Mixing and Matching for Selections


Today’s Question: Often the “Select Subject” command in Photoshop works well, but can I add to the selected subject?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, you can absolutely mix-and-match different selection tools in Photoshop to refine your selection, including in conjunction with the Select Subject command.

More Detail: The Select Subject command in Photoshop does an impressive job of identifying and selecting the key subject in a photo, especially when that key subject stands out reasonably well from the background. However, this command (and the similar Select Sky command) doesn’t always do a perfect job.

Fortunately, whenever an initial selection isn’t quite perfect, you don’t have to abandon that selection and start over with a different tool or technique. Instead, you can mix-and-match among various selection tools and commands.

For example, you could use the Select Subject (or Select Sky) command to create a quick and automatic selection. For areas of that initial selection that don’t match the subject or area you were trying to select, you can add to or subtract from that selection.

I often use the Quick Selection tool, for example, to supplement other selection tools. You can hold the Shift key on the keyboard while painting with the Quick Selection tool to add areas to a selection. You can also hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while painting to subtract areas from the selection.

Another helpful tool for this type of selection refinement is the Lasso tool, which you can use to trace along areas of the selection you need to modify. The same keyboard commands for adding to or subtracting from a selection work with this and other selection tools.

And, of course, there are a variety of other tools and commands you can use in Photoshop to further modify a selection. The key thing to keep in mind is that you can use multiple of the various tools and commands to fine-tune a selection, rather than having to use just a single tool to try to do all work to create a perfect selection.