Out and Out explication of Refine Edging in CS5

What do billowy hair, fur coats and horse manes have in common?

They used to be the bane of designers who had a rough time selecting these sorts of complex edges from the surrounding background. An under billed, yet, one of the most path breaking features of CS5, the Refine Edge feature has finally put an end to those exasperating hours of fine tuning the edges.

Mask creation happens to be one of the most important and difficult tasks in Photoshop. Edge selection has one of the more trying aspects of Photoshop as the transition of edges in earlier versions of Photoshop was either uniformly hard or soft. This always caused problems when there was an image with both hard and soft edges, such as clothes making a hard edge and hair making a soft edge. Also, with all the blurring out of the edges, there was always the problem of adjusting the contrast between the edges. With the Refine Edge along with the Decontaminate Colors option even a beginner can come up with results professionals in the earlier versions of Photoshop would have struggled with.

This is how this feature works in Photoshop CS5. Let us take an image of a girl with a furry hood. Our objective is to select the girl along with her jacket and using refine edge tool make a new layer taking the selection alone. A really difficult operation in CS4 is reduced to a few short steps in CS5.

Step 1: Using any selection tool make a rough selection of the image on which the Refine Edge tool is to be used.

Step 2: Click on the Refine Edge Option on the top of the image.

Step 3: The refine Edge dialog box pops up. There are a lot of options such as View Mode, Edge Detection, Adjust Edges and Output which are used for creating this extra-ordinary tool.

Step 4: Clicking on the View Mode options throws open another dialog box, where a whole load of viewing options are on display. The silhouette mode is the most preferred because the edges can be viewed in good contrast.

Step 5: Click on the Smart Radius button and fiddle around with the scroll. Immediately you can view the difference the fine tuning of the edges.

Step 6: The difference is notable in the silhouette viewing mode.

Step 7: Select the Refine Edge tool from the dialog box and smoothen the edges such that the smaller areas around the edges that one usually cannot get to.

Step 8:  Click on the Decontaminate Colors option and adjust the amount which ensures that there is no spilling of colors around the edges.

Step 9: The major work is done after this. One can make finer adjustments in the Adjust Edge box by changing the Smooth, Contrast, Feather and Skin Edge scrolls. Adjust them as per the image you have got.

Step 10: Once more view the image in the silhouette mode. Now you can see the final changes in the initial selection. Gone are the days of messy edges and improper contrasts.

Step 11: Save this layer to a new layer with a layer mask.

Step 12: You have the final output.

The Refine Edge tool is a big step in making a light work of difficult selections. But this is not the final word on it. While it works great on most images elementary knowledge of this tool may not work with each and every image. For advanced selections, one needs to have a thorough knowledge about the image calculations. But overall, this is one of the best features of the Photoshop CS5, which will bring a smile on the faces of most users.


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Hector is a freelance writer, providing high quality services to clients across the globe.