Photoshop Selections

Often the difference between an excellent image edit and an obvious and cludgy edit is simply the skill and precision that has gone into the initial selection. Photoshop contains a wide range of methods for making a selections, and it is important to know when each method is most appropriate.

Adobe have a help page, including an introductory video and links to more complex selection topics here...

Regular SelectionsRegular Selections

For some reason best known to Adobe, Photoshop refers to regular selections as marquees. If you need to select an image region with a regular geometric shape, then these are the tools for you.

There is a rectangular selection tool.

There is an elliptical selection tool.

There are also tools for selecting a single row or a single column; I struggled to find a use for these tools, but there is a neat application here...

Lasso SelectionsAnd for more complex, irregular shapes made of straight lines, there is a polygon lasso tool.

More Complex Selections

If the region of the image that you wish to select has a reasonably high contrast edge with respect to its background, then the magnetic lasso tool might be the best choice.

Quick SelectionIf your image has a very uniform background and one or more foreground objects, such as a typical studio shot against a neutral background, then the simple magic wand tool may well be all you need. Alternatively, this tool can sometimes be used in conjunction with a threshold layer to make a good selection, as shown in the example here.

The quick selection tool is similar to the magic wand mentioned above, but is more sophisticated and it allows you to "paint" the region that you wish to select. It is smart enough to recognize edges and stay within the boundary, although any errors can be adjusted afterwards.

Modify SelectionModifying Selections

Once a region has been selected, it is sometimes necessary to modify the selection before continuing with processing the image.

If you need to resize or reshape the selection, then you can use the transform selection tool.

You can also add to, delete from, overlap and intersect selections, giving you a very flexible way of creating complex selections in an image.

If you want your selection to have a blurred edge, rather than a crisp edge, then you can feather the selection. This actually makes a selection look more natural. It can sometimes be useful to contract the selection by a similar amount before feathering.

Also, a very powerful technique for manipulating a selection when you are working with something difficult, such as hair, is the refine edge tool.

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