There are several ways for you to get more juice out of Photoshop. This article is a must read for those who want to explore other things that can be done through this software other than just to color correct images using Adjustment layers or simply tinker with the Liquidity Tool or do something like a simple painting task.
All these may seem to be impressive to your friends and family as well as other people who are not really familiar with the inner workings of Photoshop. But if you are dealing with a client whose requirements demand the most from us, then we have to go to the next level and explore the inner workings of the software. This means that we have to hone our skills when it comes to the various features and functions of Photoshop. One of the most important aspects of the software is the Selection Tool and we must know and understand the critical elements and principles behind the process.
Photoshop is Color Blind
This is one important fact about this software that we should not afford to miss. Photoshop is completely clueless when it comes to colors, and it cannot see the difference between red, blue and orange colors. This may seem strange to those who are not really familiar with the inner workings of Photoshop. In truth and in fact, Photoshop, considered as one of the best image editing and manipulation tools, is completely unaware when working with colors. So the next question that we would logically ask is how could Photoshop do the selections, adjustments, etc. if it is not able to distinguish these colors.
While it is true that Photoshop is “color blind,” it is able to detect the luminance of an image. This means that it can work on images based on their shades of white and black. Photoshop “look” at each channel of an image as a grayscale image consisting of some 255 different shades of white and black. Thus, when this software makes a selection, such action is done purely on the difference between these different shades of white and black.
You may raise the point that we are referring to just a single channel. So, what about the 2 other channels that are also involved when one makes a selection within the image that they are working on? Does that mean that more than the 255 shades of white and black earlier stated are involved? In a way, this is an incorrect assumption. What Photoshop does through its Selection Tool is calculate the “grayscale image” in its totality and this is done by retaining the image’s lightest pixel.
To prove this point, let us consider a pixel consisting of 20 levels red, 240 levels blue and 80 levels green. Photoshop will use for the selection with the ending grayscale composite that has pixels with luminance at 240 levels. This means that the lightest channels will readily stand out. And if you want to see how this works, then you simply “de-saturate” the image by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-U and then pick your selection using the Magic Wand Tool or the Quick Selection Tool. By doing this, you will get the same result that can be obtained when you use the selection tool with a colored image.
Elliptical and Rectangular Marquee Tools
We utilize the Rectangular Marquee Tool if we prefer to make a rectangular selection on our image and we use the Elliptical Marquee Tool if we prefer to make an elliptical selection on our image. These are just two of the basic rules of Photoshop. The Single Column and the Single Row Marquee Tools, which are the Selection Tools that pick out either the column or row of a single pixel, are seldom used.
Going back to our main topic, you can do some magical tricks with these selection tools with the right techniques. The first “trick” can be achieved by pressing SHIFT and ALT keys. Let us assume that you have a square selection made on your image, but you wish to make a second selection to modify the original selection that you have made. The original selection disappears when you drag again. On the other hand, if you want to add another selection to the previous one made, you just hold the SHIFT key while making the selection. This action leaves the previous selection in its original position while a second selection is added to it.
The ALT key operates in almost the same way as the SHIFT key, albeit with a minor variation. The former is used if we wish to extract from the selection as opposed to using the SHIFT key to add something to it. Thus, if you have a rectangular selection and you want to extract a portion from the selection made, then you just have to hold the ALT key while dragging using your preferred selection tool.
It is important to note that this technique is applicable to all Selection Tools. For instance, if you want to make a perfect circular selection or a perfect square selection, then you simply hold the SHIFT key while you are dragging using either the Elliptical Marquee Tool or the Rectangular Marquee Tool.
Quick Mask Mode
The Quick Mask Mode is probably one of the features of Photoshop that most of us are not really familiar with. Thus, a quick description of this Photoshop feature is in order. When you are in Quick Mask Mode or Q, the areas that are either selected or unselected will be displayed with a red overlay.
Now, in case you pick out a brush and paint the selected area white, you are in effect “erasing” its red overlay, and when you paint it with black, you are in effect “adding” to the red overlay. When you paint using a 50-percent Brush, you are in effect partially adding to or erasing the red overlay. You need to press the Q again in order to deactivate the Quick Mask Mode. This action will select the area that had the previous red overlay. Partial red overlay, which is normally achieved when you paint with a brush that has 50-percent opacity, will be partly selected and up to a point that is proportionate to the opacity of the brush used in painting the selected area. You may observe a different behavior in your machine and the red overlay may cover the areas that are unselected. You can perform this special trick by double clicking the Quick Mask Mode and then choosing the Selected Areas.
Now, it’s time for us to reveal this little trick that we have referred to in the earlier section of this article. Let us assume that the Quick Mask Mode is activated and you have made a selection in an image of a planet. One of the major challenges would be on how you can seamlessly find the center and tweak the circular selection so that it makes a perfect fit with your planet. Most of us would normally use the Elliptical Marquee Tool to achieve our purpose. However, the best that can be achieved through this technique is an ellipse that is much flatter. Is there another technique that we can use to obtain a better result?
The better technique is actually simple. While the Quick Mask Mode is activated, you press CTRL-L in order to get into the Free Transform Mode and from there you can freely tweak the selected area until you achieve your objective. In our example, you simply have to drag the corners in order to achieve a perfect fit. And since you have previously picked out the Selected Areas, you can easily transform the selected area without altering any portion of the unselected area. Once you are done with your task, you simply press the Enter button in order to initiate the desired transformation. You then deactivate and exit the Quick Mask Mode by pressing the Q key once you are done.
It is generally difficult to make these types of selections that we have just discussed if we don’t use the technique that we have described. It is also important to remember that you can apply Filters or Warp on the selected area while you are in Quick Mask Mode. You can use them if you want to inject some creative elements into the selected area.
Another important Photoshop tool that we should be familiar with is the Lasso Tool. This Photoshop tool is used to make a selection by “lassoing” the desired area within your image. There are those who don’t use this selection mainly because it doesn’t provide the precision that they normally get when using other selection tools. Another Photoshop selection tool that we have to consider is the Polygonal Lasso Tool. As the name implies, this is the ideal choice if we want to make polygonal selections and it can actually be a practical option in specific situations. You can access this selection tool by clicking and moving the mouse several times. They may seem easier said than done and you need to try it yourself to learn how this selection works.
You also need to learn about the Magnetic Lasso Tool. To access this selection tool, you click a portion of the image that you are working on and then drag the area across the margin of the subject or portion of the image that you want to select. While going through this procedure, you will see some points and lines that appear to snap towards the edges of the selected object or portion of the image. Once you are done with your selection, the lines created are converted into a selection by double clicking the subject or portion of the image that you have selected. While this selection tool is generally imprecise and bulky and may not produce the results that you want, it may still come in handy if you are looking for quick results. However, if you require the more advanced selection, then you may have to consider other selection tools. M.A.H.
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