When you're about to make a selection, ask yourself if the area you want to select is already visually distinct, like a single tone or color. If it is, save yourself time by using a tool that can create a selection from a tone or color, or create selections from channels or layer masks if they're already available in your document (Figure 9.4). I summarize these in Table9.2.
Figure 9.4. From left to right: A layer, a channel containing a saved selection, Command/Ctrl+clicking the channel in the Channels palette, the resulting selection, and the final graphic after one more step of adding a black solid color layer that automatically used the selection.
Table 9.2. Selecting by Tone or Color
One area of a specific tone or color
Select the Magic Wand tool, adjust options bar, and click the tone or color you want
All areas of a tone or color value or range
Choose Select > Color Range
Based on an existing channel
In the Channels palette, Command/Ctrl-click the channel
Based on an existing layer mask
In the Layers palette, Command/Ctrl-click the layer mask
By letting Photoshop follow a high-contrast edge
Drag the Magnetic Lasso tool along an edge
Being able to create selections by tone or color gives you an important advantage: Instead of having to draw selections with marquee and lasso tools, you can create a selection with painting tools, which is sometimes easier. Just paint black into a channel and convert the channel to a selection. When you create a selection from a channel or layer mask, the selection is made from areas darker than 50% gray.
The magnetic lasso tool lays down a path of points along an edge defined by contrasting tones or colors. If the points don't go where you want, press Delete to remove the most recent point and drag to guide the magnetic lasso along the edge.
Using the Color Range Dialog box
The Color Range dialog box (Figure 9.5) is powerful, but a little intimidating at first glance. Fortunately, there is a simple approach to using it. Start by choosing Select > Color Range, and follow these guidelines:
Click the Select pop-up menu to see if any of the presets is a shortcut to the tone or color value or range you want to select. If none of them is helpful, leave the Select pop-up menu set to Sampled Colors.
If you set the Select pop-up menu to Sampled Colors, use the eyedropper to click a tone or color in the document window. Sampled Colors is the default, so it may already be set for you.
If you want to extend the range of the selection to similar tones or colors, drag the Fuzziness slider.
If you're using the eyedropper and you want to add dissimilar tones or colors, such as selecting both red and blue areas, use the Add to Sample eyedropper to click the additional tones or colors in the document window. You can use the Subtract from Sample eyedropper to remove tones or colors from the selection.
The Selection Preview pop-up menu can give you a better idea of the current selection than the preview in the Color Range dialog box.
Figure 9.5. In the Color Range dialog box (left), I used the eyedropper to click the orange door so that it would become a selection, previewed as white on black (right).
When you click OK, Photoshop creates a selection from the tones and colors you picked.
To soften a selection edge, choose Select > Feather.