Making Fine Selections in Photoshop using Channel Mask or Refine Edge

By David Burns

This Photoshop CS5 tutorial will demonstrate how to change the background in a portrait without losing much detail. I’ll also show you how to achieve that in earlier versions of Photoshop. Before Photoshop CS3, making fine selections was fairly difficult. Refine Edge came to the rescue in CS3 and makes fine selections a snap. Before that there were a few ways to achieve fine selections, the most popular being Channel Masks. First I’ll show you a Channel Mask technique and then I’ll show you Refine Edge for those who have CS3 or later.

Making Fine Selections in Photoshop

You will want to try these techniques using an image with relatively high resolution and good contrast between the subject and background. Pick a new background that has similar lighting qualities and direction. Don’t worry if it’s in focus, you can always apply a Gaussian Blur Filter to make it look out of focus. In this tutorial I have used a portrait taken in the studio and a background taken outdoors which may not be the most ideal combination but illustrates the technique well enough.

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Channel Mask

Refine Edge

Enjoy! ~ David