Photoshop Selection Techniques - Using the Marquee and Lassoo Tools

Learning how to make good selections is pretty essential for improving your shots in post-processing. Without the Photoshop selection tools you're stuck having to make changes to the whole of an image, which is extremely limiting.

What happens when you only want to sharpen someone's eyes, or lighten one corner of an image, or saturate the colours of the sky? All of these things depend on knowing how to use Photoshop selection tools.

Luckily, they're really simple. But it's worth reading this quick beginners guide because people often mess up with the selection tools! Good adjustments rely on good selections. You know those horrid pictures with patches of obviously 'photoshopped' areas? That's down to bad use of Photoshop selection tools!


Handy selection tool keyboard shortcuts

Ctrl + A = Select all

Ctrl + D = Deselect

L = Selects and toggles the lasso, magnetic and polygonal Photoshop selection tools.

M = Selects and toggles the rectangular and elliptical Photoshop selection tools.


Selecting squares, rectangles, circles and ellipses

adobe photoshop tricks for selection

Quite often the selections we need to make are regular shapes like rectangles and ellipses. There's a really simple trick for quickly selecting these kinds of areas.

In the left hand toolbar simply select the Rectangular Marquee Tool or Elliptical Marquee Tool. 'Marquee' just means 'selection'! Only one will be showing, so right click on it to bring up the little sub-menu from which you can choose the tool you wish to use. Hold down the left mouse button and drag out your selection over the desired area. Done!

Top tip: You have complete control over the dimensions of the square, rectangle, circle or ellipse as you make the selection. But unless you just have a magnificent eye, it's never easy drawing an exact circle or square. To do so, simply hold Shift as you drag out the selection!

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Selecting irregular objects

It's really important to know how to use Adobe Photoshop selection tools for selecting random shaped things. Especially since it's often parts of an object that we want to focus on, most selections tend not to conform to geometric rules.

That basically means that we have to spend a little bit longer making careful manual selections. But don't worry - the following three tools make this a breeze: The Lasso tool, the Magnetic Lasso Tool and the Polygonal Lasso Tool.

They can all be found in the left hand tool bar, and to select between them either right click on whichever is showing to bring up the sub-menu or tap L to toggle.

The Lasso tool is completely manual and allows you to trace a very detailed, precise selection. It's important to be zoomed in close (hold 'Ctrl' and tap '+') when using all of these lasso Photoshop selection tools.

The Magnetic Lasso Tool is really handy! It speeds up the selection of an object by automatically clinging to edges that you move the cursor over. Plus, it puts down little markers that cement each stage of your selection in place as you trace around an object.


Using the magnetic lasso tool

1. If the Magnetic Lasso Tool makes a wrong step and clings to something away from the area you want to select, just press backspace to remove the last marker and then correct your selection!

2. The Magnetic Lasso tool is not as precise a Photoshop selection tool as the lasso tool. So it's great for slightly less 'fussy' selections. But sometimes you'll want to switch between the two. No problem! In the middle of making a selection with the Magnetic Lasso Tool, hold 'Alt' to convert to the Lasso Tool. Use the Lasso tool for as long as you need, then release 'Alt' to switch back.

The Polygonal Lasso Tool often comes in useful too. It enables you to draw perfectly straight lines and create a selection made up of as many, or as few, lines as you need. It can be useful if your mouse is playing up and the lasso tool just won't do what it's told!

Softening the edges of a selection

This is so simple and easy, but ignoring it often causes Photoshop adjustments to actually ruin pictures altogether!

Having made a selection simply go to the 'Select' menu, then choose 'Refine Edge'. Move the middle 'Feather' slider to the right to soften your selection, so that the changes you are about to apply will look natural and not be too obvious. The higher the number of pixels, the greater the softening effect. Smaller selections require less softening.

Top tip: Although this does not involve feathering a selected edge, it is used (a lot!) at the same stage in the editing process. If you want to select everything but a particular object, draw a selection around that object and go to the 'Select' menu, then click 'Inverse'. This is one of the most frequently helpful Adobe Photoshop tricks when making selections.


Selecting a specific layer from a layered image

This one is so useful! As you build up a stack of layers sometimes you need to make specific changes to just one of them. How?

Simply hold 'Ctrl' and left click on the thumbnail image of the relevant layer in the layers palette. It will now be selected on your main image, ready for the specific adjustment to be made.

Kelby Training is probably the best and most trusted source of online Photoshop education.

Learn Photography Online with the Pros Save $10 Now #KTCJQ12

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