Select and Mask vs Refine Edge, or: Why Select and Mask Kind of Sucks

Adobe is dedicated to updating Photoshop consistently, but those updates don’t always go so well. A lot of people have rolled back their healing brush tool, and ever since Select and Mask replaced Refine Edge this summer, people have been complaining. Meanwhile, Nate Dodson over at Tutvid has been desperately trying to make this new tool work.

Nate says he’s watched hours upon hours of tutorials on how to use Select and Mask—in his words: “every tutorial I can find on how to use this tool”—and he has not been impressed. Too many are too simplistic, not really testing out the tool’s capabilities or bumping up against (and highlighting) the tool’s limitations.

That, in part, is why he put together this comparison video. Unless you’re willing to downgrade Photoshop versions, you’re stuck with Select and Mask. Nate’s aim was to find out if (and how) Select and Mask is as usable as Refine Edge before it.


The full video is nearly 40 minutes long, but those 40 minutes are well used. Nate breaks down how to use Select and Mask to the best of its abilities, and shows you example after example so you see where the tool excels and where it … doesn’t. You learn which options to use, how the effect your image, and much more.

We won’t break down every little bit of advice, but here is the main highlight:

Select and Mask is a “horrible selection tool.” Instead of using it to make selections from scratch—just don’t do it, it’ll disappoint you every time—you should treat it as the Refine Edge tool with a few additional features.

Make your selections first, then open up select and mask to further refine an already refined selection. Using just that bit of advice, Nate was able to go from issues like the image above, to this (still imperfect) quick selection:


This is far from the only piece of advice Nate offers, it’s just the jumping off point. You’ll definitely want to check out the full video up top to see exactly how Nate goes about making more accurate selections and refining those selections using this tool.

Because, unless you’re willing to roll back and use the old Refine Edge tool—which is only slightly better anyway—this is a video you’ll probably want to bookmark for future reference.

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