Many photographers have been grappling with Adobe’s baffling choice to remove the refine edge tool in favor of the new “select and mask.” Adobe has been known to leave legacy features for generations, with about a million ways to skin the proverbial cat left intact for users who are set in their ways. The thought that they’ve recently cut an extremely commonly used tool is not sitting well with a lot of people, however, there’s great news for you people who hate select and mask – refine edge lives! It’s just sadly not obvious how to access it, but it is simple. All you have to do is make your selection, hold down the Shift key, and go to Select > Select & Mask. Voila! Old school “Refine Edge” appears. You’re welcome.
Back to the task at hand – Nathaniel Dodson has made a video for Tutvid detailing the differences in results one gets when doing knock-outs with the new Select & Mask vs the old Refine Edge. He uses three different photos and an older version of Photoshop as well as a current version to make a side-by-side comparison.
In what appears to be part of a strategy to make Photoshop less intimidating to new users, Adobe’s been giving familiar tools a simpler interface in order to, I’m assuming, reduce the learning curve that has typically been pretty lengthy with many Adobe programs. appears to have the same controls as refine edge but with a simpler way of getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B,’ painting. However, as Nathaniel shows us, the painted selections can be very imprecise with lower contrast situations and the sliders don’t always behave the same way as refine edge’s even though they have the same name.
There are areas where Select & Mask is preferable however. In Nathaniel’s testing, complex hair selections came out cleaner with Select & Mask than Refine Edge, and as anyone who’s dealt with this scenario knows, anything that makes this easier is a good thing.
If you do opt to use Select & Mask over Refine Edge (now that we know that’s still an option) Nathaniel recommends that you forget about it as a selection tool and treat it more as a selection refinement tool, making your selections with other tools before opening it up. Check out the whole video to hear all his observations.