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Lesson 4. Working with Selections > About selecting and selection tools

About selecting and selection tools

Selecting and making changes to an area within an image is a two-step process. In Photoshop, you first select the part of an image you want to change with one of the selection tools. Then, you can use another tool to make changes, such as moving the selected pixels to another location or erasing pixels within the selection. You can make selections based on size, shape, and color, using four basic sets of tools—the Marquee, Lasso, Magic Wand, and Pen tools. The selection process limits changes to within the selected area. Other areas are unaffected.


In this lesson, you’ll use only the marquee tools, lasso tools, and Magic Wand tool to make your selections. You’ll learn about the pen tools in a lesson entirely devoted to them (Lesson 9, “Basic Pen Tool Techniques”). You’ll also use the Move tool.

A. Rectangular Marquee tool B. Move tool C. Lasso tool D. Magic Wand tool

The best selection tool for a specific area often depends on the characteristics of that area, such as shape or color. There are three categories of selections:

Geometric selections You use the Rectangular Marquee tool () to select a rectangular area in an image. The Elliptical Marquee tool (), which is hidden behind the Rectangular Marquee tool, selects elliptical areas. Use the Single Row Marquee tool () and Single Column Marquee tool () to select either a 1-pixel-high row or a 1-pixel-wide column, respectively.

Freehand selections You can drag the Lasso tool () around an area to trace a freehand selection. Using the Polygonal Lasso tool (), you can click to set anchor points in straight-line segments around an area. The Magnetic Lasso tool () in Photoshop works something like a combination of the other two lasso tools, and is best when there is good contrast between the area you want to select and its surroundings.

Color-based selections The Magic Wand tool () selects parts of an image based on the similarity in color of adjacent pixels. This tool is useful for selecting odd-shaped areas that share a specific range of colors.

ImageReady includes the basic marquee selection tools, the Lasso and Polygonal Lasso tools, and the Magic Wand tool. For more convenience in working with common Web shapes, ImageReady adds an extra marquee selection tool, the Rounded Rectangle Marquee tool ().

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