This tutorial shows you how Select Subject, new in Photoshop CC 2018, lets you select people, animals and more with a single click, and how to refine your selections with Select and Mask! We learn how Select Subject works, and we look at examples of Photoshop’s newest selection feature in action!

Photoshop, in the past, has looked at images as nothing more than a collection of pixels. It knew that different pixels were different colors, and that some were brighter or darker than others. But for all its power, Photoshop couldn’t see the bigger picture. It had no idea that there was a person, an animal, a tree, or any other type of object in the photo.

That’s all changed in Photoshop CC 2018 thanks to some impressive artificial intelligence known as Adobe Sensei, Adobe’s machine learning technology. Adobe Sensei is what powers the search engine in Adobe Stock that lets us quickly find images of people, places or other subjects. And now, Adobe has brought that same technology over to Photoshop as a brand new selection feature known as Select Subject.

Select Subject automatically finds the most prominent objects in the image and selects them! It’s a bit like Photoshop’s Quick Selection Tool but without the need to drag the tool around. In fact, Select Subject works with just a single click! Of course, you’ll still want to refine your selection afterwards. So once we’ve learned all about Select Subject, we’ll learn how to improve upon the initial selection using Photoshop powerful Select and Mask workspace. Select Subject was first introduced in the January 2018 Creative Cloud update, so to use it, you’ll need Photoshop CC and you’ll want to make sure that your copy is up to date. Let’s get started!

Where To Find Select Subject

Adobe gives us three ways to access the Select Subject command in Photoshop CC 2018.

1. The Select Menu

The first way to choose Select Subject is by going up to the Select menu in the Menu Bar and choosing Subject:

Choosing Select Subject from the Menu Bar in Photoshop CC 2018

Choosing Subject from under the Select menu.

2. The Options Bar

Or, if you have either the Quick Selection Tool or the Magic Wand Tool active in the Toolbar:

The Quick Selection Tool and Magic Wand Tool in the Toolbar in Photoshop CC 2018

Make sure either the Quick Selection or Magic Wand tools are selected.

Then you’ll find the new Select Subject button in the Options Bar:

The Select Subject option in the Options Bar in Photoshop CC 2018

The first of two Select Subject buttons.

3. The Select and Mask workspace

The third place you’ll find Select Subject is in Photoshop’s Select and Mask workspace. I’ll open Select and Mask from the Options Bar:

Clicking the Select and Mask option in the Options Bar in Photoshop

Clicking the Select and Mask button in the Options Bar.

In Select and Mask, the Select Subject button is found in the Options Bar along the top. Note, though, that the Select Subject option is only available when the Quick Selection Tool is active in the toolbar on the left. We’ll look at how to use Select and Mask in more detail a bit later:

The Select Subject option in the Select and Mask workspace in Photoshop CC 2018

The Select Subject option in the Select and Mask workspace.

How Select Subject Works

Select Subject automatically detects the most prominent objects in the image and selects them, isolating them from their background. But while the technology behind Select Subject is impressive, it’s important to keep your expectations in check. Rather than thinking of Select Subject as a tool that will do the entire job for you, think of it instead as a time-saving, automatic Quick Selection Tool. Like the Quick Selection Tool, Select Subject can get you 90-95% of the way there, and the fact that it does so with a single click (as we’re about to see) is pretty amazing. But in most cases, just like with the Quick Selection Tool, you’ll still need to refine your selection afterwards using Select and Mask.

Example 1: Selecting a single person in a photo

Let’s look at some examples of Select Subject in action, starting with an image that should be an easy win for this new feature. Here we have a close-up, outdoor portrait shot. Along with Adobe Sensei’s ability to recognize people in a photo, this particular image has a few important advantages that can help Select Subject along. The subject himself is in sharp focus while the background behind him is blurred out. There’s a good amount of contrast between the subject and the background, and the edges along the subject are nice and sharp. We’re also not dealing with lots of fly-away hair, which is always a problem for any of Photoshop’s automatic selection tools (portrait photo) from Adobe Stock:

The first image we'll use to test Select Subject in Photoshop

An example of an ideal candidate for Select Subject. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

To see how good of a job Select Subject can do at isolating the man from his background, I’ll make sure I have either the Quick Selection Tool or the Magic Wand Tool selected from the Toolbar, and then I’ll click the Select Subject button in the Options Bar:

The Select Subject option in the Options Bar in Photoshop CC 2018

Choosing Select Subject.

Photoshop takes a few moments to analyze the image and then selects our subject. To make the selection easier to see, I’ll turn on Photoshop’s Quick Mask mode by selecting it from the Toolbar. You can also toggle Quick Mask on and off by pressing the letter Q on your keyboard:

Enabling Quick Mask mode in the Photoshop Toolbar

Enabling Quick Mask mode.

In Quick Mask mode, a red or rubylith overlay fills the area around the selection, making it easy to see that Select Subject did a great job of isolating the man from the background. I could have made a similar selection by dragging the Quick Selection Tool manually, but Select Subject was able to give me the same result all on its own. The selection isn’t perfect of course, especially along his hair, so I would still need to refine it using Select and Mask. But considering that it took Select Subject less than 5 seconds to get this far, I’d say we’re off to a good start:

The Select Subject command in Photoshop CC 2018 easily selected the main subject in the photo

Select Subject had little trouble detecting the main subject in the photo.

Example 2: Selecting two or more people in a photo

We’ve looked at selecting a single person in an image, so this time, let’s see if Select Subject is able to recognize twopeople in the same photo (ice cream photo from Adobe Stock):

Seeing if Select Subject can select two people in the same photo

Trying a second image, this time with two people. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

I’ll click Select Subject in the Options Bar, and I’ll again turn on Quick Mask mode so we can better see the result. Sure enough, Select Subject had no trouble detecting and selecting both people even though they were on opposite sides of the image. Again, the selection isn’t perfect, but with just a single click, I already have a great starting point:

Select Subject was able to select both people in the photo

Two people in the same photo are no problem for Select Subject.

Example 3: Two people with only one in focus

In the previous example, both people in the photo were in sharp focus. But what happens when only one person is in focus and the other is out of focus in the background? Let’s use this third image to test it out (friend in background photo from Adobe Stock):

Seeing if Select Subject can select two people in the same photo

Two people again, but with only one in focus. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

This time, even though there are again two people in the image, Select Subject was able to use the depth of field to figure out that the woman on the right (the one in sharp focus) is in fact the main subject, while the woman on the left is really part of the background. So along with being able to recognize people, Select Subject also uses other visual cues, like contrast and depth of field, when making selections:

Select Subject selected only the woman in focus

Select Subject selected only the woman in focus.

Example 4: Pets are people too!

Of course, Select Subject can detect more than just people. In this fourth example, we have a young boy and also his pet dog. Can Select Subject select two different types of subjects in the same photo? Let’s find out (boy with dog photofrom Adobe Stock):

Testing Select Subject on a photo with two different types of subjects

Testing Select Subject on two very different subjects.

As it turns out, the answer is yes. Since the boy and his dog are both in sharp focus against the blurry background, Select Subject had no trouble figuring out that both are important and that both should be selected:

Select Subject was able to select both the boy and his dog in the photo

Select Subject knew that a boy and his dog should always be together.

How To Refine The Selection Using Select And Mask

So far, we’ve been choosing Select Subject from the Options Bar in Photoshop. But as we’ve seen, while Select Subject can give us a great starting point, the selections it makes are not perfect. Often, parts of your subject will be missing while areas of the background will still need to be removed. The edges around your subject will also need some cleaning up. In other words, you’ll almost always need to refine your selection afterwards using Select and Mask. This is why it makes the most sense to choose Select Subject not from Photoshop’s Options Bar but from within the Select and Mask workspace. Let’s look at an example of how to use Select Subject and Select and Mask together. I’ll use the same image of the boy and his dog so we can compare the results.

Step 1: Open Select and Mask

First, in Photoshop, make sure you have one of the selection tools active in the Toolbar, and then click the Select and Mask button in the Options Bar:

Opening the Select and Mask workspace from the Options Bar in Photoshop

Opening the Select and Mask workspace.

This opens the image in the Select and Mask workspace:

The Select and Mask workspace in Photoshop CC 2018

Select and Mask in Photoshop CC 2018.

Step 2: Choose Select Subject

To make an initial selection of your subject, click the Select Subject button at the top. If you’re not seeing the button, make sure the Quick Selection Tool is active in the toolbar on the left:

Choosing Select Subject from within the Select and Mask workspace

Choosing Select Subject from within Select and Mask.

In the Properties panel along the right, I’ll change my View Mode from Onion Skin (the default view) to Overlay:

The View Mode set to Overlay in Select and Mask

Changing the View Mode for the selection to Overlay.

This gives me the same view of my selection as Photoshop’s Quick Mask mode. And here we see that the initial selection made by Select Subject is exactly the same as it was before:

The initial Select Subject selection made in the Select and Mask workspace in Photoshop

The initial Select Subject selection.

Step 3: Refine the selection

Once you’ve made your initial selection with Select Subject, it’s time to refine it with the tools available in Select and Mask. The first problem I notice with my initial selection is that part of the boy’s arm is missing:

Select Subject missed part of the main subject

Select Subject missed a spot.

Adding to the initial selection

To add that part to the selection, I’ll choose the Quick Selection Tool in the Select and Mask toolbar:

Choosing the Quick Selection Tool in the Select and Mask workspace

Choosing the Quick Selection Tool.

Then I’ll paint over that area with the Quick Selection Tool to add it. The Quick Selection Tool works the same in Select and Mask as it does in Photoshop:

Adding to the Select Subject selection using the Quick Selection Tool in Select and Mask

Adding to the selection with the Quick Selection Tool.

Improving the selection edges

Another problem with my initial selection is that the edges along the boy’s t-shirt are looking a bit rough:

The initial rough selection edge made by Select Subject

Jagged edges are a common problem with initial selections.

could try smoothing out the edges using the Smooth slider in the Properties panel (found in the Global Refinements section). But the problem is, I also have the boy’s hair and the dog’s fur that need to be added to the selection, and smoothing the edges will make the hair and fur look worse.

Instead, in the Edge Detection area of the Properties panel, I’ll turn on Smart Radius, and then I’ll increase the Radiusvalue to around 20 px:

The Radius and Smart Radius options in the Edge Detection area of Select and Mask

The Edge Detection options.

To see what’s happened, I’ll turn on the Show Edge option at the top of the Properties panel:

The Show Edge option in the Properties panel in Select and Mask

Turning on “Show Edge”.

This displays only the edge of the selection, and notice that the edge now has a border around it. By increasing the Radius value, I’ve increased the detection area of the edge, represented by the border, and I’m asking Photoshop to look at the area within that border to see if it can improve the selection for me. The Smart Radius option lets Photoshop dynamically adjust the width of the border in different spots around the edge as needed, which usually produces better results:

Viewing the edge border around the selection after increasing the Radius value in Select and Mask

Increasing the Radius value gives Photoshop room to improve the selection edges.

I’ll turn the Show Edge option back off so we can see how good of a job Photoshop was able to do. And if we look again along the boy’s t-shirt, we see that the edge now looks much better, with a more natural looking softness to it:

The improved selection edge using the Radius and Smart Radius options in Select and Mask.

The result after increasing the Radius value (and turning on Smart Radius).

Selecting hair and fur with Select and Mask

To help us see this next part better, I’ll switch my View Mode from Overlay to On Black:

Changing the Select and Mask View Mode to On Black

Changing the View Mode to On Black.

If we look at the edges along the boy’s hair and the dog’s fur against the black background, we see that they’re already looking much better than they did initially thanks to the Radius and Smart Radius options. For comparison, here’s what the original Select Subject result looked like. Notice the “cardboard cutout” effect:

The initial hair and fur selection from the Select Subject command in Photoshop

The initial hair and fur selection from Select Subject.

And here’s how much better and more natural they already look just by increasing the Radius value:

The improved hair and fur selection in Select and Mask using Radius and Smart Radius

The already improved hair and fur selection.

To improve the hair and fur selections even more, I’ll choose the Refine Edge Brush from the toolbar:

Choosing the Refine Edge Brush in the Photoshop Select and Mask workspace

Selecting the Refine Edge Brush.

Then, I’ll simply paint along the edges of the hair to add more detail. Notice the green fringing around the hair, which is caused by the color of the background showing through. We’ll fix that in a moment:

How to select hair with Select and Mask in Photoshop

Adding more hair to the selection with the Refine Edge Brush.

I’ll do the same thing with the dog’s fur, painting along its edge with the Refine Edge Brush to add more fine details into the selection. Again we see the green fringing from the background, but we’ll remove that next:

How to select fur with Select and Mask in Photoshop

Adding more fur.

Here’s the result after painting with the Refine Edge Brush:

The hair and fur selections after painting with the Refine Edge Brush

More fine detail has been added to both the hair and fur.

Removing the color fringing

To remove the green color fringe from the hair and fur, I’ll go down to the Output Settings in the Properties panel and I’ll turn on Decontaminate Colors. Then, new in Photoshop CC 2018, I’ll dial back the intensity of the effect (which keeps the result from looking blotchy) by lowering the Amount value until I find the sweet spot where the green disappears. In this case, it’s at a value of around 50%:

The Decontaminate Colors option in Select and Mask in Photoshop

Turning on Decontaminate Colors and lowering the Amount value.

And just like that, the color fringing in the hair and fur is gone, and we’re left with a great looking selection:

How to select hair and fur with Select and Mask in Photoshop

The color fringing is now gone.

Outputting the selection

To output the final selection back into Photoshop, I’ll set the Output To option to New Layer with Layer Mask. Then, I’ll click OK to close the Select and Mask workspace:

Outputting the selection from Select and Mask back to Photoshop

Outputting the selection as a new layer with a layer mask.

Viewing the result

Back in Photoshop, the Layers panel now shows our new layer, with its layer mask thumbnail, sitting above the original image on the Background layer. I’ll hide the Background layer so we can see just the selected part of the image by clicking its visibility icon:

Hiding the Background layer in Photoshop

Hiding the Background layer to view the selection.

And here, after making an initial selection with Select Subject and then refining the selection with Select and Mask, is the final result:

How to select hair and fur with Select and Mask in Photoshop

The final result.

And there we have it! That’s how to use the new one-click Select Subject feature to make an initial selection of your subject, and how to refine the selection using Select and Mask, in Photoshop CC 2018!

Video Credit : Adobe Photoshop

Article Credit : www.photoshopessentials.com