Even Your Parents Could Master Photoshop's New AI-Powered Automatic Selection Tools

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Adobe has been slowly upgrading Photoshop with better tools to make the worst photo editing task—close cropping complex objects—less of a pain. The Magic Wand, the Magnetic Lasso, and the Quick Selections tools were all big improvements, but Photoshop’s AI-powered “Select Subject” tool was the quantum leap pixel pushers had long dreamed of, and Adobe will soon be making it even smarter.

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Introduced to Photoshop CC last year, the Select Subject tool is a simple one-click affair that leverages the AI capabilities of the cloud-based Adobe Sensei to analyze an image, determine what the most important subject matter is, and then automatically create a selection mask around it. The tool is completely automated which is a good and bad thing. When it works properly it can reduce many time-consuming steps to a single click, but if it incorrectly guesses what object is being edited, or does a poor job at close cropping with the selection mask it creates, it can leave a photo editor with a lot of cleanups and additional work to do.

From my own experience, the Select Subject tool is a neat glimpse at the potential AI has to automate and streamline the workflow of an incredibly complex piece of software. But I have yet to find it reliable enough to integrate into my daily workflow, although that could soon change.

Ahead of the Adobe Max conference taking place in Los Angeles next week, the company has teased a new and improved version of Photoshop’s Select Subject tool, now known as the Object Selection tool. The name change doesn’t make it sound particularly groundbreaking, but instead of relying on Adobe Sensei to automatically guess what object in a photo a user wants to edit, the Select Subject tool now lets users draw a box around the object or multiple objects, and Photoshop will automatically create a close-cropped selection around them.

Last year’s version of this tool felt a lot like a tech demo; something that could wow an audience, but wasn’t quite ready to become an integral part of a Photoshop artist’s workflow. However, by getting it in the hands of the Photoshop user base as early as possible, Adobe was able to improve its capabilities as the deep learning algorithms that power the tool improve as it’s actually used. The new Object Selection tool looks like something I’d actually employ on a regular basis as it allows additional objects to be quickly added or subtracted from a selection by just drawing boxes around them. There will undoubtedly still be some refinement needed after the fact, but this latest Photoshop update seems like it could take a big bite out of a photo editor’s workload.

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