7 Things You Didn't Know About Adobe Photoshop

1. Magnetic Lasso / The Quick Way To Cut Out

To get a perfect cut out I would normally use the pen tool (Hot Key: "P"), and manually draw around the subject matter ("subject matter" I sound like a pro... ahem) but today we are going to look at those little bits of Photoshop that don't really see the light of day and we are going to use the magical and mysterious "Magnetic Lasso Tool". Simply click and hold your curser over the lasso tool icon and a few lasso options will appear. Select Magnetic lasso, third along.

Now we're set. Start by selecting the edge of the subject matter (there I go again), and move the curser around its edge, guess what – it does all the tracing for you! As if by magic... It's not perfect but we'll deal with the little bits which escape the selection later. Continue around the contour of your desired cut-out and finish up back where you started. The area will automatically be "selected". This technique is superb for very swift cut outs which may not need to be 100% perfect. For example your cutout might be for a concept or for the web, the only limitation is that the image and the desired cut-out need to have a little contrast.

1 Magnetic Lasso 1

By the way, in case I forget, the image we are using here is from the free stock library people over at stock.xchange. If you want free stock images, go and check them out. Be sure to read all of their terms and conditions. This picture is no. #840073 taken by Dirk Herrmann.

Ok, so what about those areas which haven't come out exactly as desired? For example in the image below you will see the shoulder has an area which has been trespassed upon. Well, make sure your subject matter is still selected (the dashed line) go to your paths palette (Window > Paths). Click the little arrow on the top right hand side, this will pull down the "Paths" menu. Now select "Make Work Path". We now have a vector "path" of the cut out which will appear in the paths palette. We would have a similar looking palette if we had used the pen tool but this way, using the Magnetic Lasso Tool, it means we can do things much swifter.

1 Magnetic Lasso 2

Ok, now we use the "Direct Selection Tool" (Hot Key: "A") to select the vector nodes which are reproaching upon the shoulder. Click and drag over them and then hit backspace and they will disappear into oblivion. Now use the pen tool (Hot Key: "P") to join the shape up again, this time following he contour of the shoulder. You may need to use this technique in a couple of places where the trace has not gone as well as anticipated.

1 Magnetic Lasso 3

You should now be left with a path which goes all the way around the subject matter and which should have taken you much less time than if you had used the pen tool. Whoopee.

2. Layer Masks / Enable Future Editing

2 Layer Mask 1

In your "Paths" palette move your cursor over the "Work Path". Press your "Option" key on your keyboard and click with you mouse. You will find that the path area is now "selected". Have a look at your layer palette. To make a "Layer Mask" on a layer it cannot be locked so you might need to double click the layer and press ok on the menu to unlock it. Now go to go and create a "Layer Mask" on that layer (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection). And boom, you should have yourself a layer mask! Below is a before and after:

1 Magnetic Lasso 4

The benefits of a Layer Mask are quite simple, you can edit the original layer separately from the mask and visa versa. This gives you great flexibility and can save an awful lot of time. But what happens when you are done with all your editing and wish to continue without a mask? Well all you have to do is go to the little arrow on the top right of your layers palette and select "Apply Layer Mask". This will dispose of the mask leaving you with a very respectable cut-out - see below!

2 Layer Mask 1

3. Liquify / Smooth Those Edges

The "Liquify" filter tool is a photo-retouchers most prized possession. By mastering this tool you can make subtle but effective tweaks which can make all the difference to an image. Go to the following menu to use it: Filter > Liquify (Hot Key Combination: "Shift Option X").

3 Liquify

We have used the liquify tool to smarten out the clothing and hat a little. Incidentally have you ever had a look at the Filter Gallery in the "Filter" menu dropdown? Check it out as it can be quite handy in helping you find a desired filter quickly.

4. History Snapshot / Go Back In Time

Have you ever found that you go to your history palette only to find that you can't go back as far as you wanted to? Well you need to start using the "History Snapshot" tool. The basic idea is that at any time you can make a snapshot of your document and jump back there at any time. Be warned though, if you close your document all your snapshots will be lost. This tool is very useful if you are working on an image which requires a lot of manipulation but you're not too sure how it will turn out. If it turns out badly you can always go back a few stages if you've used the snapshoot tool.

So how do you use this snapshot thingy? Go to the "History" palette (Window > History). You will see what looks like a camera icon placed along the bottom of the palette. If you press this you will find that a second area will appear under the depiction of the start of your file. You can name this by double clicking on it.

4 SnapShot

So make sure you start using this as it can save your skin when you least expect it to! Donations welcome ;-)

5. Smudge / Good Hair Day

You may have wondered about the area of hair which we seem to have neglected. The smudge tool can really help in getting a cut-out of a person to look as though they have really stood in front of the backdrop. Hair tends to have an element of transparency and minuet detail which a standard cut out cannot give you. The smudge tool can help in this. For advanced users, we are aware of the "Extract" filter but have found the smudge tool is far swifter and more effective to use.

So how do we use it? Go to the "Tool" palette and click and hold over what is set to default as the blur tool. You will find a set of three options pop out of the side, the last of which is the smudge tool (Hot Key: "R"). Adjust your brush size and click and flick on the hair areas to give the effect of stands of hair. This may take a while to master but its very useful.

5 Smudge 1

You can see how effective this is below:

5 Smudge 2

Whilst you have the smudge tool selected you can also use the "Option" and "Space" key combination to zoom in and the "Alt" and "Space" key combination to zoom out.

6. Distort / into 3D effect

This is a tasty way of adding some zip into a design. We start of with a rectangle. We created this by adding a new layer (turning the others off) and, using the Marquee tool (Hot Key: "M"), to draw a rectangle. Fill this by hitting "Option" and "Return" together.

6 Distort 1

Now press "Option T". You will see that some handles appear around the layer. Right click on the layer and a "transform" menu will appear. Select distort. If you put your curser over a handle you will find that you will be able to click and drag it along which "distorts" the object (now there's a surprise!). See below for our results:

6 Distort 2

You will be able to do this on the original image as well which we have done to create the 3D Polaroid effect above.

7. Grayscale / with Hue & Saturation

I have known some people to copy a coloured image, open a new file, paste in the coulored image, then go to image > mode > greyscale, then they copy the black and white image back into the original document. That's an awful lot of work just to make something black and white and this can be achieved very easily by using the "Hue and Saturation" settings.

Make sure the layer you want to be "greyscaled" is selected in your layer palette (or make a selection using the lasso or marquee tool) then go to Image > Adjustment > Hue/Saturation (Hot keys: option U). You will now be faced with the Hue and Saturation settings window. Move the middle "saturation" slider down to -100. Hit ok. Bing bang bong. Black and white area should now appear.

7 Hue

Also have a play with the hue and "colorize" options and get creative with some colour tinting!


7 Things Conclusion

So there we are. Chances are there must be something in that lot which could help you out! If anybody has any comments or questions, please be sure to make a comment below...


fantastic ! love the 'Good Hair Day' part ;)
also the 'Make Work Path' too

thanks for sharing ! :D

thanks for the history snapshot tip, i can't believe all this time i didn't figure that out, it's very handy :)

Wow thanks very much for the history snapshot tip! Will come in very useful :D Great stuff

Great tutorial!

I think we will never know everything about Photoshop but, certainly, we can combine some of this tools and make good jobs.

Thank you for your tutorial :)

Thanks for the article Matt, it has been useful indeed.

Hi there,

good article. But if one would like to print it on IE7 the print dialog takes too long and IE crashes. You definitely should get a print.css ;-)

You are completely right Gilbert. My sincere apologies. Finding time is my problem but I’ll try and sort something out over the next few months. Thanks for the advice. Cheers for the support everyone. Does anyone disagree with any of the techniques used her, or does anyone know of a better way of achieving the effects depicted? Keep the comments coming in – its great to have some feedback...

Great tutorials, its very useful to edit photo & illustration

Thank you


this is pretty awesome i learned so much!!

this is pretty awesome i learned so much??

this is pretty awesome i learned so much:)

Pretty interesting and cool trick. Thanks for sharing! Photoshop never ceases to amaze with its capabilities.

Certainly Yes this is very helpful article liked the way its been presented. Good tutorial

Some really useful hints and tips here! Great for future reference! Thanks for sharing!

There are some really good tips here. Can't wait to give them a try !! Thanks Matt.

Hi, this is some post! I will add you in my rss reader.