June 2016 PS/PE SIG – Selections in PS/PE


(1) These can be found online in a slightly different format (with cartoons!) at https://2014photoshopsig.wordpress.com/.
(2) Thanks again to the Harvest Bakery in Balwyn for their kind donation of goodies for morning tea at the Retirees SIG.


After the May SIG meeting, the general consensus was to look at how to make selections in greater depth and also at ways to use them.

You can find out more about selections from these websites that have video/pdf that may be of interest to you.
(1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sv58Mp6KZmM
2) https://helpx.adobe.com/pdf/photoshop-elements_reference.pdf

Finally, most of my information for the topics of selections, channels and masks comes from a good online course by David Cross. A bit pricey at $US 97, but well worth the money. Find out more at https://fineartgrunge.com/selections/.

Why selections?
(1) They let you isolate a part of an image so that you are working only on the isolated area. Once selected, the area stays selected until you deselect it (Control + D). This means that you cannot get any other tools to work until it is deselected. Another way to deselect is to click once outside the selected area.
(2) Making a selection is the first step in a series of what you may have planned.
(3) Better yet, any selections that you make can be saved and loaded at a later step. This involves the use of channels. (Select/Save Selection). Another topic for July perhaps.
(4) The selection can be turned into a layer mask. Another possible topic for July, perhaps?
(5) Use channels to make a selection instead of one of the usual tools such as the rectangular marquee tool.

How to make selections and to use layers to replace a sky in an image
This is a topic that we have already covered before. You can revise it by going to there:

If you seem to be coming up with a strange selection time after time, make sure that the Style box is set to Normal rather than Fixed Size.

What does that little box marked feathering do?
Feathering allows you to set a degree of blur to the selection of your edges. This can be good and bad. The bad part is that it is a destructive edit. Once you have done it, it cannot be undone. So use it carefully.

Using the marquee tool
(1) Holding down the shift key at the same time that you click and drag out your selection will give you a perfect square/circle.
(2) Most of the time you drag diagonally. However, there are times when you might want to draw outwards from the centre, such as when wanting to select the face of a clock. To do this, hold down the Alt key as well as the Shift key. Voila!

Click here to download a clock face to practice on (upon which to practice?).

Image 1 – Clock face for selection practice

(3) Did you draw your selection in the wrong spot? Before releasing your mouse button (hopefully), hold down your space bar and you can move your selection to a new location. Then release your mouse button!

Using the lasso tool
(1) Remember that as soon as you let go of the mouse button, the lasso will automatically go to the starting point to close the selection. This can be both good and bad. Bad in the sense that you were not expecting it to close by itself. Good in the sense that there is nothing to double click to get it to close as with some of the other tools.
(2) Do not waste your time trying to draw around the outline of a shape to select it. That is not how to use the Lasso. Use it to improve a selection that needs something added or subtracted to it.

Using the polygonal tool
(1) Use this for when you have a lot of straight edges.
(2) As you get closer to your starting point, you will see a small circle apear as part of your cursor. Looks like this:

For more information, give this website a try:

Using the Magic Wand tool
This used to be the most popular selection a few years ago. We’ll have a brief look at to discuss the constraints in the tool bar – sample size, tolerance, anti alias, and contiguous. These are shown in the image below:

Magic Wand tool bar

The magic wand tool makes a selection based on the pixel colour rather than click and drag as we have done with the Marquee tools. If you start with a Point Sample, you may only get a few pixels selected. you can improve on this by normally using a 3 by 3 Average.

The next box is your tolerance range. The higher that the number is, then the more pixels are selected. but as a guideline, keep the tolerance low. The upper end is 256 which gives the same result as Select All.

If you have any curves as part of your selection,  then you want to have the Anti-alias box checked. This tells PS/PE to smooth out the edges of the curved section.

If you want to select pixels that lie next to each other, then tick the contiguous box. The definition of contiguous means next to each other. It’s not one of those words that you can drop into your cocktail party conversations, is it?

But in general, you will be better off using the Quick Selection Tool. So let’s look at it next.

Using the Quick Selection Tool
The Quick Selection tool differs from the Magic Wand tool  in that it detects edges rather than pixel colours. Here is what the toolbar looks like:

Quick Selection Tool bar(1) Leave the Auto Enhance box ticked for most of your work. If you have a really large file, and the processing bar comes up and takes a while to complete, then it is time to untick the Auto Enhance button.
(2) Leave the Add Selection button (the one with the paintbrush and the plus sign) selected.
(3) You can make your brush larger/smaller by using the square bracket keys. “[” for smaller and “]” for larger.
(4) We will discuss the Refine edge option later on.

For more information, read all about it at:

Using the Pen Tool (Either Oh boy! or Arghhh!)
The Pen tool has caused more angst than any other Photoshop feature. PE users need not worry because as far as I know, it is not in PE.

I am going to dip out of any pen tool discussions for the moment. For those of you that are really keen, then you can find out all about it at:

But the best exercise that I have come across is at: http://design.tutsplus.com/tutorials/photoshops-pen-tool-the-comprehensive-guide–psd-718.
Download the practice file and become better with the pen tool by  doing rather than just reading.

Tweaking your selection for the bits that need to be added or subtracted
If you hold down the shift key, you will be adding to your selection. And if you hold down the Alt key, then you will be subtracting from your selection. Let’s try it with the image below. You can click on the image and download it to your own computer.

Orange round object

(1) Any suggestions for which tool to try and use to select the orange coloured berry? There is a hint in there for you – the word “colour.” Good. You suggested the Quick Selection (QS to make life a bit easier) tool. Well done!
(2) I need to zoom in on the photo to make it easier to see my selection with the QS tool. I hit Control and + on my keyboard to get the image up to  67% where I can see it all right. This is difficult to do on your iPhone screen!
(3) To move around the image, press the space bar down as you click and drag with your mouse.
(3) After using the QS, this is what I have selected.

Selection with QS

It looks a bit lumpy! So we need to tweak it a bit using the Lasso tool and the shift and alt keys.
(4) Zoom in even more. Note that if you lose your selection, then click on Select/Reload to get it back.
(5) Click on the Lasso tool.  When I hold down the Shift key, the cursor changes and now  has a + as part of it. When I hold down the Alt key, the cursor now ha a – as part of it.
(6) This is going to have to be a demo. It is not possible to get a screen shot to show you. So we can watch the first three minutes of this video clip from:

Putting it all together
(1) Go to this website and download the image to your computer.

(2) Open the image in PS/PE.
(3) Press control + J to copy the image. (So that you can always go back to your  original photo.)
(4) Use the rectangular Marquee tool to select Figure 1 of the moon. It Looks like this:

Image 8 - Select the moon photo

(5) Now press Control + J to get a copy of the image on another layer.
(6) Now turn off the Eyeball in the background image. You should have something that  lo0ks like this.

Image 9 - Selection copied to another layer

Click here to see in full size.

(7) Now that you have the moonimage selectefd on its own layer, use the elliptical marquee to select the moon.
(8) Now use Control + J to put the moon selection onto its own layer. Voila! You have done it. It should look like this:

Image 10 – Moon selection placed onits own layer.

Image 10 - Placing the moon onto its own layer

(9) Now use a variety of the selection tools to put each of he remaining images onto a separate layer.

In conclusion, I hope that this has started you on the path to being able to use selections as part of your plans to enhance your images.

But there is also the easier way of using the presets in Lightroom to accomplish something similar. This might be a topic for August?

That’s it for this month.

I’m always interested to hear what you are doing from the comments that you make in the blog pages.

That’s all, folks!




About woldham

Concise! Retired and loving it!
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