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How to Refine Edges in Photoshop

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Making selections of people in Photoshop is not easy. This is where the Refine Edge tool comes in handy.
There are many Photoshop tools to do the job but it gets difficult when you have to select hair or fur for example. The Refine Edge tool makes this task a lot easier.
In this article, I’ll teach you how to refine edges in Photoshop.

How to Refine Edges in Photoshop

It’s best to pick an easy photo if you want to learn how to refine edges. Photos with a uniform background are perfect to start with. Keep away from photos with busy backgrounds until you’ve got the hang of it.
I’ll use this photo to make a detailed selection of the girl and remove the background.

A portrait of a female model against a white background
© Pixabay

Step 1: Make a Selection

Start with making a rough selection of your subject. You can use any selection tool available. I’ll use the Quick Selection Tool.
The selection doesn’t have to be perfect but make sure not to leave out large parts.
Screenshot of making a quick selection in Photoshop to edit a portrait of a female model - refine edge Photoshop

Step 2: Open Refine Edge

Where is Refine Edge in Photoshop? It’s a frequently asked question these days because it’s hidden after recent updates.
First, hold the Shift key. Then, go to Select in the menu and click on ‘Select and Mask…’
The Refine Edge window will pop up.
A screenshot showing how to use the refine edge tool in Photoshop on a portrait of a female model

Step 3: Select a View Mode

Select a view mode of Refine Edge depending on the colours of the photo you are using. In my case, the white background is perfect to see the selection and what I’m doing.
Use different modes to learn which work best for the selection you want to make.
A screenshot showing how to refine edges in Photoshop on a portrait of a female model

Step 4: Adjust the Edges

The selection in my example is OK but far from perfect. There are still grey areas in the hair and the edges are rough. Adjusting the edges will fix this.
Start with Radius. This is the setting you will use the most when refining edges in Photoshop. Increase the value of the slider to make the edges of the selection softer and more natural.
For the most part, the Radius determines what the result will look like.
A screenshot showing how to refine edges in Photoshop on a portrait of a female model
Use the four other sliders in the Refine Edge window to get the best and most natural result:
The Smooth slider smooths out the edges. Keep it low because it takes away from your selection. In my example, I used this slider to smoothen the edges of the hair.
The Feather slider helps to blend the selection more into its eventual background. Keep it low as well.
The Contrast slider adds more definition to your edge. Using too much will create harsh edges.
Move the Shift Edge left or right to shrink or expand the selection.

Step 5: Output Your Selection

Before you output, you can check Decontaminate Colors to remove colour fringe. This could be necessary when your subject is against a contrasting colour background.
Select one of the output options to finalise the selections. Usually, New Layer with Layer Mask is the best option. It allows you to edit the selection even further without losing the original photo.
A screenshot showing how to refine edges in Photoshop on a portrait of a female model - output your selection
And here’s the result of using Refine Edge in Photoshop on another background.
A screenshot showing how to refine edges in Photoshop on a portrait of a female model

Conclusion

There’s no better way to select hair or fur than using the Refine Edge tool in Photoshop.
Practice a lot with subjects on different backgrounds. The background affects how difficult making the selection will be.
Start with uniform backgrounds and then move on to the busy and colourful ones.
Next, why not check out our tutorial on using the displacement map in Photoshop.

 

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