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The Polygonal Lasso tool

From: Photoshop Selections Workshop

Video: The Polygonal Lasso tool

It's often said that there are no straight lines in nature. This doesn't happen to be true, but it is said often. Many photographers think they're not likely to find straight lines within their images, and yet the Polygonal Lasso tool, which creates selections comprised of straight lines, proves surprisingly useful in a variety of situations. In this lesson, we'll examine the Polygonal Lasso tool, although utilizing an image with straight lines that weren't exactly found in nature. To get started, we'll choose the Polygonal Lasso tool, which happens to be hiding underneath the Lasso tool on the toolbox.

The Polygonal Lasso tool

It's often said that there are no straight lines in nature. This doesn't happen to be true, but it is said often. Many photographers think they're not likely to find straight lines within their images, and yet the Polygonal Lasso tool, which creates selections comprised of straight lines, proves surprisingly useful in a variety of situations. In this lesson, we'll examine the Polygonal Lasso tool, although utilizing an image with straight lines that weren't exactly found in nature. To get started, we'll choose the Polygonal Lasso tool, which happens to be hiding underneath the Lasso tool on the toolbox.

So to choose the Polygonal Lasso tool, you can Click and hold your mouse on the button for the Lasso tool, and then choose the Polygonal Lasso tool from the flyout menu. You could also press the keyboard shortcut letter L, as in Lasso, to get the Lasso tool, and then press Shift+L to switch to the Polygonal Lasso tool. Now this tool operates on a reasonably straightforward basis. You click to define an anchor point, and then move your mouse to another position and click again. A straight line will connect each of the anchor points.

As such, you can create shapes comprised of straight lines, a polygon. While you're creating a selection, of course, you might need to back up a step. For example, I'll click, and then I'll click again, and click. And let's assume this imaginary shape that I'm creating represents a mistake. I need to back up just a little bit. Now I could press Escape to cancel the selection altogether, and start over. But I can also click and then click, and then click, and when I need to back up, I can press the Backspace or Delete key to delete previous anchor points. I'll add a few more anchor points here, just so that it's a little more obvious and then I'll press Delete, Delete, Delete, Delete, Delete. And as you can see, I'm removing anchor points.

At all times, a straight line connects the most recent anchor point with my mouse pointer. To close the shape, I simply go back to my original starting point. If for any reason I can't find that original starting point, I can simply move as close as possible and then double-click. The position I double-click will be connected to my original starting point in a straight line in order to create a selection. Let's take a look at a more realistic example. In this case, we'll create a selection of the sign.

I can click to define my initial starting point, and then move my mouse along the edge of the sign to click again. But you might notice that the corners of the sign are rounded, which creates a little bit of a problem for us. If I were to continue drawing my selection, I could click and then click again. I would end up with a selection with a sharp corner. I'll go ahead and close the selection, and then zoom in so that you can get a better look here. See that my selection is jagged along this corner. Let's take a look at how we can actually work with the Selection tool to deal with such a situation.

Because quite often, you'll find that you have an area you need to select, that is comprised of both straight lines and curved lines. I'll go ahead and Deselect my selection, and then I will click to get started with this selection. I'll go ahead and click one more time. But now, as you can see, I've come to a point where I need a curved line. For this, I might want to use the regular Lasso tool. And I can access that regular Lasso tool while I'm working with the Polygonal Lasso tool. Simply press and hold the Alt key on Windows, or the Option key on Macintosh, and you can click and drag to draw a free-form selection. When you're finished, simply release your mouse button, and then release the Alt or Option key, and you'll be back to producing selections that are comprised of straight lines.

You can continue in this manner, all the way around the shape of the object you need to select. I'll go ahead and do a quick job here, not being terribly precise, but at least giving you a basic sense of what's possible here. And one more corner to go. And close enough. I missed the edge a little bit there, but I think you get the basic idea here. We can mix and match the Polygonal Lasso tool, which creates selections based on straight lines, along with the regular Lasso tool, which allows us to draw free-form selections.

I'm not going to try to convince you that the Polygonal Lasso tool is one you'll use everyday, or even on a particularly regular basis. But I will tell you that it is a tool that provides remarkable utility. Enough so, that I'm very glad it's there, and I'm glad to know how to put it to use as well.

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Photoshop Selections Workshop

31 video lessons · 1860 viewers

Tim Grey
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