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Learn how to use selections and layer masks in Photoshop to create composite images and apply targeted adjustments. After covering the key concepts behind selections and exploring Photoshop's selection tools, Tim Grey delves into a variety of advanced techniques that will help you make accurate selections, create seamless composite images, and apply adjustments that do exactly what you want them to do.
Under the best circumstances, you'll be able to create a selection in a single step. But more often than not, you're going to find that you need to build up your selections in a series of steps. Adding to a selection or subtracting from selection in order to clean up that selection, and just overall make sure that it reflects exactly the portion of the image that you want to work on. Let's take a look at the options that are available to most of our selection tools, in terms of adding to, subtracting from, and even intersecting with in order to modify our selections. In this case, I just have a simple image of a couple of overlapping circles. And we'll use this as our case study for looking at the options to add to, subtract from and intersect with our selections.
Since I'm working with circles I'm going to use the Elliptical Marquee tool. So I'll click and hold my mouse on the button for the Rectangular Marquee tool on the toolbox. That will bring up a fly out menu where I can choose the Elliptical Marquee tool, and then I'm simply going to click and drag in order to draw an ellipse. Specifically this is a circle, so I'm also then going to hold the Shift key so that I'll get a perfect circular selection, and then I can also use the Space Bar, our key in order to move the selection while I'm in the process of creating it. And in this way I'll adjust the overall position and then of course the size and shape of the selection.
I won't worry about getting it absolutely perfect in this case, but we'll at least get it reasonably close. So, right about there looks to be pretty good. So once I have that selection aligned to the best of my ability with the circle, I'll go ahead and release the mouse button in order to create that selection. So not quite perfect, but reasonably close, and certainly fine for our purposes here of just illustrating the concept. You can see that I have the circle on the left selected. But what if I wanted both circles to be selected? I'm using the Elliptical Marquee tools, so I can create selections of an elliptical shape.
Unfortunately, a double overlapping ellipse is not part of the equation there, at least, in terms of creating a selection in a single step but I can add to the selection. So I'll go ahead and choose the Add a selection option up on the Options bar. And then I can click and drag to start drawing another ellipse. I can once again use the Space Bar key as needed in order to adjust the position for that selection. And then I'll work to align that selection with that second circle here. And you can see of course that the circular selection I'm creating follows the second circle which happens to overlap with the first circle. But one I release the mouse I'll have a single selection representing that overall shape.
So I just added to that selection. In a similar fashion I can subtract from the selection. So let's assume that I didn't want this entire shape to be selected. I just wanted that sort of crescent moon shape over on the left to be selected. I'll go to the Edit menu. And I'm going to choose the Step Backward option in order to undo the last step, so that I once again have the entire left circle, or at least most of it hopefully, selected. Now I want to essentially cut out this additional shape.
But that additional shape is really just part of the overlap of this other circle so if I subtract this circle from the selection then I'll end up with the shape that I want. That crescent moon shape over on the left side. I could of course use a variety of different options but in this case essentially following this right circle with the Selection tool, in this case, the Elliptical Marquee tool with a Subtract from Selection option will take care of it. So, on the Options bar I'll click on the third button, the Subtract from Selection option.
And then I'll simply reproduce the same selection I had created just a moment ago of that right circle. And if I overlap exactly with that circle, that means I'll just be cutting out that portion, the overlap portion from the other circle. So, when I release the mouse, because I had that subtract from selection option, the area of this circle was subtracted from the existing selection. Of course, this right portion of the circle on the right was not part of the selection to begin with. But that's okay, it just means that it's still not selected.
Whereas this area of overlap has now been truly subtracted from the existing selection so that now my selection reflects that crescent shape over on the left. Lets assume though that what I actually wanted to select was this shape in the center the area of overlap between those two circles, I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z on Windows or Cmd+Z on Mac to undo to take a step backward. So that I have that original selection of the left circle and then I'm going to choose the overlap option up on the options bar and once again I'll create.
Create the exact same selection or as close to it as I can possibly manage. I'll use the Space Bar key once again to change the position of that selection while I'm in the process of creating it. And then release the Space Bar and continue dragging to adjust the position of the selection. So now I have an existing selection of the left circle and I am creating a selection of the right circle so that when I release. Only the overlap between these two selections will actually be selected.
So, I'll go ahead and release that mouse and sure enough you see that central area, the area of overlap is actually selected. Another way of thinking, this intersect option is subtract everything except this. Let's take another look at that, I'll press Ctrl+Z on Windows or Cmd+Z on Macintosh to undo that step. And I have a selection of this left circle, now I'm drawing a selection of the right most circle, but what I'm really saying is I want to subtract Everything except what falls inside of this selection.
In other words the selection I'm making right now. The right circle, I want to subtract from the existing selection. The selection of the left circle. Everything except the area that falls inside the current selection. The selection that I'm in the process of making right now. So id the intersect option seems a little bit confusing to you. Just think of it as the subtract everything except this option. Either way you end up with a result that is a selection of only the overlap between those two selections.
Of course, in some cases, you may want to create a brand new selection, in other words, to just start over. You could certainly deselect the selection and start over again. But you can also choose the new selection option, that first button, on the options bar. And then when you click and drag, for example, to create a new selection. You're creating a new selection. You're replacing the existing selection. So once again we can create a new selection, replacing any existing selections. We can add to the selection, in order to add additional areas of the image to the selection.
We can subtract from the selection, in order to cut away portions of an existing selection, and we can intersect with a selection, saying, essentially, subtract from the selection everything except this area. So with those options, you've got a great deal of flexibility for modifying the selections that you create in order to produce composite images or apply targeted adjustments in Photoshop.
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