Using the Refine Edge Tool

by Kailey LaValliere

For this blog post, I have created a how-to video in regards to my dog series. Because I do a lot of Photoshop work to put my images together, I wanted to show everyone one of the many techniques that I use.

When extracting a dog from the background that has a lot of hair I use the Refine Edge tool. I have found this tool to work best for this work because it does a great job of detecting hair in a detailed fashion. When I first started doing my dog photos, I was using a very tedious method to extract the dog hair. I was using the quick selection tool and a brush on a layer mask to accomplish this. The results were lacking and it would take me much longer than it needed to.

The first thing that I do is use the quick selection tool to do a very rough selection of the dog. I am not going for accuracy at this point, just an estimate. If you hold down the option key on a Mac keyboard and paint around the outside of the subject, you are telling Photoshop what not to select. Once I have a rough selection, I pull it into the Select and Mask option at the top of the toolbar.

 Quick Selection

Quick Selection

Once in the Select and Mask tool, I begin using the refine edge brush to clean up the edges. I zoom into the edges and begin painting with the tool, going in and out of the edge. I have found that I get the best results from the tool by doing this. I personally do not like to use the Smart Radius option inside of this tool. I have not had luck with it, so I stick to just using the brush. When I am painting on the edges, I prefer to use the overlay view mode so that I can see what I am doing. When I want to see a detailed view of the work I have done, I switch to the black and white view mode. Inside of the tool, you can use a brush as you would on a layer mask to take away any selection that is not what you want. You can then go back over that area with the refine edge tool to bring back the detail of the hair.

 Using Refine Edge Tool

Using Refine Edge Tool

After I think I am happy with the selection, I will view it in the black and white mode before exporting on a new layer with a layer mask.

 After Refine Edge

After Refine Edge

This tool is best used with subjects with wild hair that is difficult to select with other methods. It does not work well with flat hair that does not stick out. I would suggest watching my video so you can see in more detail what I am talking about. I plan on doing more of these about other techniques that I frequently use to create my dog photographs.