How To Use Photoshop's Marquee Selection Tools

Here's our first tutorial looking at Photoshop's Selection Tools.

|  Adobe Photoshop
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In Photoshop there are various ways to make a selection and also various reasons why you'd want to make a selection. You may want to remove something from its background, replace a sky or simply apply an edit to one part of a shot but not the other. Some of the selection tools are better suited for certain tasks than others are, however what tool you use can also be down to personal taste. In this series of tutorials we'll give a brief overview of all the selection tools on offer, showing you what they can be used for and how to adjust them.

Selection Family


Selection Tools

We begin our series with the most basic of the selection tools, the Marquee family.




Marquee Tools

The Marquee Tools consist of four tools: The Rectangular Marquee Tool, Elliptical Marquee, Single Row Marquee and the Single Column Tool.




Marquee Tools


The basics

They are all really quite self-explanatory with the Rectangular Marquee Tool creating a rectangle-shaped selection, the Elliptical Marquee tool creating a circular selection and so on. They are good for making basic selections when you have an area that will fit the shape of the selection tool you're using but aren't any good when you have irregular shapes as they can't be used to make precise selections. The Elliptical Marquee tool, for example, can be used to make a selection in the centre of your shot which you can then inverse and apply a brightness/contrast adjustment layer to add a vignette to your shot. You can feather the selection (something we'll cover further down) to soften the appearance of the vignette so it blends more seamlessly with the original shot.

Black & White Shot With Vignette
After a black & white conversion a vignette was added to this shot by using the method just mentioned above.


In action

To use the Rectangular or Elliptical Marquee tools, select the tool, click on your image where you want your selection to begin then while holding the mouse button down, drag your shape out until all of what you want to be selected sits inside it. When you let go of the mouse button you'll see the selection line appears as if it's moving, this means your selection is complete and ready for whatever changes you want to make to it.

Selection Tool In Photoshop
Above: A selection is created.

Brightness Adjustment

In our example above we've applied a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer to the image and have deliberately increased the brightness of the shot much, much more than is needed just so you can see how the adjustment is just applied to the area we have selected and not the rest of the shot.

If you want your selection to be a perfect square or circle hold the Shift key down while you drag your selection out. You can also control where the center of your selection is by holding down the Alt key while you draw out your selection. By doing so the center of your selection will sit where you first positioned your cursor. You can also pick a Style so you can input figures to restrict the ratio and size of your selection tool.




Adjust Ratio of a selection

The Single Row Marquee and the Single Column Tool work by you just clicking where you want the line to go through. This makes a selection that goes from one end of your image to the other that's 1 pixel wide.






Adjust the selection

In the tool bar towards the top of the window you'll see a row of four shapes and these allow you to adjust your selection.





Selection Options

Looking left to right, the first option lets you create a New Selection. This means you can create a selection and if you don't like it you can simply click somewhere else on the image and start again.

Adjust selection
The second, Add To Selection, lets you expand / add the selection you've just created. You can use this tool to add to the selection as many times as you wish. Simply draw out more shapes next to or even over your original selection and the new adjustment will change the shape of it.

Add to selection

Selection Adjusted
    Above: Adding the extra shape has extended the selection creating a longer box.

The third option, Subtract From Selection, lets you use the Marquee tool to remove some of the selection. All you have to do is draw over the part of the selection you want to remove, let go of your mouse and the shape will adjust.

Subtract From Selection

Subtract From Selection
    Above: As you can see, drawing out another shape has removed part of the original selection.

The last option, Intersect With Selection, will look at your original selection then at the new selection you've just made and only keep the selection where both adjustments overlap or intersect.





Feather it

FeatherBy inputting a value in to the Feather option you will basically soften your selection so the edges aren't as straight and harsh. In other words it blurs it slightly, making the transition between the selected and none selected areas more smooth and not as obvious.

Feather Selection
Above: The corners of the shape are now round as we feathered the selection.

As you can see in our first image, where no feathering was applied, the area in the selection which we've deliberately over brightened has a perfect, sharp line running around it so you can obviously see a difference between this area and what's outside it.





No Feather

However, by applying a Feather to the selection (see the next image) the selection is still brighter but it blends / blurs more at the edges making the transition between the two areas softer.










As mentioned earlier, it's a useful tool for creating vignettes as feathering allows the vignette to blend with the background, stopping it becoming so obvious to the viewer that it's there. They're a great way to subtly guide the viewer's eye to the important part of an image.

Feather vs. no feather

To further smooth the selection when using the Elliptical Marquee tool make sure anti-aliased is ticked next to where you input a figure to change the feather options.



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