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How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections

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When you’re working with images in Photoshop, getting perfect selections lets you work in great detail. But the pen and lasso tools don’t make it easy to capture small details in complex areas. The magic wand tool can help, but it’s unpredictable.

If your selection isn’t spot-on, though, your design will suffer. So what are you to do? Worry not, as Photoshop’s Refine Edge tool can come to the rescue.

It’s now hidden behind the new Select and Mask tools Adobe Photoshop CC 2018: 9 Great New Features Adobe Photoshop CC 2018: 9 Great New Features Photoshop CC 2018 is here! And it has some awesome new features. Click to see nine features that will change the way you use Photoshop. Read More , but it’s still one of the most useful functions that Photoshop CC has to offer.

Let’s check it out.

When to Use Refine Edge in Photoshop

You can use Refine Edge on any image, but it really shines when you have a foreground that you’re trying to select against a contrasting background. It’s also best when you’re working with complex edges, like hair (which we’ll be using for this tutorial). Anything with straight lines is easy enough to get with the pen tool.

But lots of small projects, transitions, and blank spots will benefit from the Refine Edge tool. Once you learn how to use it, you can employ the tool on any image. It’s especially good when you’re changing the background of an image How to Change the Background of a Photo in Photoshop How to Change the Background of a Photo in Photoshop Changing the background of an image is one of Photoshop’s core features.

Read on to find out how to do it. Read More . But in time you’ll learn which images it’s best used on. Let’s take a look at how to use Refine Edge.

Step 1: Make a Loose Selection

You can use the Refine Edge tool on an entire image, but you’ll get better results if you help Photoshop focus on the area you’re interested in.

Here’s the image we’ll be using: To isolate the subject from the background, we’re going to have to get a selection that includes her hair.

Especially on the left side, that would be difficult–if not impossible–with the pen tool. Before we start using Photoshop’s Refine Edge tool, though, it helps to make a general selection. First, duplicate the layer by right-clicking Layer 0 and selecting Duplicate Layer.

We’ll name the new layer “Background”. We’ll use the pen tool to outline the woman’s face and narrow down the selection around her hair.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections Now, select the Paths tab, right click Work Path, and turn this path into a selection. How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections

Finally, turn that selection into a layer mask. How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections

Step 2: Open Select and Mask Tools

Nothing happens to the image when you add the layer mask. To see your selection more clearly, make the background layer invisible.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections Now we have a better idea of what we’ve actually selected. To get to the Refine Edge tool, we’ll need to open the Select and Mask window.

Select the rectangular marquee tool (keyboard shortcut M) or the lasso tool (keyboard shortcut L). You’ll see a button in the menu bar that says Select and Mask. Click that button to open a new window.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections Note: To make it a bit easier to see where the Refine Edge tool makes changes, I’ve added a layer and filled it with pink. Select the Refine Edge Brush Tool.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections

Step 3: Brush on Your Selection

With this tool selected, we’ll brush around the edges that we want Photoshop to refine. Before we start, though, you may want to change the size of the brush. There’s a brush-size dropdown in the menu bar that lets you quickly increase or decrease the brush size.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections It can be helpful to start with a larger brush and then move to a smaller one as the selection gets finer. Now, brush over the area.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections Photoshop extracts contrasting pixels for your selection much faster than you could with a manual tool. As you can see, the selection isn’t perfect.

But it’s a lot faster than manual methods. Keep brushing until you get the selection you want. How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections

Step 4: Tweak the Selection

Once you’ve made your selection with the Refine Edge tool, it’s time to make a few tweaks to improve it.

The first thing to try is Decontaminate Colors. In the Properties tab, scroll down until you see the Decontaminate Colors checkbox. Click it and check out the results.

Here you can see the difference between the two options: How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections In our case, some of the edges get a bit sharper, so we’ll leave the decontamination on.

Below this checkbox, you’ll find the Output To: dropdown. You can send this selection to a new layer mask or to the existing mask. We’ll select Layer Mask to add it to our current mask.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections Click OK. Now we can make a few more tweaks.

For example, in this area, the Refine Edge tool made part of the woman’s hair transparent. How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections Select the layer mask and the brush tool (keyboard shortcut B).

Set the foreground color to black and paint over the area that’s been misselected. How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections You can use a brush to clean up any of the selection that you’re not happy with.

Once you’ve selected the area you want, you can start making adjustments to your background. (I’ve added an adjustment layer to turn the background black and white for a selective-color look.) How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections

Now Keep Practicing With the Refine Edge Tool

While Photoshop’s edge-detection tools are very advanced, they’re not perfect. So you’re going to need to practice working with them and tweaking your final selections.

You might feather the selection to capture a bit of the foreground and a bit of the background. Or use a very small brush to catch even smaller details that Photoshop didn’t. You can also play around with the Refine Edge settings, like Feather and Contrast, to see how they affect your selections.

Like any other tool in Photoshop, it takes a while to get proficient with Refine Edge.

But with practice, you can become an edge-refining master, and you’ll be well on your way to mastering all kinds of Photoshop techniques 7 Techniques to Help You Start Learning Photoshop 7 Techniques to Help You Start Learning Photoshop There are many different ways to learn Photoshop from scratch.

These simple techniques can help anyone to start learning Photoshop. Read More .

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Sony Xperia Ear Duo review

The line between headphones and hearables is blending together now more than ever, and Sony’s Xperia Ear Duo is one of the most innovative products we’ve seen on the market that tries to push those two ideas together. Hearables are devices that can offer similar functionality to a smartwatch, such as giving you notifications from your phone, updates from apps and other functionality, but this all comes directly into your ear through audio rather than on a display as on a watch or phone.

The Xperia Ear Duo follows on from 2017’s debut product in this category for Sony, which was the Sony Xperia Ear open-style and which wasn’t a particularly popular product and which we didn’t get to test properly. This new product brings two hearables to the mix in one package.

The Xperia Ear Duo is similar to true wireless headphones we’ve seen in the past, such as the Apple AirPods, where there’s no wire between the two Bluetooth earpieces. This looks different though as it hooks around your entire ear and looks more like a Bluetooth headset from the late noughties rather than offering a stylish and distinctive look. Here’s our full verdict on the Sony Xperia Ear Duo and whether it’s worth picking up to hear your notifications and listen to music.

Sony Xperia Ear Duo price and release date

  • Announced at MWC 2018, released in June 2018 in the US and UK
  • Price set at £279.99 or GBP249 (about AU£380)
  • Quite expensive considering competition

Announced at MWC 2018, the Xperia Ear Duo was one of few wearable devices announced at the show and it was particularly eye-grabbing as it’s such as strange idea to begin with.

Those in the US can buy the Xperia Ear Duo, but it’s not particularly cheap with an RRP of £279.99 or GBP249 (about AU£380). The Xperia Ear Duo is hard to find online in the UK right now, but you can buy it from select retailers in store and we hope it will appear at more online retailers soon. An Australian release hasn’t been made clear yet, but we’d also hope for Sony to bring the hearable to that market as soon as possible

In terms of compatibility, the Xperia Ear Duo will work with any phone that’s running Android 5.0 or higher, while those with an iPhone will be able to use it if their phone is running iOS 10 or later.

Design

  • An outright odd design that’s difficult to put into your ear
  • Hook around your earlobe with touchpads on the sides to interact
  • Comes in a wireless charging case that’s large but portable

There’s no getting away from the odd design Sony has chosen for the Xperia Ear Duo, so we’ll start with that. This is a headset that looks unique, but also reflects a lot of what we’ve seen change in recent years with the introduction of true wireless headsets. The Ear Duo is made up of two earpieces that aren’t connected by a wire, which is what true wireless means.

These both sit within a wireless charging case – more about that later – so you can carry them around and ensure you don’t lose one when you’re walking around.

Unlike Apple AirPods and most other true wireless headphones we’ve used, the Sony Xperia Ear Duo actually looks more like the Bluetooth headsets you used to see wrapped around the ears of business people. There’s a thick piece of tech that houses the battery, the touchpad to interact with it and a variety of other sensors. That sits behind your ear, then a small metal band bends around your ear and provides the earpiece so you can hear the audio.

When we first took the Xperia Ear Duo out of the box we were a little confused by how to wear them.

There’s a handy guide in the box to demonstrate the way you’re meant to put them in, but it’s inherently a problem that they’re so confusing looking that the company has to include that message. We asked other people to try and wear them in the TechRadar office, and often people found them uncomfortable to put into their ears even when they knew how to do it. We’ve been wearing the headphones for over a week, but we still struggle to put them in our ears.

Once you’re used to how the headphones work, it’ll still take you around 10 seconds to hook each one around your ear.

Perhaps we have particularly long earlobes, but we often found ourselves struggling to get the earpiece around the bottom of our ear comfortably on the first go. It’s an odd feeling to have this large piece of tech sitting behind your ear, but it’s not particularly uncomfortable. Each is light, so they sit in your ear well and won’t weigh down either side of your head.

As it’s such a complicated thing to explain, we’ve shared this video that may help you understand exactly how the Xperia Ear Duo sits around your ear.

I’ve been using the Sony Xperia Ear Duo for almost two weeks and I’m still struggling to put them in. Here’s my best attempt so far: pic.twitter.com/AVmooEzTvd22 June 2018

You have three choices of inner ear pieces with small, medium and large being the options. We took some time to figure out that medium was the perfect size, but so far the inner part of the headset has been comfortable.

We’ve also never felt like they could fall out of our ears, which is something that can’t be said of Apple AirPods. To access the smart features, you use your finger along the sides of the bits that sit behind your ears. This is easy to reach and works well.

You can adjust the volume (by running your finger up one of the touchpads) as well as pause and play your music by tapping on them. One interesting quirk is that you can only pause by tapping on the left earpiece, so you have to wear both earpieces to be able to use the headset properly. You can change the volume on both, but if you’re only wearing the right one for some reason it means you’ll lose the ability to quickly pause the music.

Instead, you can long press on the right one to open up Google Assistant, while a quick tap on this one will offer your notifications.

There’s no getting around the fact the Xperia Ear Duo headset looks silly. That said, we also don’t particularly love the look of Apple AirPods, but those have become a popular choice for iPhone fans so it may be that the Sony Xperia Ear Duo is a look many begin to adopt. If you do plan to buy the Xperia Ear Duo, you can buy it in either black (pictured throughout this review) or in a gold color.

When we originally tested the Xperia Ear Duo we saw them in silver too but it looks like Sony decided against that color for the full release. The charging case that comes with the Xperia Ear Duo is large, but it’s easy to slot into a small bag or even your back pocket. It’s thin, and while the round design is large it’s not an oversized case.

This isn’t as slim and easy to carry around as Apple AirPods and its charging case though, so if you’re looking for an easily portable device this may not be right up your street.

Samsung Gear Icon X review: Wire-free wonder or cableless calamity?

Samsung was among the first to join the wire-free revolution with its Gear Icon X[1] wireless in-ear earphones. The product didn’t exactly set the world alight, though, so the company followed it up at the end of 2017 with a newer, bigger pair with better battery life. In addition to the wire-free perk, Samsung also markets the Icon X as fitness-focused.

The question is: can these in-ears compete with our other wire-free favourites?

Secure and snug fit

As with any wire-free earphones there still remains the concern of whether they’ll fall out of your ears during use. Even though a cable rarely supplies any real structural support, having such a tether connecting two earbuds is still a more secure option.

Pocket-lintGear Icon X 2018 image 6

With the Icon X, Samsung has produced a fit that’s as secure and snug as the Jabra Elite[2]. The fit is partly down to the rounded shape and grippy silicon around the Icon X buds’ middles, but predominantly because of the small sports fin on each that tucks inside the ridge of each ear.

It tucks in nicely, ensuring that the ear buds won’t ever fall out. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean the buds feel like they’re stretching your ear canals. After a couple of hours’ wear, however, the snug fit does start to get a little uncomfortable.

We found the two hour mark was about the limit we wanted them in our ears. On the whole, the looks are stylish and subtle, with no distracting buttons, nor eye-catching design features. The black model we tested is simply matte black, while the underside hosts gold-plated connection points which line-up with the connectors inside the portable, pill-shaped charging case.

Pocket-lintGear Icon X 2018 image 5

On the outside of each earbud is a touch-sensitive panel that you can use to control music playback.

Whether you want to skip tracks, change the volume, play or pause, there’s a gesture for it. Sadly, it’s not something that’s easy to master on such a small surface. We found some gestures got mistaken for others, resulting in skipping a track when what we really wanted to do was change the volume, for instance.

We also found that the earphones would trigger an exercise activity just as we were putting them in, and not intending on doing exercise at all. In the end, we found the experience easier and less prone to accidental activities and mistaken gestures when we just permanently locked the touch surfaces, so they couldn’t be used.

Versatile sound

There are so many earphones out there that don’t give you the option to adjust the sound profile, but thankfully the Samsung Icon X isn’t one of those. While there’s no in-depth 9-band equaliser, you can adjust between a few different presets to change the sound style.

There’s bass, soft, dynamic, clear and treble boost to choose from. We stuck with dynamic for a punchy sound, which still had plenty of bass and mid-level pop to keep things immersive.

1/3Pocket-lint

The ambient sound option is one of the Icon X’s most enjoyable sound performance aspects. With it switched on, and the voice focus activated, it’s possible to both listen to music and hear what’s going on in the outside world.

Turn it to the maximum level and everything around becomes really clear and amplified. It may not be a feature we would use constantly, but used while running near busy roads and junctions it adds a level of awareness and safety.

All the features but one thing missing

The best way to make the most of the Icon X is by signing up to Samsung Health, the fitness-tracking platform built to collate and make sense of fitness data from the company’s range of activity trackers and wearables. The Icon X isn’t quite as high-tech as some other fitness tracking earphones we’ve tried, but there are some smart features.

You can set them up to auto-detect when you’re working out, and have that information collated in the Health app. Alternatively the touch sensor on one earbud can be used to manually activate, but as we’ve already noted, that’s often too easy to activate by accident.

Pocket-lintGear Icon X 2018 image 2

For all of its features and design positives, the Icon X is missing one key element that would push it into being the perfect workout companion: a heart-rate sensor. Without this, you still need a wrist or chest-worn monitor to get accurate activity stats.

Connecting…

When wire-free earphones first started flooding the market, one of the most common issues with them was connectivity performance.

Turns out, building a pair of small, wire-free earphones that not only need to connect with the source, but also each other, is hard. For the most part, the Icon X does a good job of remaining connected to source. There aren’t any long downtimes, where one earbud shuts off or the music stops playing, as we’ve seen on a few competitors.

That said, the X’s performance is not perfect either.

Pocket-lintGear Icon X 2018 image 3

The biggest connectivity issue is what we’d describe as a glitch, rather than a full connectivity problem. Every so often, maybe once per song (roughly) there’s a fraction of a second where playback stops, like a little stutter. We tested it using both streaming music over Wi-Fi and mobile connection, as well as playing playlists and albums we’d downloaded for offline playback in Tidal and Spotify, and the issue was the same irrelevant of source and connection type.

Lasts your whole run, and then some

Samsung promises up to five hours of playback using Bluetooth to stream music from a phone to headphones (up to seven hours when playing music directly from the Icon X’s internal storage).

That’s a solid claim, although we could never quite make it to the five hour mark outside the case, more like four hours. After two hours of listening to music through Spotify and Tidal, the battery was down to 50 per cent. It’s worth noting, however, that for part of this testing period we had the ambient noise pass-through at its loudest level and with the voice enhancement switched on.

When they do need a top-up, the mobile charging case holds its own charge, so it’s possible to recharge on the go for future use.

Verdict

The Icon X offers a tonne of features and decent dynamic sound, making them among the most versatile wire-free in-ear earphones on the market. Saying that, they’re not perfect. The touchpad controls are tricky, while the connection glitched every now and then producing a less than seamless listening experience.

There’s also no heart-rate monitor, which limits the fitness-tracking potential.

Still, with the Samsung Health tie-in and ability to store music offline on the earphones themselves, the Icon X certainly give the Bragi Dash Pro[3] a run for their money.

Alternatives to consider

Pocket-lintBose Soundsport Free image 1

Bose SoundSport Free

The SoundSport Free is among our favourite wire-free in-ears.

The design may be a little ‘out there’, but the sound is fantastic and the earbuds stay securely in the ears during exercise, without feeling uncomfortable at all.

Pocket-lintJabra Elite Sport 2017 image 1

Jabra Elite Sport

With a heart-rate monitor and smartphone app compatibility which can track your runs using your phone’s GPS, superb connectivity performance, and decent sound, the Jabra is a better fitness-focused wireless in-ear experience.

References

  1. ^ Gear Icon X (www.pocket-lint.com)
  2. ^ Jabra Elite (www.pocket-lint.com)
  3. ^ Bragi Dash Pro (www.pocket-lint.com)

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