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Chapter 4. Making Selections > About the Selection Tools

About the Selection Tools

Often, you’ll want to make changes and adjustments to just a part of an image. For example, you may want to eliminate a distracting element in your photo, or you may want to change the color of a specific item in a photograph or adjust the brightness of the background. Photoshop Elements gives you an almost unlimited number of selection tools from which to choose.

The selection tools are all grouped together near the top of the toolbar (Figure 4.1). You make rectangular and elliptical selections with the marquee tools. When you select a marquee tool, the selection area is indicated by a row of moving dots, like the sign outside a movie theater, which is why these are called marquee tools (Figure 4.2).

Figure 4.1. The selection tools appear under three icons on the toolbar.

Figure 4.2. A selection border is represented by a row of moving dots, called a marquee.

You select freeform, or irregular, areas with the lasso tools (Figure 4.3). These include the regular Lasso tool; the Polygonal lasso, which is great for selecting areas that include straight sections; and the Magnetic lasso, which is good for selecting high-contrast areas in your image.

Figure 4.3. Each of the three lasso tools works best in a particular situation.

The Magic Wand lets you select areas with the same (or similar) color in your image. This is probably the most difficult tool to master, but with a little practice it allows you to make selections that are impossible to make with any of the other tools (Figure 4.4). For example, if your photo displays a field of yellow poppies, you can change all the poppies at once, rather than having to select each individual flower. The Magic Wand is a useful tool for making widespread color changes in your image.

Figure 4.4. The Magic Wand lets you select areas based on their color.

The selection tools often work well on their own, but many times the area you want to edit will include all sorts of angles and edges. In these situations, you can use the tools together to expand and change the selection area.

You can also expand or contract a selection area using the same tool with different settings. For example, the Magic Wand allows you to alter the range of your selection by adjusting the tolerance using the options bar (Figure 4.5).

Figure 4.5. The Magic Wand also lets you set the tolerance, or range of colors selected.

When your photo includes an object surrounded by a large background area, it’s often easier to select the background and then invert the selection to select the object. Once the selection is made, you can copy and paste it into another composition or make any other changes (Figure 4.6).

Figure 4.6. Here, the white background was selected with the Magic Wand, and then the selection was inverted to capture the clown.

You can adjust your selection area by adding to or subtracting from the selection. You’ll often find it easiest to use one tool to make your initial selection and then edit the selection area with another selection tool (Figure 4.7).

Figure 4.7. Here, the Elliptical Marquee tool was used to select the clown’s head, and then the Lasso tool was used to select the clown’s mouth.

The Selection Brush allows you to make selections by simply dragging across any area or object in an image. Like the lasso tools, it works especially well for selecting irregular areas. Unlike the other selection tools though, you actually “paint on” the selection using any of the brush shapes available in Photoshop Elements’ vast collection of brush sets. This method of selection affords you great control and flexibility.

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