Using the Select Subject Feature in Adobe Photoshop

Using the Select Subject feature in Adobe Photoshop

You may have watched my previous tutorial on the Adobe Photoshop Select and Mask feature, which is a really good way of refining your selections in Adobe Photoshop to cut them out from backgrounds and place n to new images.

Well Adobe Photoshop have gone one further and increased the functionality of the Select and Mask feature by adding in ‘Select Subject‘ which does even more work for you by automatically recognising the most prominent feature in your Photograph and selecting around it for you, this may sound a bit to good to be true but it really does work rather well!

To use the Select Subject feature in Adobe Photoshop first of all we are going to open an image and click on the ‘Select and Mask’ button in our control bar, if this is not visible just click on any of the selection tools in your tool bar and it will appear or go to Select>Select and mask in the window options.

Adobe Photoshop Select and Mask

So on the next window all we are going to see is Adobe Photoshop’s chequered background which indicates complete transparency everywhere, obviously this isn’t what we are looking for so first things first click on the ‘Select Subject’ button near the top of the screen.

Adobe Photoshop Select Subject

This is when Adobe Photoshop works its magic, it may take a few seconds but it will have a good look around your image to decide what is the most prominent object and make its own selection of it, it can even detect more than one prominent object so if you have taken a photograph in to Adobe Photoshop that has two people in it they will both be selected like magic!

Adjusting selection Adobe Photoshop

Ok so admittedly the selection isnt perfect that Adobe Photoshop has made for us but its a very good starting point taking in to account we have had to do no work whatsoever at this stage!

So to refine the selection slightly I’m going to choose the Quick Selection Tool from the toolbar on the left hand side, this works very much in the same way as when we are in our normal Selection tools outside of select and mask.

If I start to click on the image with Adobe Photoshops Quick Selection tool I will start to add to the selection which wont work too well but if I hold down the ‘ALT’ key a minus appears inside the tool and I will start to subtract from the selection, so Im going to gently click around the edges with the Adobe Photoshop Quick Selection Tool and the ‘ALT’ key held down to refine the selection and remove the parts that I don’t want selected.

Adobe Photoshop Quick Selection Tool

When Im happy with the preview in Adobe Photoshop all I need to decide is how I’m going to output this back in to the normal Adobe Photoshop Interface, we have the option of completely cutting it out and placing it on a new Adobe Photoshop Layer, or we can just out put as a Selection and copy and paste it ourselves or we can automatically output it as a new Adobe Photoshop Layer with a layer mask attached, this would be my preference as if needed we can still adjust the Adobe Photoshop layer mask afterwards if we are not happy with the selection.

 Output to new layer Adobe Photoshop

So now with just a few clicks in Adobe Photoshop we have a brand new layer with a layer mask with our two people cut out, so now its just a matter of placing in a new background as another Adobe Photoshop layer…

new backround Adobe Photoshop


Mark Williams is the Director of Creative Studios in Derby who are the East Midlands largest dedicated Adobe Training Studio, specialising in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator software training, we are only 40 minutes from Birmingham with FREE parking, lunch and refreshments for all delegates who attend our courses.

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