Hints for Success

• Keep the brush as small as you can when highlighting edges to minimize your work later. Wide enough to cover your edge, but not so wide that it requires a lot of touchup.

• Follow the edge with some care, and use smart highlighting wherever there is a reasonably defined edge to follow. Smart highlighting hugs edges and increases/decreases the size of the application brush automatically.

• Use the magnifying glass to zoom in close (click the icon or press Z), and the Hand (click the icon or press H) to move the picture once you are zoomed in.

• Trim both inside and outside the highlight edge as close as possible to the edge that you want to retain.

• Don't be afraid to stop and touch-up as you go with the Eraser (click the icon or press E) and use Undo (press cmd/ctrl + Z) whenever you make a mistake.

• If there are breaches in the highlight outline, the fill may stray into unwanted areas. If the Fill covers more than you want, undo the fill, fix the highlighting, and fill again.

• Use the Edge Touch Up to remove frayed areas and stray pixels. The tool both adds and removes information to the preview by altering the mask.

• Use the Clean Up tool with a small brush to get rid of background that seeps in to the selection. Add areas back by holding the Option/Alt keys (Mac/Win).

• Switch views between the mask and extracted result as necessary to improve your results. To see the mask, choose Mask from the Display option on the Preview section of the screen (Preview>Display>Mask), after you preview the image (Step 5). This will show you the mask that was created by Photoshop, which it is using for display of the preview. You can then, if desired, retouch the mask using the Clean Up and Edge Touch Up tools. You can also retouch while previewing the result (Preview>Display>None). This will give you a visual sense of how the mask directly effects the result as you retouch.

• While the tools in the interface are somewhat similar to other Photoshop tools, or at least function somewhat like familiar tools, the function of these tools are helpfully targeted to making complex masking easier. Keying on the function of each tool and the advantages it offers will help you master the interface and the results. The following table provides an overview of the tools and how to use them.








Define edges/decision area; adds highlighting

Use the Option/Alt key in areas where the edge is clearly defined to hug the edge you are tracing. When used with Forced Foreground (checked), use highlighter to cover the entire area for extraction.



Re-define edges of the decision area; removes highlighting

Use a small brush and trim close to the edges you want to keep. Available only when there are areas that have been highlighted.



Selects a single color to extract based on color in the image.

Chooses a single color to be added to the Color box. Available when Force Foreground is checked (under Extraction).



Fills an area that will be included in the extraction.

Use only to fill areas you have completely enclosed by highlighting, and use only in areas that should absolutely be retained. Not available with Force Foreground checked.

Clean Up


Erases (makes transparent) or adds (makes opaque) areas of the image that have already been extracted.

Available only after the extraction is previewed. This tool erases by default (erases the preview and adds black to the mask), and makes opaque (fills in the preview and adds white to the mask) when holding down Option/ALT (Mac/PC).

Edge Touch Up


Erases (makes transparent) or adds (makes opaque) areas of the image that have already been extracted, but does so by considering image contrasts.

Available only after the extraction is previewed. Hold Cmd/CTRL to move the edge (target appears in ceter of the brush). Press 1-9 to control tool pressure before applying (1=light; 9=intense).



Changes view of the image in the preview window by zooming in or out.

Hold down option/alt key to zoom out.



Allows the user to move the view of the image canvas when zoomed in on the image.

Functional only if the viewing size of the image is larger than the interface viewing area.


  Copyright © Richard Lynch 2001