Adobe has released its June 2020 update for desktops and iPads. This update includes enhancements to the popular "Select Subject" feature introduced back in 2017. With just a few clicks you can pull the subject or subjects out of a photo and if needed, call up a workspace called "Select and Mask" for further refinement.
According to Adobe the AI behind the tool has been improved and the original Refine Edges has now become a tool in the Select and Mask workspace along with some other handy tools like the lasso so you don't have to exit the workspace to make changes to your first pass or lasso type of mask.
Adobe is as good at marketing hyperbole as anyone but one must always take these press releases with a little bit of skepticism, particularly if it's a tool that a lot of people use all over the world for all types of productivity and recreation. When the Select Subject tool was first introduced, it did live up to the hype. Maybe not quite like one might think… but it did do the job it was designed to do.
With this in mind, I updated my desktop Photoshop app, giving me an insanely ugly white splash screen. I mean come on… white? It's Photoshop… a master manipulator of color and all the goes with that so you hit us with a white splash screen and then didn't even bother to change the other elements of said splash screen. C'mon… at least hit us a gradient color or something.
Anyway, I fired up the new Photoshop, grabbed a couple of pics of curly-haired ladies and gave it whirl to see if it truly could cut out all of those curls and wisps. I was eager to see clear, curled locks of hair along the edges and see it I did but it looked like crap. I tried again, messed with settings, pushed this, pulled that, did everything except read directions, and got nowhere fast.
So much for one click.
Disappointed I grabbed the other picture to try it only to get just a tad bit further before getting frustrated. Finally, I put aside my male-driven will to power through any given situation without documentation by looking at said documentation… after looking around to make sure no one saw me of course.
I followed a couple of promising links only to be further frustrated by a lack of clear instructions then I stumbled across a video that helped a bit… but only a bit. I guess maybe if I had used the photo featured in the animated gif on their features page it would work as advertised. It did not do so well on the two photos I chose.
I then used the Select Subject feature to start and from there went into "Select and Mask" to achieve better results. The initial AI-run seemed to be better than lassoing out the image then expanding with Select and Mask. I will readily cop to not being an expert on this new tool, so I'm sure things will improve as I continue to work with it but at this point, it been nothing short of frustration to get those little "curls and hair ringlets" in a proper mask.
Of course, one can always take heart in the fact the tool will improve if enough people use it and provide feedback. Just don't look for it to move mountains… or clean up those shaggy dogs, mean-looking wolves, or part the waters of curly hair with a simple click or two.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.