How to Make Selections Easily in Photoshop Elements
In this tutorial I will show some different ways you can make selections. Selections are used to isolate certain parts of a picture to make adjustments or delete only the parts selected. There are several ways to make a selection. First, lets open a file in Photoshop Elements.
There are several ways to make a selection, but first, some basic features for all the selection tools.
If you make a selection, then want to add to it, hold down the shift key and select the area you want to add to the selection.
To subtract from a selection, hold down the alt key (option on a Mac) and draw where you want to subtract from the selection.
You can use any combination of selection tools to make selections, add to or subtract from selections. Lets look at each group of tools one by one. We will start with the Marquee Tool.
Marquee Tool Click and hold your mouse button on the marquee tool. A flyout menu will come out giving you the different options for that tool. Here you can choose between the rectangle and the elliptical tool. Place your curser in the artwork and draw your selection. Here I drew a square. Now, everything inside the dotted line (referred to commonly as the "marching ants") is selected, and can be deleted or modified. If you want to select the area outside of the marching ants, go to Select - Inverse or use the shortcut keys control-shift-I (command-shift-I on the Mac). That way any adjustment or deletions will affect the outside of the box you drew.
If you want to draw a perfect square or circle, hold down the shift key while you draw. If you want to draw from the center out, hold down the alt key (option on the Mac) while you draw. You can draw while holding the shift + alt / option to draw a square or circle from the center and constrain it to a perfect square or circle. To reposition the selection while you draw, hold down the spacebar. The selection will move around on the canvas. If you make a mistake and want to redraw the selection, just start redrawing, the original selection will disappear and the new selection will take it's place.
Lasso Tool Lets look at the Lasso Tool. Hold down the mouse button to get the flyout menu for the lasso tool. There are three tools available. The polygon tool allows you to draw straight lines. Just click to form lines around your selection. You can make any shape using straight lines. To finish the selection, you return to the beginning point.
As you hover over the beginning point, a small circle appears next to the curser. This lets you know you are over the beginning point, click the mouse button to complete the selection. Here I selected an abstract figure using the polygon lasso tool. Once the selection is made, if you want to move it just use the arrow keys to nudge it into place.
The magnetic lasso tool follows an edge. For it to work properly you need to have contrast along the edge of the area you are selecting. There is plenty of contrast between the black and the green in this image. Using the magnetic lasso tool, I followed the edge of the green around to select the bottom line of the music staff. It did a pretty good job by itself the first time, but I did have to add to the selection by holding down the shift key and selecting more, and I had to subtract a section of the black that it selected by holding down the alt key while drawing the section I needed to subtract. Like the polygon lasso tool, to end the selection I had to pass over and click on the beginning point. Here is the final selection of the bottom line of the staff.
Use the lasso tool to free draw a selection. Hold down the mouse button as you carefully go around the area you want selected, then use the shift and alt / option keys to fine tune the selection by adding to or subtracting from the selection. Finish the selection by passing over the beginning point, or if you release the mouse button while you are drawing your selection, it will automatically snap in a straight line to the beginning point. Here I just selected an abstract shape to show the ease of drawing curves with the tool.
Magic Wand Tool Now, lets look at another tool, the Magic Wand. When you click in your image using the magic wand a selection is made based on the color you clicked on. There are several setting you can make in the options bar to help you make the selection you want. When you click on the image with the magic wand tool, the magic wand sees the color you clicked on and selects all the colors that match that color, for instance, I clicked on the green in our image, and the magic wand automatically selects the greens that match.
The tolerance setting determines the amount of variance in the colors of green the magic wand selects. If a low number is chosen, the colors selected, in our case the greens, must be very close. If a higher number is chosen, the color of the greens don't need to match so closely. The anti-alias setting softens the selection a little, so the selection doesn't have such a hard edge.
If the contiguous box is selected, the magic wand will only select the desired color if there is no break in the color. In our example, there is a black shadow on each of the notes. When I selected the green, it selected all the green that was not broken up by the black shadow. To select all the green, I could shift click in the other non-contiguous areas of the green staff and notes. If the "select all layers" is checked, the magic wand will use all the layers to create the selection rather than just the active layer. Here is a screen shot of my selection with the magic wand, showing the tolerance, anti-alias, contiguous settings I used.
Quick Selection Tool The Quick Selection Tool allows you to select an area in the image by just dragging over the area you want to select with the tool. In the options bar you can select "new selection", "add to the selection" or "subtract from the selection". Choose a brush size. Use a larger brush for large selections, and a smaller brush for more intricate selections. Go over the area desired for the selection, using the add to and subtract from buttons to refine the edge. Use the Auto-Enhance and drag over the edges to help with the selection
Selection Brush Tool The Selection Brush Tool works much the same as the Quick Selection Tool. You select a brush size and, if "Selection" is chosen in the pulldown menu in the options bar, you paint in the area you want to select. If you select "Mask" in the pulldown menu in the options bar, you paint on the area you don't want to select, creating a mask for your image. You can select the opacity and color of the mask to help it be more visible depending on the colors in your image. Here I used the selection I created using the Quick Selection Tool, switched to the "Selection Brush Tool" and selected "Mask" from the pulldown menu. Now I can paint on the mask to refine the selection.
Refine Edge In the options bar there is a button called Refine Edge. This does just what the button says, it refines the edge depending on the setting you input in the dialog box. Lets take a look at it.
Here you have several controls to use to refine the selection. I like to click on the Preview box, then click on the zoom tool, the (magnifying glass by the hand) to enlarge the view of the selection. You can then use the hand tool to move the image around in the window. Now you can see an enlarged view of the selection, and can modify it by using the sliders for "Smooth", "Feather" and "Contract/Expand". The best part of this box is the previews you can use to see the effects of the selection using a transparent mask, black background, white background or see the mask itself. For our selection, since I want to select the green, I will preview it on the white background to see if there is an accurate selection.
You can see that the selection is pretty good. Since the background was black, if there had been a black halo effect around my green selection when I previewed it on white, I could use the Contract/Expand slider to contract my selection slightly to remove the black halo.
Using selections you can isolate a section of your artwork to make modifications, color changes, cut and paste part of an image on a new layer, or into a new document to make photo collages. You can delete parts of an image to let other images or type come through. You are limited only by your imagination.
"That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed but that our power to do is increased".