Hi rick, and welcome to the forum
Refined edge is a wonderful thing, but can take some getting used to. I found it frustrating when first started using it.
Before clicking on Refine edge, it can be useful to enter Quick mask for a quick visual indication of how well you have done with Quick Select.
OK, Refine Edge... Start with the radius tool. Nudge it up until most of what you are after is contained in the selection, then nudge it back as far as you can without loosing your edge. Then hit Smart radius. You might need to wait a moment for each adjustment to take effect.
Other controls depend on the image. If there are no fine elements like hair, then Smoothing is very effective. If there is hair, then little or no smoothing is best.
Feather obviously softens the edge, and can make for a more realistic composite to a new background. Contrast can give a very harsh edge, so use with care.
When painting in features, take note of the symbol in the brush. It sounds like you might have a minus symbol (it happens sometimes) in which case the Shift key should put that right. The Alt (or Opt) key will remove unwanted parts of the selection, but I find it works best with a small brush size.
Shift edge will remove a thin halo, as will Decontaminate colour when there is something like a blue sky showing through whispy hair.
Bottom line, Refine edge is not perfect, and does not always work. It has an annoying habit of removing, or rendering semi-selected, areas you want included. When that happens, click OK, and fix with Quick mask.
Russell Brown calls the places you brush over "Areas of Transition", which is as good a definition as I've seen, and yes, you can end up having it erase things that are already there.
Have a look at this video for a really good set of techniques for using the Refine Edge tool. Note Russell's advice: "Less is More"
Thank you Trevor and Noel For your quick responses.
@Trevor: I made sure that my brush was set to and not minus. Maybe I have another setting incorrectly set?? Here are pics of my problem.
@Noel: Thank you for the video, I havent watched it yet, but 'having it erase things that are already there' is kinda whats happening to my image, even though my brush isnt set to minus. I will look at the video and also will post pics of my issue in case anyone else is having this problem as well:
Here is my quick selection:
Here is what happens when I use the refine edge tool. It turns my "Areas of Transition" white:
Then my new layer looks like this:
Maybe I have a setting set wrong?? I will look at the video Noell and post any findings, thx again guys
Ok I looked at the video and it didnt help me resolve my problem. The part where he explains how you can simply move the radius slider (in the Edge Detection box) to automatically grab the hair doesnt work for me, it just turns the edges white like in the pics above...I'm stuck
I get the same problem! I watch all the tutorials online and their selection comes out perfect. And I'm getting crap results. Even on easy backgrounds to extract from. I end up trying to get it the best I can, click OK, than using a soft eraser brush to go around the photo. Kind of defeats the whole purpose of the Refine tool. I would love to know why. I thought maybe my Photoshop had a bug, but it does the same thing with the photoshop at work.