Selection Tools

There are several Editor tools for creating a selection, a part of a picture to which the program’s edits and effects should be applied. You can also copy the selection and paste it into another picture.

A selection can take on any form from a simple rectangle to a collection of areas as complicated as you would like. You can compose a selection using any combination of the selection tools.

The selection process always has a “selection mode” that affects how your actions affect the selection. It starts in “normal” mode. Normal mode creates a new selection each time you drag out a rectangle, click the magic wand, etc. Use the options toolbar button named Add to Selection if you want your new selection(s) to instead be added to the existing one. To just enter this mode temporarily, hold down [Shift]. (A plus sign will appear by the mouse cursor.) If you want to do the opposite – to subtract your new selection(s) from the existing one – turn on Remove from Selection or hold down [Ctrl] during your work. (A minus sign will appear by the mouse cursor.) Mode Intersection or hold down [Ctrl] and whether or not to [Shift] while making the new selections. (An x will appear by the mouse cursor.)

The Blur control on the options toolbar for all these tools sets how edits will behave when they reach the edges of the selection: with a blurred border, effects will gradually lose intensity – “fade” – towards the edge. Click Invert or pressing [Ctrl+Shift+I] deselects all selected areas of the picture and vice versa.

You can erase your whole selection by pressing [Esc].

  Rectangular Selection

To activate the Rectangular Selection tool, use the Editor’s Selection | Rectangular Selection [M] command or the toolbar button. Use this tool to select areas that can easily be defined using one or more rectangles. After activating the tool, you click and drag out a rectangle to make the selection. If you hold down [Shift] while making your selection, it will be a square. If you hold down [Ctrl] then clicking will set the center of the rectangle rather than its top left corner.

  Elliptical Selection

To activate the Elliptical Selection tool, use the Editor’s Selection | Elliptical Selection [O] command or the toolbar button. Use this tool to select areas that can easily be defined using one or more ellipses. After activating the tool, you click and drag out an ellipse to make the selection. If you hold down [Shift] while making your selection, it will be a circle. If you hold down [Ctrl] then clicking will set the center of the ellipse rather than the top left corner of the rectangle that contains it.

  Lasso

Use the Lasso tool to enclose a complex area by hand. To activate the Lasso tool, use the Editor’s Selection | Lasso [L] command or the toolbar button. After activating the tool, you click and drag with the mouse to enclose the desired area. If you do not enclose it completely, the program will add a straight line between the starting and ending points to finish the job.

  Polygonal Lasso

Use the Polygonal Lasso tool to select any area that you can easily enclose using a collection of straight lines. To activate this tool, use the Editor’s Selection | Polygonal Lasso [N] command or the toolbar button.. After activating the tool, click in the picture and then gradually “click around” the desired area. If you ever want to undo your last click, press [Backspace] or [Delete]. To finish the enclosing shape—the polygon—you can either double-click or just use a single-click that is close enough to the starting point. (The mouse cursor will change when you are close enough.) When you hold down [Alt] while selecting, you will temporarily switch from the polygonal lasso to the magnetic lasso.

  Magnetic Lasso

Use the Magnetic Lasso tool to select complex areas that contain parts of a picture with clearly defined edges: those with a high contrast between the two sides of the edge. The program will seek such edges and automatically snap the selection to them. To activate this tool, use the Editor’s Selection | Magnetic Lasso [A] command or the toolbar button. Your actual workflow with this tool is the same as with the polygonal lasso. Use the Sensitivity option sets how far away from your lines the program should look for edges in the picture. The Line smoothing option affects the shape of the selection line; higher values give a “smoother” line, but may also make it poorly copy complex edges. If you hold down [Alt] then you will temporarily switch to the polygonal lasso.

  Magic Wand

To activate this tool, use the Editor’s Selection | Magic Wand [W] command or the toolbar button. Use the Magic Wand to select areas similar to the place where you click. Similarity is checked based on your settings for Comparison mode (RGB, Brightness, or Hue) and based on your setting for Tolerance. Use the Continuous option determines whether the selection will “spill” out into all similarly-colored areas in the whole picture, or just one continuous area. To use the tool, click on a spot within the similarly-colored area that you want to select.

  Selection Brush

Use the Selection Brush [Shift+Q] to create a selection by “painting” it. The settings are similar as for the Paintbrush tool—you can set the Radius, Density, Blur , and Spacing. This tool offers two modes—one for adding to, and one for subtracting from the selection. To switch modes, use the buttons in the Options toolbar. To temporarily switch modes during your work, press and hold down [Ctrl]. To quickly check which mode you are in, look for the “+” or “-” by the mouse cursor.

Refine Selection

The Refine Selection function is available for all selection tools. Use it to take a rough selection, e.g. when selecting a picture’s foreground, and make it precise. These controls include three settings:

  • Radius – sets the area within the picture in which this function will seek contours to use for refining the selection.
  • Contrast – sets the selection’s final contrast – the larger the contrast, the sharper the borders between the selected and unselected area.
  • Smoothing – adds mild smoothing to overly sharp contours in the selection.

When working with this function, it’s helpful to take advantage of the various Selection Displaymodes.

More information

Editing the Selection Border

Better Product Photos—Learn to Crop Products and Change Their Backgrounds

How to Create a Transparent Background