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Adobe Photoshop CS5 : Basic Selection Tools

4/11/2013 3:46:31 AM
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Photoshop’s Tools panel contains three categories of tools that you can use to create a basic selection: Marquee tools, Lasso tools, and Wand tools. While these three are very useful, many users forget that they are only starting points. Learning to use them is important, but again, it’s just the beginning.

1. Marquee Tools

The Marquee tools allow you to click and drag to define a selection. The keyboard shortcut for selecting the Marquee tool is the letter M. To toggle between the Rectangular and Elliptical Marquee tool, press Shift+M. Descriptions of the Marquee tools follow:

  • Rectangular Marquee tool. Use this tool to make a rectangular selection. Press the Shift key to draw a square.

  • Elliptical Marquee tool. Use this tool to make an elliptical selection. Press the Shift key to draw a circle.

  • Single Row or Single Column Marquee tool. Creates a selection that is 1 pixel wide in the shape of a row or column. These two tools are not used often, which is why Adobe didn’t assign the keyboard shortcut M to trigger them.

Putting the Marquees into action

Let’s give the Rectangular and Elliptical Marquee tools a try and make some selections:

1.
Open the file Ch05_Marquee_Practice.tif .

2.
Practice selecting each of the four objects using both the Elliptical and Rectangular Marquee tools. Remember to use the Shift key to constrain proportions for the square and circle shapes. Don’t worry about perfection; you’ll learn lots of ways to tweak selections in the coming pages.

A Faster Tools Panel

There are a few ways to access tools from the Tools panel:

  • You can click the tool icon.

  • To access nested tools (those that share the same well), click and hold the mouse button on the tool icon.

  • You can also hold down the Option (Alt) key and click an individual tool in the Tools panel to cycle tools.

  • You can press the letter shortcut key. Hovering over a tool’s icon will teach you the shortcut keys when the tool tip pops up.

  • To switch to a nested tool, hold down the Shift key and press the tool’s shortcut key.

  • If the Shift key is an extra step you’d rather not use, modify your user preferences. Press Command+K (Ctrl+K) to call up your Preferences screen. Deselect the check box next to Use Shift Key for Tool Switch.


Selection options for Marquee tools

When using the Marquee tools, several options are available to you in the Options bar. These modifiers can improve or alter your selection.

The first four icons specify the kind of selection:

  • New selection. Creates a new selection.

  • Add to selection. After you create one selection, you can click this button so subsequent selections are combined with the existing selection. You can also hold down the Shift key to add to a selection.

  • Subtract from selection. After you create one selection, you can click this button so subsequent selections are subtracted from the existing selection. You can also hold down the Option (Alt) key to subtract from a selection.

  • Intersect with selection. Requires you to make a first selection. When you draw a second selection, Photoshop creates a new selection where the two selections overlap.

The following options modify the selection tool and must be chosen before making a selection:

  • Feather. A normal selection has a crisp edge. Feathering a selection creates a gradual blend at the selection’s edges. Think of it as the difference between a line drawn with a pencil and one drawn with a felt-tip marker. Feathered selections are useful when you want to extract objects.

  • Anti-alias. When working with the Elliptical Marquee tool, you can select Anti-alias to create a smoother edge for curved lines (especially if your image is at a low resolution).

  • Style. For the Rectangular Marquee tool and Elliptical Marquee tool, you can choose from three styles in the Options bar:

    • Normal. This is the default option. Click to draw your marquee freehand.

    • Fixed Ratio. You can set a width-to-height ratio. For example, to draw a marquee three times as wide as it is high, enter 3 for the width and 1 for the height.

    • Fixed Size. You can specify an exact size for the marquee’s height and width. You can enter the value in pixels (px), inches (in), or centimeters (cm).

Moving a selection

There are a few ways to reposition a selection:

  • While drawing a selection (with the mouse button still depressed) you can hold down the spacebar and move the selection.

  • With an active selection, move the tool’s cursor inside the selection border (marching ants). The icon changes to a triangle with a marquee border. You can then click inside and drag the selection to move it.

  • To modify a selection using controls similar to the Free Transform command, choose Select > Transform Selection. All the options available to the Free Transform command can be applied to the selection border. 

2. Selection Lassos

The Lasso tools allow you to draw freeform segments with your mouse to create a selection border. The Lasso tools are most often used to create a rough selection . The keyboard shortcut for selecting the Lasso tool is the letter L. To select the next Lasso tool, press Shift+L.

  • Lasso tool. Use this tool to make a freehand selection. You must return to your starting point to close the selection loop.

  • Polygonal Lasso tool. Use this tool to draw straight-edged segments for a selection border. With every click, a part of the segment is drawn. Continue clicking to set endpoints for additional segments. Click your starting point to close the loop and create an active selection. To constrain the tool to 45-degree angles, hold down the Shift key while drawing.

  • Magnetic Lasso tool. When you use the Magnetic Lasso tool, Photoshop attempts to snap the border to the edges of the image. If the anchor point doesn’t snap accurately, click once to manually add a point.

Putting the Lasso tools into action

Let’s give these tools a try:

1.
Open the file Ch05_Boat.tif.

2.
Try using both the Polygonal and Magnetic Lasso tools to select the boat. Make multiple attempts at practicing the selection.

In the middle of making a selection with the Polygonal or Magnetic Lassos, you can press the Delete key to remove segments. Press and hold once, and then release and press subsequent times to remove segments (one per click). If you need to stop a selection, press the Esc key. If you need to deselect and start over, just press Command+D (Ctrl+D).

Selection options for Lasso tools

When using the Lasso tools, several options are available to you in the Options bar to improve or alter your selection. These modifiers are very similar to those for the Marquee tools, so I’ll just briefly mention them.

The first four icons specify the kind of selection:

  • New selection

  • Add to selection

  • Subtract from selection

  • Intersect with selection

The next two options create a smoother selection:

  • Feather. This option creates a softer edge on your selection.

  • Anti-alias. This option creates a smoother edge for curved lines.

Magnetic Lasso options

The Magnetic Lasso has a few additional options that mainly deal with its snapping behavior. You can change the following properties in the Options bar:

  • Width. The width specifies how wide an area the Magnetic Lasso looks at when trying to detect edges. If you’d like to see the width area visually, activate the Caps Lock key before making a selection.

  • Edge Contrast. This value (measured in percent) determines the lasso’s sensitivity to edges in the image. Higher values detect high-contrast edges, whereas lower values detect lower-contrast edges.

    On an image with well-defined edges, you should use a higher width and edge contrast setting. For an image with soft edges, use a lower setting for both width and edge contrast.

  • Frequency. The rate at which Photoshop adds anchor points is based on the Frequency setting. An anchor point is the point at which the lasso attaches, so you can move the selection border in another direction. You can enter a value between 0 and 100. Higher values add more anchor points to your selection border.

  • Stylus Pressure. Click the Stylus Pressure icon if you have a tablet connected. This option allows you to use the pressure of the pen to affect edge width.

3. Wand Tools

The Quick Selection and Magic Wand tools (W is the keyboard shortcut) allow you to click an area of color to have Photoshop create a selection based on adjacent pixels and your Tolerance setting. The Magic Wand is a much older tool that works reasonably well on photos with large areas of similar color. The Quick Selection tool is a significant improvement over the Magic Wand tool, however, and has quickly become a favorite tool of Photoshop pros.


Quick Selection tool

The Quick Selection tool allows you to create a selection that quickly forms based on color and contrast.

1.
Open the file Ch05_Quick_Selection.tif .

2.
Select the Quick Selection tool by pressing W.

3.
Press the right bracket key ] to make the selection brush larger; press the left bracket key [ to make it smaller.

4.
Click and drag in the flower to make an initial selection.

5.
To add to the selection, click and drag again. If too much of a selection is made, hold down the Option (Alt) key to subtract from the selection.

Selection options for the Magic Wand tool

When using the Magic Wand tool, several options are available to you in the Options bar that can improve or alter your selection. These modifiers are very similar to those for the Marquee and Lasso tools, so I’ll cover them briefly.

Tip: A Better Wand

The Magic Wand tool works best if you turn on the pixel-averaging option. But where is it? It doesn’t appear in the Options bar when the Magic Wand tool is selected. Instead, you must select the Eyedropper tool. Then in the Options bar you can change the Sample Size to a 5 by 5 Average (or 11 by 11 Average). The Magic Wand tool (as well as a few other tools) will then become less sensitive to erroneous clicks.


The first four icons specify the kind of selection:

  • New selection

  • Add to selection

  • Subtract from selection

  • Intersect with selection

The remaining settings allow you to refine your selection parameters:

  • Tolerance. This setting determines how similar the pixels must be to your initial click in order to be selected. You can enter a value in pixels, ranging from 0 to 255. A higher value selects a broader range of colors.

  • Anti-alias. This creates a smoother edge when you click.

  • Contiguous. When Contiguous is selected, only adjacent areas with the same colors are selected. If deselected, all pixels in the entire image that use the same colors will be selected.

  • Sample All Layers. If you have a multilayered document and want to select colors on all layers, select this check box.

Putting the Magic Wand into action

Let’s try out the Magic Wand tool:

1.
Open the file Ch05_Magic_Wand.tif .

2.
Select the Magic Wand tool by pressing Shift+W for wand. You can press the keys multiple times to toggle between the Quick Selection and Magic Wand tools.

3.
Set the Tolerance to 20 and select the Anti-alias check box.

4.
Click the sky in the upper-left corner to make an initial selection.

5.
Part of the sky will be selected. Hold down the Shift key and click another area of the sky to add to the selection. Repeat as needed until the entire sky is selected.
 
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