Selection Tool Basics

In Photoshop the process of making good selections has gotten significantly easier over the years.  Cutting things out of images that cause distractions, replacing backgrounds or building composites from multiple images can now be accomplished in multiple ways.  We are going to just talk today about some of the basics.  Pretty soon though you will be able to create selection masks just like this. 

Isolating your wild hair is fun, just not for today

Isolating your wild hair is fun, just not for today

Starting with the Selection Menu, it shows a lot of the tools available.  The two keyboard shortcuts at the top of the menu are ones that everyone should know.  Ctrl-A selects everything on that layer, while Ctrl-D, deselects everything.  

Each of the selection tools use the same controls, circled in blue below, for modifying selections as you build them.  Holding down the Shift key will enable you to add to your current selection.  Holding down the Alt key lets you remove items from your selection.   You used to have one shot at building a selection. If you screwed up, you had to start over.  Very painful if you have spent a lot of time isolating a flower and then slip up.  The Ctrl and the intersection button will be saved for later.  

On the left hand tools palate there are 3 groups of selection tools.  It is important to note that you can switch between them at any time in your selection process. First, are the Marquee tools; your basic rectangle and ellipses.  M is the shortcut for them and if you keep hitting M, it will cycle through em. 

No one has ever used the Single Row or Single Column in all of recorded history!

No one has ever used the Single Row or Single Column in all of recorded history!

Next are the Lasso tools.  You can create irregular curves with the regular lasso and straight line polygon segments with the polygonal lasso too.   The magnetic lasso sticks to strongly defined boundary segments.   L is the short cut here. 

Is it polygonal or po-lygonal?  Lots of silly debate can ensue

Is it polygonal or po-lygonal?  Lots of silly debate can ensue

The last grouping contains one of the best tools and one that is not so great.  The Quick selection tool has been the focus of a lot of Adobe development over the last 3 releases.  It acts like a brush and looks for areas which are alike.  It recognizes edges and does a very good job at stopping at them.  Just like a brush, you can adjust the size through the use of the left and right bracket keys—[ ]. 

The magic wand tool was Adobe’s first effort at auto selection and it sometimes does unexpected things so use it with great caution.    

Just take some time and practice isolating segments of your image.  Next week we will discuss refining your selections, saving them and more about how you can use them.