How to Use The New Select And Mask Space In Adobe Photoshop CC

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How to Use The New Select And Mask Space In Adobe Photoshop CC

Image shows the new Select and Mask Task space in Photoshop CC
The new Select and Mask Task Space in Photoshop is an outstanding addition to the application.

One of the major Photoshop irritants, at least for me, is having to constantly switch between selection tools, bushes and panels as I work on getting a selection “just right”. On to top of that I find myself constantly switching between views to make sure the mask is tight and then repeating brush, tool, magnification routine to fix the selection. This is not a major complaint because like most Photoshop users I have done this so often through the years that “muscle-memory” kicks in and I just do it. Even so, every now and then I think to myself, “There has to be an easier way of doing this.” It turns out there now is an easier way thanks to the June 2016 Photoshop update.

Adobe has introduced a new Select And Mask space to the application. In many respects, it removes the tedium from making selections in Photoshop. This new panel puts the major selection tools:

  • Quick Selection
  • Refine Edge
  • Brush
  • Lasso
  • Grabber Hand, and;
  • Magnifying Glass

… into one panel. Then it gets better.

This new space now sports a Properties area where you can not only get a seriously clearer view of your selection but also allows you to make tweaks and refinements to your selection without ever leaving the panel. If you create composite images, this new space is gold.

Here’s how it works.

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How to Access The New Select And Mask Space In Photoshop CC

Image shows the task space and arrows point to the Tool, Tool Options and Properties panels.
The major selection tools and their properties are all in one panel. As well, the views are and amazing feature.

Opening the Select and Mask Task Space is actually quite simple. There are a couple of ways of doing it. Here they are:

  • From the menu items choose Select> Select and Mask …
  • Click once on a Selection tool and then click the Select and Mask … choice in the Options bar.
  • Press Ctrl-Alt-R (PC) or Command-Option-R (Mac).


Any of these will open the Select and Mask Space. The first thing that may strike you as being a bit odd is the image is semi-transparent. It isn’t. This is actually caused by a “mask”. Over on the left are the aforementioned Tools and, if you select one, notice how the Options bar above them changes to show you the selected tool and the options for adding or subtracting from a selection (These become icons for this task if you select the Lasso tool), adjusting a brush size, or sampling all layers if you select a brush or Intersection if you are using the Lasso tool.

The Magnifying Glass and Grabber Hand tools will also sport object that relate directly to the tool.

Just keep in mind, regardless of the tool chosen, the keyboard commands associated with thos tools can be used instead of clicking on an Option.

The real magic behind this Task Space is found over on the right in the Properties panel. The View menu pop down is sheer brilliance. Click this and a number of choices appear which give you a quick look at the state of your selection. The choices are:

  • Onion Skin: As you make a selection, this view removes the transparency. If you are unfamiliar with the term “Onion Skinning” you might want to check out this explanation.
  • Marching Ants: This view is the traditional view showing you the edges of the selection.
  • Overlay: Think of this as Quick Mask as it tosses a red overlay over the selection showing you the areas selected.
  • On Black: Select this and everything but the selection appears on a black background.
  • On White: Select this and everything but the selection appears on a white background.
  • Black and White: If you are used to looking at grey scale channels, this is the view for you.
  • On Layers: If the selection is above visible layers, this shows you how the selection works.

 Note that all of the view choices have keyboard equivalents. To cycle between the views, press the F key. Press the X key to turn the views off.

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How To Create A Selection In The Adobe Photoshop Select And Mask Space

Image shows the sheep has been selected and the rest of the image hidden in the Task Space.
Combine tools with views to minimize distractions when making selections in the Select and Mask Task Space.

In this example I have an image of a Big Horn Sheep I shot in British Columbia and want to put it on a beach on Lake Superior.  To start, I placed the sheep layer above the beach layer in the Layers panel and turned off the visibility of the beach layer. I do this in order to concentrate on the object rather than the background. I then selected the Sheep layer and opened the Select and Mask space.

I then selected the Quick Selection tool and changed the Brush size by pressing the [ or ] keys. With the brush set, I then clicked and dragged across the subject.

I then switched to the On Layer view by pressing the Y key.

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How To Edit A Selection In The Adobe Photoshop Select And Mask Space

Ther sheep is shown in the Overlay view and the Overlay opacity has been set to 100%.
You can easily add to or subtract from selection in the Select and Mask Task Space.

With the subject isolated I could see I had a couple of issues. I had a bit of the background selected and there were a couple of areas that need to be added to the sheep.

I zoomed in on the selection, switched to the Overlay view (V) and changed to the Brush tool. I prefer the Overlay view for “tight-in” work because it gives me a visual idea of what needs to be added or subtracted from the selection. Using a brush lets me “paint” the selections.

From there it was simply a lot of what I call “persnickety” work, zooming in and out and increasing and decreasing the brush size to mask out small areas.

On occasion I will also increase the Opacity of the colour overlay to “hide” the masked areas.

The bottom line here is to use the views to aid the selection process.

If you select a brush to add or subtract from a selection, be aware pressing the Option/Alt key will not switch the mode. Instead, press and hold the Shift key to switch from Add to Subtrract or vice-versa.

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How To Refine A Selection In The Adobe Photoshop Select And Mask Space

The Refine Edge Brush is selected to bring out more detail in the fur.
Use the Refine Edge Brush to soften the mask and to bring out more deatil in the selection.

With the sheep isolated I then switched view to Black and White (K) to get a look at the mask. I discovered it was a bit hard and some of the fur tufts needed to be added. To accomplish this task, I switched over to the Refine Edge Brush tool and zoomed in on the problem areas. I then click the Brush Size button in the Options and when the tool options opened I reduced the Hardness of the brush and the size of the brush. (You can also Right Click on the Mask to bring up the Brush Options). I then painted around the edges to smooth then out. I then adjusted the Shift Edge slider to a negative value to remove a bit of the outline around the sheep

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How To Edit A Photoshop Mask In The Adobe Photoshop Select And Mask Space

Image shows the sheep eating grass on the beach.
Double click a mask in a Photoshop Layer to open the Select and Mask Task Space.

Once you click Ok and return to the Photoshop interface you will see your layer is now sporting a mask. An obvious question, after you turn on the visibility of the hidden layers is: “ How do I get back to the Select And Mask Space if I need to make changes?”. Good question.

There are two ways. The first is to select the Layer and open the Select And Mask Space using one of the three methods mentioned earlier. Another, even quicker, method is to simply double-click the mask in the Layers panel and the Select and Mask Task space will open.

This new Task Space is a major addition to Photoshop because it is so easy to use and because it streamlines the tedious process of making selections and masks. By putting all of the major tools in one place the time spent clicking, switching, zooming and painting masks adds a high degree of workflow efficiency to this process.