Master quick cut-outs

Conquer quick selections with one of Photoshop’s most innovative tools.

Editing selections has been described as one of the original core functions of Photoshop, and over 20 years later this still holds true.

One of the primary purposes of the program is to enable the editing of specific regions of an image. So instead of applying adjustments or filters or effects to the entire image, only certain areas should be affected. Whether this area is a person, a background or a sky, you need to be able to communicate to the program which pixels you want changed, and which ones you don’t. The means by which Photoshop accomplishes this is through selections. Selections you’ve created are usually displayed by a blinking selection line, affectionately referred to as ‘marching ants’.

Photoshop Elements provides users with several different methods to help create a selection. Each technique has its place, according to the type of selection you wish to make, but the most versatile and user-friendly method of them all has to be the Quick Selection tool. This tool provides an excellent means of quickly crafting an otherwise difficult and complicated selection. Follow along as we show how to use this tool in order to create a selection along a stubborn tree line, so that we can replace a drab sky with a better one.

Fix a dull sky Use Quick Selection to work with the tree line

Set yourself up

For the purpose of this digital experiment of ours we chose a dull sky photo and a good sky photo to replace it with!

But you can test your Quick Selection tool techniques on any photo(s) you have at hand.

Open them up in Elements via File>Open.

Now layer up

With your first start image open (in our case it’s the car photo), find the Photo

Bin button at the bottom-left of the screen.

This will open the panel below the workspace showing the open files. Drag your second image onto your first.

Transform the sky

Notice the transformation handles surrounding the sky layer. Position your cursor just outside one of the corners and click to drag a rotation transformation so it matches the horizon angle. Then drag a corner out to resize the image, covering the old sky.

Hide the sky

Look at the far-right of the workspace, where the layers are displayed. To the left of the cloud layer is a tiny eye icon; click on it to hide the cloud layer. Now click on the car layer to make it the active layer, and then find the Quick Selection tool in the toolbox.

Make a selection

Brush across the sky area just above the tree line. The Quick Selection tool creates a selection of the sky area. Look closely at the tree line and then use the brush modes in the Tool Options to add and subtract areas of the selection that require adjustment.

Hit Refine Edge

Click the Refine Edge button to bring up its dialog. Click the Smart Radius option, set Radius to 5px and set Edge Feather to 5px as well. On the canvas, brush along the very edge of the tree line. This helps the selection align with that blurry edge of the trees.

Add a mask

With the selection still active, reveal the cloud layer by clicking on the eye icon. Make the cloud layer the active layer, and look for a small icon of a circle within a rectangle at the top of the panel. This is the Add Layer Mask button; click it to transform the selection into a mask.

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