Accurate Selections

What is the most accurate way to get a selection?

Good question and the answer is; it does depend on the situation.  The topic of 'selections' is a big one as there are many many different ways to end up with a quality selection.  I'm just going to overview some of the options right now.

There are times when the magic wand comes in perfectly to select areas of a layer.  Keep in mind the tolerance setting in the options bar.  The higher the tolerance the more of a color range is going to be selected.  Selecting a clear blue sky, simple vector shape color fills and clear defined lines are very easy with the magic wand tool but as any experienced Photoshop user will tell you; it's not always the best bet for all situations.

You also have the lasso (for freehand selections), polygonal lasso, magnetic lasso (works best with clearly defined lines), marquee tools (rectangle, circular..), shape tools (via making a path), pen tool (with it's options for path editing), and color range (with it's turkey basters).  These methods and tools are all covered in depth in the Basic Photoshop DVD Training.  You've also got the powerful Extract command (Photoshop 7 & CS) and the quick mask mode.

For complicated selections, the extract command does it best, I would say followed by the quick mask mode.  In the quick mask mode you basically "paint" in the deselected areas on a rubylith, leaving the remaining areas as the selection.  You would do this most accurately by using a hard-edged round brush (depending on the type of selection) with black as the foreground color.  You can then exit the quick mask mode to look at your selection (shortcut is toggling "q").  In the Basic Photoshop Training I go over plenty of quick mask mode exercises in creating quality selections.

The extract command works best for complicated selections such as hair (always one of the trickiest). 

Remember you also have options such as add to/substract from/intersect a selection, expanding or contracting a selection, feathering, grow, select similar, select inverse, tolerance, and new layer via cut or copy..  The best way to learn the art of selection is to actually see it being done in real time in person or on video.

- Orion Williams copyright 2004

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