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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.
The Rectangular Marquee tool in Photoshop is probably the simplest tool for creating selections or at least it generally creates selections of the simplest shape, a rectangle. Of course, while the shapes you're creating with the Rectangular Marquee tool tend to be relatively simple, there are a variety of different options that affect the behavior of this tool. Let's take a look at how it works. I'll start by choosing the Rectangular Marquee tool from the toolbox and you'll notice that, that activates the tool of course but also brings up some options on the options bar.
We have the controls that determine whether we're creating a new selection, adding to an existing selection, subtracting from an existing selection or intersecting with an existing selection. We can adjust the feather and anti-alias settings as well as the style options. Let's start off with feathering. Feathering allows us to have a soft edge or transition edge, if you will, along the edges of the selection. I recommend that you don't feather your selections. Not that you don't want the effect to be feathered. You most certainly do in most cases. But it's easier to apply that feathering later when you're actually putting the selection to use for.
For example for a targeted adjustment, so I leave the feather option set to 0 pixels. The anti alias option is not available by default with the Rectangular Marquee tool and that's because the rectangular marquee tool is creating selections that are comprised of vertical and horizontal lines and, therefore, aliasing is not On an issue. In other words, the selections we create with the Rectangular Marquee tool are exactly following the shape of the pixels that we're selecting. The style option allows us to specify whether or not our selection will be constrained.
By default, to create a seleciton with the Rectangular Marquee tool if the style is set to normal we simply click. And drag, and we end up with a selection based on where we click and where we release the mouse. The point where I initially click becomes one corner of the selection and the point where I release the mouse becomes the other corner of the selection. But we can also constrain the shape of the selection. I'll change the style pop-up to fixed ratio, for example. You'll see the defaults here are one for both the width and the height, so that when I click and drag, no matter which direction I drag, the shape will always be a square. Or I can't stretch it out into a ratio because I have a fixed ratio. The aspect ratio will be fixed, to a particular setting. In this case, a one to one setting.
I can obviously change those values if I wanted a different ratio. For example, a width to height ratio of 2 to 1 that would give me a rectangle. That was twice as wide as it is tall. I can also create a selection of a specific size. I can choose the fixed size option, and you can see I currently have values of 64 pixels for both width and height. And so now if I click, I don't even have to drag, I will get a selection that is exactly 64 pixels wide by 64 pixels tall. Starting off with the top left corner at the position where I clicked. I'll go ahead and set that style option back to normal. And then we can go take a look at the new add, subtract, and intersect options. I usually leave this option set to new so that when I click and drag within the image, I'm creating a new selection.
But I can also add to an existing selection by choosing the Add to Selection option, and then adding an additional selection in the image. That additional selection can overlap with an existing selection or be in a completely different area. I can also use the Subtract from Selection option to cut away portions of a selection. And finally, I can intersect, in other words, I can deselect everything except the portion of the existing selection. That falls inside my new selection. We can also access these options however with keyboard shortcuts.
And that's why I typically I leave the options set to new selection, so that if I don't press any keys on the keyboard, clicking and dragging to draw a new selection replaces any existing selections. And then I can add to an existing selection by holding the Shift key and then clicking and dragging to define that new selection. Or I should say, that additional area of the existing selection. I can also the subtract from Selection option by holding the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh. While i click and drag to define that selection area. Or the area that I want to cut from the existing selection. And to access the intersect option, I can hold the Alt plus the Shift keys on Windows, or the Option plus the Shift keys on Macintosh. And the selection I define will determine which portion of the existing selection, will still be selected when I release the mouse.
There are a couple of other options avalible as well. Those include using a keyboard shortcut to constrain to a square shape. And also using a keyboard shortcut that causes the selection to grow outward from the point you initially clicked on rather than having that point be a corner of the selection. I'll go ahead and deselect the selection and then I'm going to click And drag to to define a selection. You'll see because I have the style option set to normal, I am able to make that any rectangular shape I'd like. But if I would like to make that a square, I can simply press and hold the Shift key.
You might be thinking that I just got finished telling you that the Shift key is the add to selection option, and that's true if I'm holding the Shift key before I click my mouse. But if I add the Shift key after I click the mouse to draw a selection with the Rectangular Marquee tool Then I will constrain that selection to a square. So what happens if you want to add to a selection in the shape of a square. Well for that you'll use the Shift key of course, twice. First, hold the Shift key so that you activate the add selection option and then click and drag to start creating your selection.
Keep the mouse button down and then let go of the Shift key. You're still in the add selection mode because you were holding the Shift key when you clicked the mouse. And now if I decide that I want this additional selection area to be a square, I can hold the Shift key while I continue dragging. And then when I release the mouse I'll have that additional selection area. As a square. To have a selection grow outward from the point you initially clicked, you can use the Alt key on Windows, or the Option key on Macintosh. Yes, that's the exact same key that's used to access the subtract from selection option.
But the same basic concept applies that we saw just a moment ago. I'll go ahead and hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh, and you'll see that I'm in the subtract from selection mode. But that's because I'm holding that key before I click the mouse. If instead I release the Alt or Option key and then click And drag to start creating a new selection. That selection is anchored with a corner at the point I initially click. But now that I'm in the middle of creating my selection with the mouse button held down and dragging my mouse around.
I can press and hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh and that selection grows outward. From the point, I can even add the Shift key. So I'm holding the alt or option key, so that my sleection is growing outward from the point that I initially click. If I add the Shift key, it will grow outward in the shape of a square. And if I want to subtract a portion of the selection, and have that selection that I'm subtracting come from the center, I can hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh to access the Subtract from Selection option. I'll then click and drag, but at this point I can release that Alt or Option key and I'll still be in subtract from selection mode. I can then press and hold one more time the Alt or Option key. To grow outward from the point I initially clicked, and of course I can also add the Shift key if I want to, to subtract growing outward from the center, in a square shape.
So, a little bit of complexity there but just a couple of keyboard shortcuts that change in behavior based on whether I hold the key Before or after I click. So, as you can see, while the selection shapes you'll typically create with the Rectangular Marquee tool are relatively simple, there are a variety of options that give you a surprising amount of flexibility with this relatively simple selection tool.
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