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The Selection Tools

The selection tools are used to facilitate the process of making selections of shapes, colors, and objects inside of Photoshop, and positioning them in the working image area. With tools like the magnetic lasso and magic wand, Photoshop packs a powerful array of selection gadgets!

In Photoshop, selections are used to work in a specified area, while not altering any of the area around it. In many regards, a selection is a lot like a stencil. You basically are enabling yourself to only paint in one area while the rest of your canvas is left unaffected.

There are a variety of tools to help you draw out specific sizes and shapes of selections in Photoshop.

Marquee Tools

The marquee tools are used to make rectangular, elliptical, horizontal and vertical line selections. To create a selection with a marquee tool, simple hold down your mouse button over the active image area, and drag out your shape.

How to create Marquee Selections

Piece of cake!

Perfect Circle and Square Selections

When making selections with the Rectangular Marquee Tool or Elliptical Marquee Tool, it’s possible to make perfect square and circular selections by holding shift when drawing our your selection.

Lasso Tools

The Lasso Selection Tools allow you to make selections of irregular shapes. Using the ordinary lasso tool, simply click and drag a freehand selection with your mouse. With the Polygonal Lasso Tool, click to make various points which will define a selection, and finish your selection by clicking the starting point.

The Magnetic Lasso Tool sort of combines the first two tools mentioned here. You click once, and begin to drag a freehand selection around the object you wish to select. The magnetic lasso tool tries to automatically create points itself while you follow the edge of your object (you can define points by clicking if needed). The end result is a much smoother selection than the polygonal lasso tool will make.

How to use the Magnetic Lasson Tool

Completing a Selection

Now we have a general idea of how to make selections of various shapes in Photoshop. There is also a way to select objects and areas based on color.

Magic Wand Tool

The Magic Wand Tool is unlike the rest of the selection tools, in that is selects areas based on color. To use the Magic Wand Tool, you simply point and click the color you want to select in the active image area.

Take the diagram below for example. Using the Magic Wand Tool, it simply takes one click in the white area to make a selection of that space.

Example of using the Magic Wand Tool

Here’s a tip that ought to come in handy! While using the Magic Wand Tool, it’s possible to select a wider (or more narrow) range of colors when making your selection by adjusting the Tolerance value in the options bar. The higher the value, the more similar colors will be selected!

Combining Selections

Sometimes, it’s necessary to combine multiple selections in order to select the ENTIRE area you want to work with. In times like these, it’s possible to combine multiple selections using an easy keyboard shortcut.

Working from an existing selection, simply hold shift and create a new selection. This will add your new selection to the existing selection.

Hold Shift to Add to an existing selection

Subtracting and Intersecting Selections

Just like it is possible to add to an existing selection, you can also subtract from a selection (Hold Alt when drawing a new selection) and intersect selections (Hold Shift and Alt while drawing a new selection).

Move Tool

The Move Tool is used for moving selected areas of an image, layers, shapes, and other objects.

To move a selected part of an image, simply select the move tool, and then click and drag your selection as you please. This will Cut the selection out from it’s current location, and reposition it to wherever you release the mouse button.

Click and Drag to Move a selection

Essentially, moving a selected object is like cutting out a part of a painting, and then putting it somewhere else. Just like cutting something out from a painting, the area which was cutout will now show whatever is behind the canvas (in this case, the background color, or layer behind that area).

Crop Tool

The Crop Tool is used to resize the canvas and active image area. To use the crop tool, simply drag out a square that encompasses the area which you want to become the new canvas size.

Note that cropping an image will not delete layer data. All layer data is preserved when an image is cropped to be smaller in size. Some layer data may just not be visible since it might become outside of the active image area.


  1. Add point Subtract point
    ทาสีคอนโด (-1 Points) November 10, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks for this tutorial

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  2. Add point Subtract point

    very helpful tutorial great thanks

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  3. Add point Subtract point

    This tutorial needs to be expanded to explain how to determine what layer you need to be on when you make a selection and then fill a selection. This aspect of Photoshop is totally mystifying for the beginner.

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  4. Add point Subtract point
    daniel cheon (4 Points) August 19, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Dude, you guys should make Starcraft tutorials for all the n00bs. LOL

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  5. Add point Subtract point
    Pradeep (3 Points) May 12, 2010 at 3:01 am

    This is very useful to learn more about Photoshop.

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  6. Add point Subtract point
    Web Design (2 Points) April 26, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    WOnderful tutorial. thanks for sharing

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  7. Add point Subtract point

    very nice tutorial .. it will help me


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  8. Add point Subtract point
    khushdeep kaur (2 Points) March 29, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    easy and helpful.
    contain basic contents which are very useful for the beginners

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  9. Add point Subtract point
    mating (2 Points) March 21, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    Another nice explanation from you! Thanks…

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  10. Add point Subtract point
    เนื้อเพลง (2 Points) February 3, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Great post . Thanks156

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  11. Add point Subtract point
    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุดเดือนนี้ (2 Points) February 2, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Great post . Thanks149

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  12. Add point Subtract point
    เพลงสากลใหม่ (2 Points) February 1, 2010 at 3:06 am

    Great post . Thanks144

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  13. Add point Subtract point
    ดาวน์โหลดเพลง (1 Point) January 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    wow Great article, thanks!

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  14. Add point Subtract point
    ดาวน์โหลดเพลงฟรี (1 Point) January 28, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Great article. Thank you.

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  15. Add point Subtract point

    this will really help me out a lot, thank you!

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    Mamun_bangladesh (1 Point) December 3, 2009 at 12:46 am

    its really nice and usefull post.Thnks Dude

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  17. Add point Subtract point
    Montana Flynn (2 Points) November 18, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    I can’t wait to learn about masks, they always confuse me!

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  18. Add point Subtract point

    it was the first site i saw when im searching tutorials about basic of photoshop…. i started here and i learned a lot which helps me to improve more my knowledge on photoshop…

    tnx for the idea you have posted…

    keep on posting! :)

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  19. Add point Subtract point
    rahmanbasri (1 Point) August 22, 2009 at 4:23 am

    It was quite good tutorial for beginners..

    Thanks for sharing..

    “…Sharing is sexy!!!”

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  20. Add point Subtract point
    虾然蛙然 (1 Point) July 10, 2009 at 11:04 am

    It’s a mazing blog, the articles are greet, and helpful.

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  21. Add point Subtract point
    Johny (1 Point) May 13, 2009 at 1:56 am

    I’ve started my carrier with this web. Now I’m MR. Graphic and I do advertisements for couple companies every month few our work for really good money. (Sure I decided studied more after this tutorial. It’s take me about tree month to learn almost everything)

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  22. Add point Subtract point
    huwaw69 (1 Point) May 3, 2009 at 4:42 am

    oh yeah love it! the very basics of photoshop…

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  23. Add point Subtract point

    Great idea. too bad I found this now and not when I started with Ps.
    I miss something:
    How about explaining the blendng modes or just write them down. It would be a good reference for german people like me who sometimes gets confused when reading/following engkish tutorials and working with a german Ps version?

    (yeah, I know I have to get me an english version :D)

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  24. Add point Subtract point

    it was be superb, i didn’t know this.

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  25. Add point Subtract point


    Could you please add explanation for slice tool as well :)

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  26. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks for everything!

    I like this site very much.

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  27. Add point Subtract point
    Joefrey Mahusay (1 Point) November 7, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Great tutorial. I definitely recommend this site to my friends! Thanks :)

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  28. Add point Subtract point

    I just wanted to thank you for such clear and helpful explanations!!! I’m taking the whole curse. I’m an argentinian video editor and I needed some greater knowledge about photoshop. The blog suites me perfectly!

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  29. Add point Subtract point
    Marjel (1 Point) June 30, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Love it! Really is a help ;-)
    But I think that I can learn this even faster if you add something like a tut, like you did with the layers! That was really easy and now I get it completely!

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  30. Add point Subtract point
    Jason (1 Point) June 26, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Mothership: I’m sure there’s a better way to do this, but for simple selections you could try right clicking in your selection and selecting “Transform selection”.

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  31. Add point Subtract point

    Another nice explanation from you!
    Very clear instructions, & tells you exactly
    what each tool does.

    Although as you did the ‘Mickey Mouse’ looking
    shape with the Elliptical Marquee Tool. If
    you were wanting/expecting the reader to follow
    along with the tut, you should state that. The
    reader always gets a better understanding of
    what he/she is doing, if they have something
    to go along with.

    Which I also think ‘Viet’ was trying
    to say. To put something to do, to
    follow along with each tut.

    Thanks again, excellent read!

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  32. Add point Subtract point
    Mothership (1 Point) June 14, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Oops. I meant to say ‘bang on’. i.e. does one have to get the shape perfect first time around, or can it be edited, as opposed to having to redraw the whole shape?

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  33. Add point Subtract point

    @ Mothership – I’m not sure I understand your question, but maybe this will help.

    Draw out a selection with the mouse. Release the mouse button so that the selection is made. Now hold the “Shift” Key, and draw out a new selection. It should add onto the current selection when you release the mouse button again.

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  34. Add point Subtract point
    Mothership (1 Point) June 4, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Still here. Am a little confused re: Mickey Mouse hat. Is it necessary to get it back on, or once the selection is made, can one edit this selection?

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  35. Add point Subtract point
    Viet (1 Point) June 1, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    This is great job. I love it very much. However, it would be more interesting and easier for new babies like me if there are some sources or small exercises to practice. Thank you.

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  36. Add point Subtract point

    Good explanations, and thanks for the extra tips. Those are a real help.

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  37. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks Marco =)

    I think you’ll enjoy the next few posts in this series, as they are of similar nature and quality ;) I appreciate the links mate! You’ve got a nice site!

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  38. Add point Subtract point
    Marco (2 Points) April 23, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Yet another great article!

    Stumbled & featured on my website.

    Keep on blogging such great posts.

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