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The purpose of making a selection is to isolate part of a layer, so that your edits affect just that portion of the content on the selected layer. There are lot's of ways to select, which we'll explore in this chapter, but first I want to make sure you understand what selections are for, so I would like to show you a few examples. I'm going to click on one of the simpler selection tools, the Rectangular Marquee tool here in the toolbar; you can use this tool to make a selection in the shape of a rectangle or square. I'm going to select this area in the front of the mailbox by clicking on the top left corner of that area and dragging down diagonally toward the bottom right corner.
I'm not going to even try to make a perfect selection here, I just want you to get the general sense of what selections do. So I will release my mouse and now you can see the animated dash is called marching ants that define the boundary of a selection. Whatever edits I make now will affect only the area inside the selection on whatever layer is selected in the Layers panel, take a look at the Layers panel and you see that there is a photograph on the mailbox layer and underneath that is a plain white layer. I'd like to make a change to the mailbox, so I'll select the mailbox layer here.
But I'm going to go over to the toolbar and I'll get my Brush tool. I happen to have blue as my foreground color; you can click in the foreground color box and choose any color you want from the color picker. I'll go to the Mode menu in the Options bar for the Brush tool; and I'm going to change that from Normal, which would lay down a solid paint; to Color, which will lay down paint but still allow the pattern on this mailbox to show through. And then I'll move into the image. I see that my brush tip is a little small, so I'll go back to the Options bar and drag the Size slider over to the right.
Now notice that if I try to paint outside of the selection, nothing happens that's because my edits will only take place inside the selection. So even if I'm sloppy about painting and I start way out here and then drag over the selection the paint is laid down only inside of the selection borders. So that's just one example, let me give you another. Sometimes I'll select an area that I want to delete from a photo, for example, I may have a really plain sky and I'd like to delete the sky so that I can see down through to a more interesting sky that I've put on the layer below.
Now in this case I do have the layer below the mailbox it's a layer that contains pure white. So, let's see what happens when I try to delete the selected area on the mailbox layer. I'll press the Backspace key on my keyboard, or the Delete key on a Mac keyboard, and that deletes the selected area of the mailbox layer, so we can see down through to the white on the layer below. I am going to make the white layer temporarily invisible by clicking its eye icon. So you can see that the pixels on the mailbox layer are now gone and behind them with the white layer invisible, there is just this gray in my checkerboard that represents transparency.
I'll give you one more example. When I make a selection, I can fill the selected area with either a color or pattern. To do that, I'll go up to the Edit menu and I'll go down to Fill. Notice that what is normally a Fill Layer command has changed to a Fill Selection command. That's because I have a selection active. I can see the marching ants going around the selection. So I'll choose Fill Selection, and that opens the Fill Layer dialog box. Here I'm going to choose to use not a color, but rather a pattern to fill with.
I don't like the default pattern, so I'll click the arrow to the right of the Custom Pattern field and I'm going to scroll down and find another pattern. I think I'll go with this optical pattern. I'll click in a blank area of this dialog box to close the pattern picker and then I'm going to click OK. And that fills the selected area with this repeating pattern. I still had my marching ants going; you can see them around the edge of that optical pattern. So to delete the selection I'll come up to the Select menu and I could choose Deselect, but this is a keyboard shortcut you'll use so often that I suggest you memorize it; and that is Ctrl+D on the PC or Command+D on the Mac to deselect a selection.
Now the marching ants are gone and any edit that I make, like painting with my Brush tool, is no longer limited to the area inside of the selection. So those are some examples of why you might use a selection, stick with me for the rest of this chapter to learn more about creating selections and their cousin's masks.
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