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Yesterday’s article was all about using the selection tools in Photoshop Elements.
I mentioned that I rarely use these tools, however. Did you notice that? I use layer masks instead because they are much more forgiving. So today, we’re going to talk about layer masks and the best way to use selection tools together with layer masks for perfect edits.
What do I mean when I say layer masks are more forgiving? When I have isolated an area with a layer mask, I can always go back and change it. Take the eyes in this image, for example. To sharpen them, I made a selection with the Quick Selection brush. Say I was going too fast, and my initial selection didn’t get the entire eye. It looks like this:
Not noticing, I sharpen the area and move on to other edits. When I zoom in close to the image at the end of my edit for a final review, I realize the the eye is only partially sharpened.
The marching ants that outline my selection are long gone and I now have to create a new selection based on just the unsharpened part of the eye. That’s not easy.
(I clicked on the layer mask while holding down alt/option+shift to display my mask over my image like that.)
Since the eye is selected on the mask, I can always return to that layer, paint in the unselected area with a white paint brush, and finish my selecting and editing. (The red overlay corresponds to the black area of the mask.).
For me, painting on the layer mask is quicker than using a selection tool to apply to the layer mask. I like painting with the normal paintbrush because I can access all the brush tip options and tool opacity. However, if you like the selection tools, you can always use them to select your object and then apply that selection to the mask – this is what I did in the example above.
The benefit of using a selection tool and then refining on the layer mask is that the mask is easy to tweak. After making your selection, you can zoom in really close and use a white brush to add more to your selection or a black brush to remove from the selection. With enough patience, you can get perfect edges using this method. To use the selection tools with the mask:
- For adjustment layers, simply make your selection and add the adjustment layer. Your mask will be automatically filled in with white inside the selection and black everywhere else.
- For pixel adjustments, create a layer with the edits you want.
- Use the selection tools to create your selection.
- Add a layer mask – it should automatically be filled with white inside the selection and black everywhere else.
- And if the layer mask is added before you make the selection, click on it so that it’s highlighted and active for editing. Make your selection and go to Edit/Fill Layer. Select black or white, and your selection will be filled with the color you chose.
Other Selection Tips
You know those marching ants that indicate the edges of a selection? They can be really annoying if you are finished editing your selection. Type command/control D to turn the marching ants off.
What happens if your selection ends up being the opposite of what you wanted? Type command/control I to invert, or change the black to white and the white to black.
The Must-Know Tip for Using Selections Without Layer Masks
I know, some of you just don’t like masks (yet!). This tip is very important for you, especially if you are creating an intricate selection. After you’ve made it, or even during the selecting process if it takes a while, go to the Select Menu and click Save.Name the selection and click OK.
You can resave your selection as you modify it. Then, if you need to access it again, go to the same menu, select Load, and click on name of the selection you just saved.
This is everything I can think to tell you about the selection tools in Elements. What did I leave out? Share it in the comments below if you have other tips.
Click here if you would like to read about selecting and editing objects in Lightroom.