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By now you know how to brush smarter. But now it's time to select smarter.

What is a selection? Selections are areas of your image that you isolate in order to apply edits or filters to only that area. Where do you select? Well, it's based on your needs. For example, maybe you want to blur a specific region, or add an effect to just one corner. There are thousands of applications. It's really up to you.

But, selections up until now have only been possible in pre-defined shapes, like ovals or squares, or by color, or by sloppy hand-drawn areas. Or, at least, my freehand drawing is sloppy. This has the potential to be painful and doesn't offer the ideal level of control.

Now, you can use the Brush Selection tool to target your selections to colors, brightness values, or a combination of color and brightness. These two together make up a setting called Magic, and it's magical. The Brush Selection tool only impacts pixels with a similar value to the pixel that is in the crosshairs, or center, of the brush. It will select the surrounding pixels based on how high you set the Tolerance slider in the Context bar.

Select Pixels

Then, to the selected area, you can apply any of the following:

  • Repair: Skin Tune
  • Add: Vignette, Special Effects, Tilt-Shift, Drawing
  • Exposure/Lighting: Exposure, Levels, Auto Levels, Tone Curves, Light EQ™, Dehaze, Dodge and Burn
  • Color: White Balance, Color EQ, Color Balance, Convert to Black and White, Split Tone
  • Detail: Sharpen, Blur, Noise, Clarity, Detail Brush
  • Adjustment Layers

It's particularly nifty for adding a special effect, but keeping the overall impression more on the subtle side.

Effects Applied

So let's get started.

I open an image in Edit mode.

Select Image

I choose the Brush Selection button from the Selection tools in the top left toolbar.

I would like to create a focal point in this image. I choose Magic as my setting and set my Tolerance level. I can up the Tolerance to include a wider range of pixels. A lower setting increases how similar a pixel has to be to the one selected in order to be included. I can erase the selection with the right mouse button.

Choose Settings

Then I can start brushing over the area I want to select. I align the center of the nib over the areas with the color and brightness values I want to affect. The surrounding area will be unaffected.

Start Selecting

Finish Selecting

Then I choose the tool that I want to apply. I want to draw attention to this area. I choose Clarity and use the tool as normal. I can push the Hide Selection button to see what impact it's having on my selected area. I can also use the Show Previous button to see the before version of the image. Both are located on the bar below the image.


After I press Done in the Clarity tool, my selection is still there. I want to go further, so I enter the Color EQ tool. I bump up the Vibrance and Saturation sliders, and I still think the purple glass looks believable.

Color EQ

Hopefully it is now what catches the eye first.

I could continue adding as many effects as I want to that same selection, or I can go to Select | Deselect to turn off the selection.

Final Image

How about another approach? Perhaps for an image like this, I would like to lighten up the foreground but don't want to make the sunlight any more blinding than it already is. In this case, it would make sense to target brightness.

Brightness Option

So I select the Brush Selection button, and choose Brightness from the drop-down menu. Then I select the brightest areas.

Select Brightness

Then, in order to target everywhere that is not bright, I go to Select | Inverse.

Choose Inverse


Now with everywhere else selected, I can apply lighting improvements with the Light EQ tool to the foreground.

Lighting Improvements

Or, in its most helpful incarnation, you can use the Selection Brush with layers. So say I want to give this parrot a new home where he can squawk and play with other parrots his age... Or in a photography context, just a new background.


I got antsy, so I added the background image as a second layer right away. This merely involved dragging the image out of the Filmstrip into the Layers pane. Then, I dragged it below Layer 1, making it the new Layer 1.

Next, I get to work selecting the parrot. This could be done by color, by brightness, or by the magical combination.

Select Parrot

Then choose Layer | Mask | From Selection.

From Selection

Now the selected parrot is the mask. Yes, it does look kinda silly, but I'm trying to make a point here. If my selection is a bit speckled, I can turn off Smart Brushing by choosing Off from the drop-down menu, and then use the Selection Brush as a normal selection tool. If I haven't selected completely accurately, I can use a black brush to correct it. I can remove areas from my selection by right-clicking and dragging over the area I want to deselect.

Also, I can change what the selection overlay looks like. It doesn't have to be "marching ants", (or, in the still images of this tutorial, dotted lines). I go to Select | Overlay Options...

Overlay Options

Then I select one of the following overlay options:

Marching Ants This option outlines my selection with animated dashes.
Selection Highlighted This option highlights my selection in the color of my choosing. I can select a color from the drop-down menu, then customize the transparency of the color overlay by using the Opacity slider.
Selection Exposed This option highlights the non-selected areas of my image in the color of my choosing. In other words, it colors everywhere that my selection is not. I can select a color from the drop-down menu, then customize the transparency of the non-selected area by using the Opacity slider.

Then I press OK. This makes my selection much easier to see, based on my needs.

Show Selection

And that's the basics of using brush selections in a nutshell. Or a…seed pod? *Insert clever reference to whatever parrots eat here.*

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