Adjusting Global Edge Refinements Settings in Adobe Photoshop

  • Thread starter WendyMay
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May 11, 2021
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Selecting objects in Adobe Photoshop is one of the most common tasks you’ll face as an editor. Luckily, the folks at Adobe have created a very robust workspace for you to adjust and perfect the edges of those selections. While the Select & Mask workspace isn’t difficult or challenging to use by any means, it does require some working knowledge. In that vein, I’d like to talk about one area of the workspace.

In today’s post, I’m going to discuss the Global Refinements area of the Select & Mask workspace inside of Adobe Photoshop. Global Refinements is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to working in this workspace, but it’s a big piece. And if you can master the four sliders that are contained within, you’ll be on your way to working accurately and efficiently while selecting and manipulating objects in Photoshop.

The Demo Photo​

I decided to go with a photo of some pears for this post. The reason for this is because the pears have fairly sharp edges. Since this isn’t a post about making a selection, per se, I didn’t want to get caught up in doing that.


By the way, if you’re interested in learning about how to make selections both in the normal workspace and the Select & Mask workspace in Photoshop, please feel free to visit the posts below.

Selecting Objects & Refining Edges in Adobe Photoshop

Making a Selection in the Select & Mask Workspace in Adobe Photoshop

Making the Selection​

I’m going to go ahead and select the center pear. To do this, I’ll use the Quick Selection Tool.


This shouldn’t be a difficult task because the edges are distinct from the background and the other pears. I’ll make use of the bracket keys [ and ] on my keyboard to shrink and enlarge the brush as well as the Alt key to erase areas I don’t want selected.

Here’s my result:


Entering the Select & Mask Workspace​

Now that I have my selection, I can move into the Select & Mask workspace. To do this, I’ll click the corresponding button up in the options bar.


When I do that, the workspace will open up.

Examining the Global Refinements Area​

The area I’d like to take a look at in this post is called Global Refinements.


This area is located over in the right column and it consists of four sliders. They are:

Smooth: If you have very choppy lines in your selection, increasing the Smooth value can reduce some of that choppiness. Care needs to be used because this setting can include and exclude areas that shouldn’t be and should be selected.

Feather: Like the feather settings in many other areas of Photoshop, this Feather setting broadens the range between the actual selection and its surrounding pixels. As I’ll demonstrate below. This is a very handy feature to have available. It sort of blurs the selection edge, if you will.

Contrast: This setting is sort of the opposite of the previous one. The Contrast setting creates a more distinct edge than the one that’s already there. If you have sharp edges that need a level of abruptness, this is the setting to use.

Shift Edge: Sometimes, edges of an object aren’t always as sharp as we’d like them to be; they’re fuzzy. The result of this is the inadvertent inclusion or exclusion of material along the selection edge. By raising the Shift Edge value, the selection area will slightly grow (including edge area) and by lowering the value, it will shrink (excluding edge area). This is helpful when you need to clean up this type of edge.

A Real World Example​

When using the Global Refinements area, striking a balance is the key to success. Oftentimes, you’ll need to play one slider value off of another and many times, you’ll need to make adjustments that you wouldn’t normally think of making. In this section, I’ll walk through a common scenario for refining the edge of a selected object such as the pear in my example.

To begin, I’ll set the Smooth value to 5. The edge selection is already relatively smooth, so I don’t need to raise it up that much.

Next, because too high of a Smooth value can can unintended consequences, such as knocked-off edges, I’ll increase the Feather value to 10 pixels. While this will create a soft edge around the pear, I don’t mind because I’m going to clean that soft edge up in just a moment.

The soft edge smoothed the edge of my selection, but it also reduced it’s distinction. To reclaim that distinction, I’ll increase the Contrast value to 100%. The moment I do that, the selected edge became as sharp as it’ll ever get. This is what I wanted. This is just sort of a work-around for overusing the Smooth slider.

Finally, because I have some background showing inside of my selection, I’ll remove that background by reducing the Shift Edge value to -10%. This cleans things right up.


My result will be a beautifully selected pear.


Of course, you’ll have to experiment with your own objects and selections, but this is a very strong foundation to begin with. The most important aspect of what I just showed you is the interplay between the Feather and Contrast values. Those two can work wonders when it comes to acquiring an attractive selection.


I hope I clearly explained how to go about using the Global Refinements area in the Select & Mask workspace in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

COMMENT: In my Photoshop, when I clicked select and mask, I didn’t see Global refinement or something. It just shows Density and Feather (which are disabled). That’s it. Please show this one.

COMMENT: Did you click the drop-down arrow? Also, what version of Photoshop are you using?