Colour your world

ImageAdobe’s CS3 has hit the streets and it has enough new features to keep users talking for some time. In the interest of focus and practicality, I will focus in this article on how best to use the new Refine Edge tool when making a selection. As you use Photoshop more, you learn that making seamless and transparent selections is the key to creating realism in your work. The best selection is always one that is transparent to the viewer.

Color Range
One of the best tools for making selections is the Color Range tool located under the Select menu. Color Range is my most extensively used tool and can be an enormous time saver.

Did you know that the “sample size” of the eyedropper has an impact on your selections when using this tool? Before using the Color Range Tool, double click on the Eyedropper and be sure the sample size is set to Point Sample. The larger sample sizes will not allow you to select individual pixels.

Lets start with something straightforward and work up from there. In the image below, the client has asked us to change the colour of the tomato in the bottom right corner. To do this we need to make a selection.

Step one: Draw a rectangular marquee around the image. The goal here is to restrict the selection so not to include any other red components of the image.

Step two: Double check that your eyedropper is set to point sample by selecting the eyedropper tool and ensuring it is set to “point sample”.

Step three: Go to the Select menu and choose Color Range. Set the Fuzziness slider to 20 as a starting point. Here is where Color Range Shines—you can add or subtract from a selection by adding the shift ( ) or the option (-) keys. In the tomato example, I clicked and held the shift key and dragged over the tomato to increase the range. If you mess up, you can reset the selection by holding the option key and clicking the cancel button (in order to start over) or you can subtract from the selection using the same key. Once you get a good selection, increase the “Fuzziness” slider to enhance the range.

Step four: (CS3 Only)
Once you are happy with the selection, click OK. If you are using CS3 you can refine the selection with the new “Refine Edge” tool also located in the Select menu. Here you can contract and expand, feather and visualize the selection in a new and very powerful manner.

 This technique works well when you have a colour that stands out, like the tomato example.
However, what if you needed to make a selection of the dog’s auburn fur?  You could accomplish such a task in a similar fashion. I would start by isolating the selection with the Lasso tool, as shown in the following image:

Again, drawing a marquee around the area you want to select makes the next step much easier, as it reduces the chance of other areas also being selected.

Go back to Select/Color Range. Change the selection preview to Quick Mask. Hold the shift key and drag your mouse through the selection until you have most of the fur selected.

In many cases, especially with fur and hair, additional fine-tuning is required. This is more complex to explain but I use the Quick Mask and a small brush to paint in or remove parts of the mask until I am satisfied. Below is an example of my selection that took less than 3 minutes to complete.

Learning how to make selections fast and professionally is a very powerful asset to any retoucher or colour correction professional. With the release of CS3 and the Refine Edge tool, the job of making selections has gotten a lot easier.
Angus Pady is the president of Digital Solutions. Complete colour control from desktop to press. T: 905.764.6003