Creating Selections: Adobe Photoshop

Occasionally you may need to isolate an area within an image so that it can be altered or copy and pasted into another image. Within Adobe Photoshop, you can isolate areas (of an image) using ‘Selections’.

There are several selection tools available: The ‘Marquee’ tools, the ‘Lasso’ tools and the Magic Wand tool.

Some Adobe Photoshop users become nervous at the thought of using selections as they appear to be complex and difficult to manage. Other beginners may be bewildered by the array of tools on offer.

In this tutorial, we will look at cutting out the lady in the image and placing her onto a neutral background. For this kind of task, I tend to use the ‘Polygonal Lasso’.


The Polygonal Lasso can be found in the toolbar or by pressing the letter ‘L’. If you can’t see the Polygonal Lasso, then right-click on the Lasso tool and choose ‘Polygonal Lasso’ from the (pop-up) list.

Firstly, I must zoom into the canvas. CTRL ‘+’ to zoom in. I am going to zoom into around about 100%. 200% is better for detailed tasks. If I just expand my window and then find a start point.

I’m going to make a start by left-clicking to create individual selection points.

Please note, I am just ‘clicking’, not ‘clicking and dragging’. To create a point, simple move and click.

Continue selecting around the outline of the lady within this image.

The beauty of using the Polygonal Lasso tool lies in the fact that you can take your time with it. You can even leave your computer and come back to the selection afterward. I find it useful when trying to select the next point, if I rotate my mouse a little bit so the cursor almost moves in a semi-circle; this allows me to judge with accuracy, the next point that I need to create.

Please note: For straight lines, I quite often increase the space each click, but for detailed (or curving) areas, I use smaller clicks.

Be aware, that if you click too quickly, it might constitute a ‘double-click’. Double-clicking will (automatically) close a selection.


If I make a mistake and would like to ‘unpick’ a selection, if I use the keyboard’s ‘Backspace’ key, I can incrementally unpick each point within my selection.

Between any joining-point (foreground and the background), the area usually contains a scattering of pixels. See in this example, from the black to the cream colour there area about 10 pixels – try and select in between these pixels.

Once you have come to the end of your selection, you’ll find that if you hover your mouse over the selection’s start-point, the cursor symbol will change. You will see the Polygonal lasso tool, with a small circle next to it. This represents a ‘Closing of the circuit’. As soon as you see this symbol, click (to close selection).

The animated display around the edge of your selection is commonly known as marching ants. This lets you know that your selection (circuit) is now complete. Every selection needs to be a closed circuit. If I zoom out you can see that the selection extends right around the edge of the lady. However, there are areas within the image which are included within the selection which I would like to remove.

I will now zoom in and use the spacebar to move the viewpoint around the canvas. You will notice on the contextual toolbar, there are 4 buttons (in a row). The first is ‘New Selection’


If this button is pressed, if you were to create a selection now, it will replace any existing selection.


The next allows you to add to a selection. If I were to use this button and create a selection joining to the greater selection, this would add to it.


The third button allows me to subtract from a selection. If I click within a (selected) area and create a selection around the area I’d like to remove. (Once the selection is complete) that area is removed from the (total) selection.


Now let’s try this: Hold down the CTRL key and press ‘C’ – this will copy the content of the current selection. Now hold down the CTRL key and press ‘N’ – this will bring up ‘New’ (new image), click on ‘OK’. Then press CTRL and ‘V’ – this will paste the current selection.

The resulting quality will depend on how much time you have taken over your selection. To start with (creating a selection) may be very time consuming selecting a shape like this. However, the more you practice, the quicker you will become. So please be patient. If you make a mistake, use the backspace to ‘unpick’ your selection. Take your time with each click of the mouse. Remember: if you double-click you will (prematurely) close your selection.


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