People learning Photoshop Elements often want to know how to make selections. They just want to edit eyes, for example and think that using a selection tool is the only way to accomplish this. I rarely teach about selection tools in PSE because I don’t use them very often. I use a brush and layer mask instead. But today, I am going to talk about the selection tools in Photoshop Elements and how to use them. And later this week, I will cover advanced selection techniques along with why the brush and layer mask combo is the best. The screenshots in this tutorial come from PSE 11. You will find most of the same tools in recent versions of Elements, however. If you are having trouble finding a tool I’m referring to, read through this tutorial on navigating the tool box in prior versions of PSE. PSE has 3 primary selection tools: the Marquee, the Lasso, and the Quick Selection Tools.
- The Marquee selects rectangle and oval shaped areas.
- The Lasso comes in 3 variations. You can use the Basic Lasso to draw a freehand selection. The Magnetic Lasso tries to read along the edges of the area you select. And the Polygonal Lasso places a corner each time you click, so that you can add a new line segment to your selection.
- In the Quick Section, the Quick Selection tool attempts to guess the area that you are selecting. It works best when you have colors in your image with good contrast. The Selection Brush creates a selection wherever you paint with this tool. And the Magic Wand tool creates a selection based on one click – it needs good contrast and color differentiation also.
As far as the options you can tweak for each tool, there are two that are common to most of them. Feathering controls how precise or gradual the edges of a selection are. You can read more about it here. The icons you see in the screen shot below govern what type of selection you are making – a brand new one vs. one that adds on to a prior selection, for example. Using the Add To and Subtract From options can be helpful, or at least fun! I created the select below using the rectangular and oval marquees. Let’s see some examples of how these various tools work. Ready? I use the marquee tools when creating vignettes. A marquee selection looks like this:
I used the Quick Selection tool to try to select just her jacket. There isn’t enough contrast between the shirt and the coat, so Quick Selection didn’t work well. To make the selection in the shot below, I clicked and dragged up her arm, across the lower part of her shoulder, and down her lapel.
I created the selection below using the selection brush. This tool isn’t very efficient – the selection is only made over areas where the brush travels.
Finally, I used the Magic Wand tool at a tolerance of 10 to make the selection below. Tolerance governs how similar colors should be to be selected together. The lower the tolerance, the less is selected. No tolerance setting between 1 and 10 selected the entire coat without blouse or hair.
Magic Wand and Quick Selection are most useful to me when creating graphics. I can use them to select just one color, for example, to remove or change it. Using Magic Wand, make sure to use the Contiguous box to control whether all pixels of a color are selected (turn on), or only pixels of the same color touching what you’ve selected are turned on.
So, this covers the basics of using the selection tools in Photoshop Elements. I don’t use them, but that’s just my personal preference. Lots of folks use them quite well to select and edit isolated objects in their photos. Click here for the next article in this series about advanced features of using these tools, along with using layer masks to perfect these local edits.