels all the way around. But, that's looking pretty good. I don't think I see any blue underneath those little pieces or those. All right, then I can turn off the show as checkbox, then I come over here and change my view and this is when I'll probably start viewing it on layers. So, I can see it with our new background. And, that's when I can also start zooming up and being a little more critical of it, and let's see, it doesn't look bad to my eye. Just yell out if you see any problem. Yeah, to me it doesn't look bad. Now, if there are any issues where you see hints of the old background clinging, you'll see it as like we saw in the bird example, where the edges just looked like, if you you had an old, let's say a overcast sky, just white-ish tinge on the edge, remember you do have decontaminate colors and that will shift the color of things. I usually experiment with that even I didn't notice an issue cause sometimes it can improve things. Let's turn it on and see what happens. Okay things are getting much darker, but I also notice this feels to be less detailed, less variation and brightness. Like if you look down here it's just, things are getting thick. So I don't know how I like it, but you can, remember, lower it down and then bring it up just a little bit at a time and see if it's helpful, and I think maybe just a little bit of it. If I don't notice any big issues, then I click okay.

Class Description


  • Isolate furry, fuzzy, and hairy objects (i.e. animals)
  • Remove the background from transparent objects (i.e. glass)
  • Select objects using Color Range
  • Deal with objects that vary in sharpness
  • Use Select & Mask to refine selections


  • Beginner, intermediate, and advanced users of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Those who want to gain confidence in Adobe Photoshop and learn new features to help edit photos.
  • Students who’d like to take ordinary images and make them look extraordinary with some image editing or Photoshop fixes.


Adobe Photoshop 2020 (V21)

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