In Learn Photoshop

Hello guys I am Vaibhav and in this tutorial I am going to show you how to use refine edge tool to select many hard or rather I’d say impossible selections. Last time I discussed about Creating a New Document in Photoshop which is one of the most easy yet most important tool in Photoshop. In this tutorial I am going to explain you each and every settings inside Refine Edge Tool. When you want to change the background of a person you may find its hard to select the scattered hairs as it is nearly impossible (here impossible I mean very time consuming) to select it accurately. Here refine edge tool comes to help you.


In the above shown figure, its very time consuming to select the sky because of the uneven tree leaves. To do these kind of selections easily, Photoshop has already given us Refine Edge tool.

You can select with whatever tool you want. Here I am going to choose quick selection tool to select my sky quickly.


As you can see that my selection is not perfect. You can see the tree leaves(at the intersection of sky and white color) clearly. If I used lasso tool or pen tool for the selection it would have taken so much time. So to refine this selection I am going to click on refine edge tool on the option bar or just press ctrl+alt+R/cmd+opt+R. You can also go to Select>Refine Edge to open the Refine Edge Tool Box.


The refine edge tool bar looks like the one shown below.


In the view mode box you can see various modes.

Marching Ants: In this mode, your selection will be surrounded by marching ants. Keyboard shortcut is M.

Overlay: In this mode, your selection will be overlaid by the layer mask which default color is light red. Shortcut is V.

On Black: One of the most used mode by me. In this mode the area that is not selected is filled with black color. It gives you high contrast so its easy for me to select the image. Keyboard shortcut is B.

On White: Just opposite of “on black” mode. The area which is not selected will be filled by white color. Shortcut is W.

Black & White: In this mode the area that is selected will be filled by white color and that is not selected will be filled by black color. Shortcut is K.

On Layers: In this mode the area which is not selected will becomes transparent. Note that you may see check board pattern. That pattern indicates the transparent layer. Shortcut is L.

Reveal Layer:This mode displays your image without any selection. Shortcut is R.

Smart Radius

By turning this setting on, Photoshop will decide weather the selection is hard(selection of table, chair) or soft(hair, fur). I totally recommend you to turn on this setting every time.


It controls the radius of your refine edge tool. Basically it determines how far should your refine edge tool should go to refine your edge.



It smoothens your selection. I recommend not to use it while selecting hair, fur, trees(in this case).


It softens the selection. It helps a loot when you are creating vignette effect to your photo.


This setting sharpens your edge even if you softens it by using feather or smoothens it by using smooth.

Shift Edge

This setting shifts your edge. It can either contract your selection or expand your selection.

By adjusting these 4 adjustment I can make my selections ever better.


As you can see that there’s more little imperfections left. So I am going to  remove that using refine radius tool.


Select the refine radius tool. Adjust the radius of this brush from the option bar. Apply this brush to remove the perfections





As you can see from the above slider, a little part of leaf was included in the selection which leads to imperfection. By applying the refine brush tool I managed to unselect the leaf within matter of seconds.

Decontaminate Color

This option helps reduce edge leftover colored pixels around the edges of a selection that you see only after you put the object on a new background. Once you turn this checkbox on, Photoshop tries to replace the color of selected pixels with the color of pixels nearby (whether they’re selected or not). Drag the Amount slider to the right to change the color of more edge pixels, or to the left to change fewer.

Output To


In the output to section you can see various drop down menus.


Basically when you press OK after refining the edge, then your output will be just a selection in your activated layer. It leaves you with marching ants.

Layer Mask

Add a layer mask to the selection. One of the most used output by me

New Layer

Creates a new layer which contains only the selection. It deletes the background.

New Layer with Layer Mask

Creates a new layer with layer mask.

New Document

Create a new document/file which contains only the selected image.

New Document with Layer Mask

Creates a new document with layer mask which only contains the selected image.


  • Select the part of the image using any selection tool.
  • Click on refine edge tool from the option bar or press ctrl+alt+R/cmd+opt+R.
  • Turn on smart radius and adjust the radius.
  • Adjust the smooth, feather, contrast and shift edge for the perfect result.
  • Adjust the decontaminate color for halo
  • Using refine brush tool remove the tricky areas that are hard to select.
  • Select the output method.
  • Press OK.

Isn’t it easy?

And we are done here. Read my next tutorial in which I am going to discuss about Rectangular and Elliptical Marquee Tool in Photoshop. Thank you for reading this tutorial. Hopefully we’ll meet again in four days.

Vaibhav Sharan
A man who is curious, thrifty, and learner. Entrepreneurship flows in his blood. Ardent follower of BATMAN. Nothing is abstruse if one has strong will power. Check out my BRAND NEW website: I Innovate Magazine.
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