Photoshop has a number of tools to help us make selections in order to draw and paint, to mask objects, and make changes to isolated areas in an image. The most common selection tools are the marquee tool and the lasso tool.

Marquee Tool

Select the marquee tool, in this case, the rectangular marquee tool by tapping the M key.

  • The marquee tool drags from the upper left corner by default.
  • If I hold down the shift key, I can constrain it to a square.
  • If I hold down the option key on Mac or the ALT key on Windows, then it drags the marquee from the center.
  • Still have the mouse down, hold down the space bar, and then reposition that point of origin, release the space bar
  • In order to de-select a selection, I can click away from the selection. Alternatively I can use the Select menu and choose Deselect, or use the keyboard shortcut command D on Mac or control D on Windows.
  • If we know the exact size of the shape that I want to create, I can use the Style option in the option bar to enter in a fixed ratio.

Subtract From Selection

I can also add and subject from selection. Follow below steps to subtract from selection

  • Drag one large rectangular marquee over all four rectangle.
  • Click on the third icon in the options bar as shown in the below image to subtract from selection.
  • Now drag and draw another rectangle to subtract the first selection. Hold down that space bar if I need to reposition the point of origin.
  • Marquee acts like a mask. Whatever is inside the marquee will be affected.
  • To fill this with a blue color, choose New Fill Layer from the Layer Panel. And then choose solid color.
  • Tap the V key to select the move tool, and reposition the contents of that layer.
Selection subtraction in Adobe Photoshop. Using Marquee and Lasso tool in Adobe Photoshop
Selection subtraction in Adobe Photoshop

Elliptical Marquee Tool

  • Drag the circle using elliptical marquee tool.
  • To adjust the selection, got to Select menu and choose to Transform Selection. Now you can reposition the selection and you can use any of the anchor points in order to change the size of your selection. We can also use our arrow keys if we need to nudge a selection into place.
  • Now add another color fill layer by clicking adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose solid color (black).
  • Instead of dragging another circle, go to Select menu and choose Reselect to select the last selection. Now click and drag in order to offset it.
  • Then if we look at the layers panel, we can see that where the mask is white, we’re seeing the moon, where the mask is black, it’s hiding the moon. So now target the mask from the Layers panel.
  • Go to Edit menu and choose Fill. Select the color fill from the drop down and I’ll fill with a contents set to white.
  • In order to de-select, use command D on Mac or control D on Windows.
Crescent using Elliptical Marquee Tool
Crescent(left) using Elliptical Marquee Tool

Lasso Tool

Polygonal Lasso tool can be really helpful when I need to select things that have straight lines.

  • Tap the L key to select Polygonal Lasso tool.
  • I’ll start at the top of the building, and then all I need to do is just click, and click each time I want to set down and have a point.
  • When I returned to the point of origin, you can see that the icon changes a little bit, I get a little circle. So I know that if I click it will close the selection.
Selection using Polygonal Lasso Tool.
Selection using Polygonal Lasso Tool.

Now to draw a more free form selection, we can switch to the Lasso tool.

  • Draw a selection with the tool selected.
  • We can make few adjustments to the selection using keyboard shortcuts. I use the option key on Mac or Alt key on windows to subtract from the selection. I’ll use the space bar to move over to the other side. Hold the shift key, and draw polygon to add to the existing selection.
Selection using Lasso Tool. Plus sign shows the addition of new area to the selection.
Selection using Lasso Tool. Plus sign shows the addition of new area to the selection.

Magnetic Lasso Tool

Magnetic lasso tool tries to detect edges in the image, and it helps us to make that selection.

  • Click once and then just start dragging cursor without pressing down. Photoshop will automatically setting down those points for me.
  • Now I can always click in the image area in order to kind of force a point to be laid down if the tool’s not going in the right direction.
  • I can delete the last selected point using the delete key. Every time you tap the delete key, it’ll walk back one anchor point.
  • When i reach to the point where i started, we will see the same circle icon.
  • Now just click in order to create that selection.

So as you can see, the marquee tools are great for selecting your geometric shapes, and the lasso are great for a more free form type of shape. And of course you can use any of these tools in combination with one another to make more complex selections.