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How to quickly straighten a photo in Photoshop using the Ruler Tool

The Ruler Tool

The Ruler tool is an often overlooked tool hidden beneath the eyedropper on the Photoshop toolbar. You can use it to to measure lengths, straighten photographs and place objects exact distances apart. In short, it’s very handy. Here’s a video showing you how to quickly straighten a lopsided photo.

 

How to Straighten A Photograph With The Ruler Tool in Photoshop (Notes)

1. With your photograph open in Photoshop, select the Ruler tool. Ruler-Tool Photoshop

The Ruler tool is hidden under the Eyedropper tool in the toolbar. Press and hold, or right-click on the Eyedropper to reveal the hidden tools, then select the Ruler tool.

ruler-tool-hidden-under-eyedropper-photoshop

2. Click, then drag along the edge of something in the photograph that should be perfectly vertical or horizontal.

2. Click the Straighten button in the Options bar. If you’ve made a mistake when drawing a line with the Ruler, hit the Clear button instead of Straighten and start over.

3. To crop away the areas that have become transparent, select the Crop tool, and use the handles to drag an area that encompasses the part of the photo you want. Then hit Enter/Return on the keyboard or press the Commit button on the Options bar.

You should now have a nicely straightened and cropped photo.

Beginner’s Guide To Bitmap And Vector Images In Photoshop

When you’re getting started with image editing, there are some technical concepts that you need to know that will help you decide which tools you can work with. I won’t bog you down with tons of boring technical jargon, but instead give you a brief introduction to Bitmap (also known as Raster images) and Vector images and the differences between the two. By taking a few minutes to learn about it, you’ll have a much better understanding of how to work with both of these image types in Photoshop.

In Photoshop you create and work with images that fall into two categories:

  • Bitmap images – made from pixels
  • Vector images – made from paths and points

Bitmap images

A Bitmap image, which is also known as a raster image, is made up of pixels.

What’s a pixel I hear you ask?

A pixel is simply a block of colour. It is the smallest individual part of a digital image. Every digital photograph is made up of a grid of pixels and the number of pixels in the image will depend on the device used to create the image i.e. a digital camera or a scanner.
With a typical image taken from a modern camera, the pixels are so tiny and numerous that you don’t see them individually. However, when you zoom in and magnify your view of the image, you’ll see the image starts to look blocky. Those blocks are the individual pixels.
In the example below, you can see a picture I took of one of our dogs using my camera phone. Viewed at 100% (or actual size) the individual pixels are not visible and they give the impression of blending together to form the overall image.

Otto-in-Bed

Viewed at 800% though, you can clearly see each colour box or pixel.

Otto-in-Bed-Magnified

If you’re creating a brand new image in Photoshop, you determine how many pixels it has by entering the information into New Document dialog box. The image resolution of your file affects the image quality and how large the file is.

  • For graphics for the web or screens, use 72 pixels per inch (known as low resolution)
  • For high quality colour printing, use 300 pixels per inch (known as high resolution)

Rule of Thumb for choosing a resolution

If you know that you are creating graphics or editing photographs that will be used for print AND web, start your new file at a high resolution (300 ppi) . You can always lower the resolution of an image from 300 to 72 ppi. It is not a good idea to try and go from low to high resolution. Very occasionally it might look “kinda ok” on screen when you go from low to high, but generally the quality will be poor and your design will look rubbish. It’s always better to start with a high res image and reduce its size and quality if needed rather than vice versa.
If you know that you are creating graphics or editing photos that will ONLY be used for web, then you can start your new file at a low resolution of 72 ppi.

New Document - Photoshop

Photoshop Raster Tools

Most of the tools in the Photoshop toolbar work by manipulating pixels. For example, all of the tools that work with brush tips, such as the painting tools, the clone stamp tool, the blur tool and so work by changing or affecting the individual pixels in your image or design.

Pixel-based File Formats

When it comes to saving your files, JPEGs, GIFs, PNGs and TIFFs are all raster image file formats. Raw files from your camera are also raster images, and you can edit them in Photoshop using Camera Raw.

Vector images

Vector images are composed of points and paths. They are shapes and lines created by mathematical equations. The shapes can be filled with solid colours or gradients or they can have strokes (basically an outline) or they can have both a fill and a stroke.
The really great thing about vector images is, any object you draw or create this way can be scaled up without any loss of quality. Unlike raster images which can look blocky and distorted as you scale up in size, vectors keep their beautifully smooth curves and crisp lines. That is why vectors are used frequently in graphic design, especially for logo design.

 

Shapes with stroke and fill - photoshop

Bitmap and Vector Side By Side

In the image below, you can see two versions of Mickey Mouse, the one on the right is a raster image made up of pixels, while the one on the left is created using vectors. At 100% both look fine. (Mickey Mouse is copyright of Disney)

Vector Image at 100 percent

Now if each version of the image is enlarged, the vector version (on the left) keeps its beautiful smooth curves and precise lines, while the raster version looks horribly blocky and pixelated.

Enlarged-Vector-and-Raster-Image---Photoshop

Photoshop Vector Tools

Photoshop has a smaller number of tools which work specifically with vectors. They are the Pen tools, the Path and Direct Selection tools, the Shape tools and the Type tools. All of which you can use to create and design graphics which can be increased and decreased in size with no loss of quality.

Photoshop Vector and Type Tools

Check out my free Photoshop vector tutorials here.

Is Type Raster or Vector in Photoshop?

Type in Photoshop consists of vector-based type outlines that describe the letters, numbers, and symbols of a typeface. When you scale or resize type, save a PDF or EPS file, or print the image to a PostScript printer, the vector outlines are preserved.  As a result, it’s possible to produce type with lovely crisp, resolution-independent edges.

Scaling Up Text in Photoshop

That concludes this short guide to Raster and Vector images. I hope you’ve found it useful. If you have any questions or comments please add them below. I’d also be really grateful if you would share this guide. Thank you!

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Beginners Guide To Vectors And Bitmaps In Photoshop Laughing-Lion-Design

How To Make A Double Stroke Text Effect In Photoshop

In this quick tutorial for beginners, you’ll see how to use Photoshop’s Stroke layer effect to create a simple and cute text effect.

The Layer Effects in Photoshop allow you to easily add effects such as Drop Shadows, Glows, Stokes, Colour Overlays and more to any layer. By combining effects within the Layer Style dialog box you can create interesting looks which can be applied to text, shapes, blocks of colour and so on.  In older versions of Photoshop, you could add one Drop Shadow, one Stroke and so on.  However, a new feature in Photoshop CC allows us apply the same effect more than once and that’s what we’re going to do now. You’ll add two strokes to the same piece of text to create a cute text effect. Here’s how to do it!

Create a new file and add text

  1. Create a new blank file in Photoshop with a size of 1000 x 500 pixels. For this example, we’re creating a simple graphic for web use, so set the resolution to 72 ppi. If this graphic was required for print purposes, you would set the resolution to 300ppi.
  2. Now to add some text to your new document. I’m using a free font I love, called Folk. You can download it here.   You can use any big fat bold font for this exercise, but it works extremely well with a heavy hand drawn font like Folk.
    Select the Type tool by pressing T on the keyboard, or click on the Type Tool on the Toolbox.  Text-Tool- Photoshop
  3. In the Options Bar at the top of the screen, set the type size to 280 pt (you may need to make this bigger or smaller if you’re using a different font). Set the colour to bright blue – Hex #0099ff.4 - Type Tool OptionsTo change the font colour, just click on the colour swatch on the Options Bar and the Colour Picker opens automatically.5 - Photoshop Colour PickerOnce you’ve set your options, click once on your document and type in some text.

    1a - Text on image
    When you’re finished adding text, either click on any other layer in the Layers panel, or click on the Commit button Commit-Button Photoshop on the options bar.

    Using Layer Effects

  4. Now you’ll add the strokes to the new text layer you’ve just created. Click on the Type layer to make sure it’s selected, then click on the Layer Effects icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. A drop down menu will offer lots of different effects, click on “Stroke”.6 - Add A Stroke Effect
  5. The Layer Effects dialog box opens and will show options for adding a stroke to your layer. Make sure the Preview checkbox is clicked so you can see your changes as you make them.Set the size to 5px
    Set the Position to Inside
    Leave Blend Mode as Normal and Opacity as 100%
    Click on the colour swatch and change the colour to white.7 - Stroke Layer Effect

    Now it will look as though your text has gone a bit wierd because it’s sitting on a white background and you’ve add a white stroke around it. Next we’ll add another stroke and it will look much more interesting.

  1. Click on the word Stroke on the left hand side of the Layer Style box, underneath the Stroke you’ve just added (which will have a tick in the checkbox).Set the size to 8px
    Set the Position to Outside.
    Leave Blend Mode as Normal and Opacity as 100%Click on the colour swatch and change the colour to the same bright blue – Hex #0099ff8 - Add Second Stroke

    We could finish this effect at this stage, it looks nice, but I want to show you how to continue in the Layer Style box to add a drop shadow.

  2. Don’t click OK yet.  Click on the word Drop Shadow in the bottom left hand side of the Layer Style box. You’re going to add a subtle shadow in the same colour as the text, but with just enough drop shadow to lift it slightly off the page.Now you’ll see the drop shadow options.Blend Mode is Multiply by default, but if it’s not currently set to Multiply, change it in the drop down menu.Set the colour to the same bright blue – Hex #0099ff – this will give a subtle shadow rather than a heavy dark one.
    Set Opacity to 100%
    Any Angle is fine for this example
    Set Distance to 10px
    Set Spread to 10%
    Set Size to 10%9 - Add Drop Shadow

    Click OK. Your text effect should look something like this:

    10 - Final Text File

    As I mentioned earlier, this effect works well with chunky hand drawn style fonts but you can create interesting effects using these styles with any font.

    I hope you found this Photoshop tutorial useful and I’d be really grateful if you would share it. Thanks you very much! 🙂

How To Create A Colour Palette From A Photo Using Adobe Color (And Use It In Photoshop, Illustrator & InDesign)

How To Create A Colour Palette From A Photo Using Adobe Color (And Use It In Photoshop, Illustrator & InDesign)

If you find it difficult to come up with color schemes or palettes for design work, or if you’re looking for inspiration on colour themes to apply to your designs or photography, then you’ll find the Adobe Color website to be a helpful tool. It’s actually a brilliant tool, as it allows you to create both your own colour schemes and also explore and save other people’s colour schemes and swatches.  Just as a side note, Adobe Color used to be called Kuler. The name has changed but not much else.

When exploring other people’s color themes you can filter them by Most Popular, Most Used, Random, themes you’ve published, or themes you’ve appreciated in the past. Once you’ve found a theme that you like; you can edit it and and save it to your themes, or add it to your swatches in Photoshop.

The really nice thing about it is, when you’ve created your own, or saved someone else’s color theme, as part of the Creative Cloud plan you can use those themes immediately through the Color Panels in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and after I show you how to make a color theme on the website, I’ll show you where you can find them and use them in the individual apps.

Make A Color Theme From A Photograph

This is one of the features I really love. I’m going to show you how to create a set of colours using just one photograph, but produce several palettes which can then be saved and used in Photoshop or any of the other Adobe Creative Cloud products that use swatches.

Let’s say you’re working on a website or design project and you have a particular image that you want to use in the header or as a major part of the overall look and feel. By using colours from that photograph you will be able to create a nice, cohesive colour scheme that works well. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Go to the Adobe Color website.
  2. If you are a Creative Cloud subscriber, log in.
    If you’re not a subscriber you can still sign up for free. If you have CS6 or earlier, you can use the “Kuler” panel to access “public” colours and use them in your application.
  3. On the home page of Adobe Color, you’ll see a colour wheel and five giant colour swatches beneath it. On the menu bar on the top left there are options to Create, Explore or view My Themes.  You want to Create, so stay on this page and click on the small white camera icon on the right hand side to choose Create from image.

Create Colour Scheme From Image

4. When the File Upload dialog box opens, choose the photography that you want to upload. I’m using a photograph of a thatched cottage in a town called Adare. If you live in Ireland, or visited from overseas and have been there, you’ll know Adare is a very picturesque town with a lovely row of thatched cottages and beautiful old buildings in the main street.

Adare Cottage by Jennifer Farley
Adare Cottage by Jennifer Farley

5. Once your image is uploaded, you’ll see that right away Adobe Color has chosen five colours from your image. By default it picks five colours to create a “Colorful” theme.  The colours it picks are highlighted in circles on the image and appear as giant swatches underneath your image.

Create A Coloful Colour Scheme

6. If you don’t like this particular set of colours you can change them by choosing from suggested “Color Mood” options on the left hand side. For example, by choosing Dark, the colour swatches look like this:

Create A Dark Colour Scheme

The colours are obviously much darker but are still tied together to form a theme.

7. If you don’t like any of the colour themes produced by the Color Mood suggestions, you can create your own custom theme. To create a custom theme, either click on the word Custom or simply click on one of the five colour circles and drag it around your image. You’ll see how only that particular colour swatch is affected. You can choose to change as many colours (of the five available) as you want.

As you drag each point, the colour palette changes. The thing I really love about this is that often there are colours in images that you don’t even realise are there and you can put together some really lovely colour schemes.

Create A Custom Colour

8. Ok, so when you find a scheme you’re happy with. Click on the Save button on the top left of the screen. Give the theme a name and give it some tags so that when people are searching, they may find your theme based on one of those tags.
You can choose your cloud (mine is just Creative Cloud) and also your library. This will usually just be called “My Library“. In the example below I am saving my new theme into one of the libraries that I have called Brushes, so don’t worry if you don’t see that as an option.
If you don’t want to share your themes (and why wouldn’t you 🙂 ? ) then turn off the checkbox that says Publish this theme to Explore. Click Save again.

Save Colour Theme To Library

9. Once you press Save, your picture disappears and you’ll see the five colours that make up your new palette move to the top of the screen. Below that you have options to Publish, Edit Copy or Delete. The other thing that happens is that your new colour theme will now be available to you through your library in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign CC editions.

Note: If you have an older version of Photoshop or Illustrator they will be available through the Kuler panel.

How to use your color theme in Photoshop

  1. In Photoshop, select Window > Extensions > Adobe Color Themes. The Color Themes panel opens. Click on My Themes. You should see your new colour theme listed.
  2. Photoshop Color Themes Panel
  3. Click on the three dots under the theme and choose Add to Swatches. Now your new theme colours are available from your Swatches panel and you don’t need to be connected to the internet to use them.
    Swatches Panel With New Colour Theme

How to use your color theme in Illustrator

  1. In Illustrator CC, choose Window > Color Themes to display the Color Themes panel. As is the case with the Photoshop Color Themes panel, themes you created and are synced with your account on the Adobe Color website will be visible in the panel. You’ll also see public themes that you have marked as a favourite theme on the Adobe Color website.Illustrator Colour Themes Panel
  2. To add the colours in your theme to the Illustrator Swatches panel, click on the Color Themes panel menu (circled above) and choose Add to Swatches.Illustrator Swatches
  3. Another cool feature in Illustrator is that when you choose your colour theme by clicking it in the panel, those colours appear in Illustrator’s Color Guide panel. Choose Window > Color Guide to open the panel.Illustrator Color GuideYou can use the Color Guide panel as a handy tool for colour inspiration in your artwork. It suggests harmonious colors based on the current color in the Tools panel. When you add your color theme (simply by clicking on it in the Color Themes panel), you’ll see each colour appears with a range of tints and shades either side of it. So this is giving you further variation on your initial theme.

How to use your color theme in InDesign

  1. In InDesign, open the panel by choosing Window > Color > Adobe Color Themes.
  2. To add the colour themes to your swatches panel, click on the word Actions and choose Add to Selection and voila! There are you colours in their own folder in your swatches panel.
    InDesign Colour Themes Panel

That completes this guide to using Adobe Color to make a colour palette from a photograph, and how to then open the themes in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. I hope you’ve found it helpful and will make tons of new colour themes for your designs!

If you found this guide useful, I would be really grateful if you would share it. Thank you so much! 🙂

 

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Beginners Guide: How To Use Photoshop’s Selection Tools

How (and when) to use each of the Selection Tools in Photoshop

Learning how to select areas of an image is an essential Photoshop skill. You will make selections over and over again when using Photoshop to edit and create new images. Once you’ve made a selection, only the area within that selection can be edited or modified. Areas outside the selection are protected from change. In this guide I’m going to show you how to use each of the main Selection Tools in Photoshop. By the end of this article you will know TONS about these tools and will be able to modify your images in many ways.

Why Do We Need To Make Selections?

Photoshop provides lots of different tools for making selections. First though, let’s have a look at why you might want to make a selection.

Often when you’re working on an image, you’ll only want to change a small part of it. By making a selection you are isolating just that part of the image which means you can do lots of cool things to only that part, such as:

  • Resize or transform it. You might want to flip your section horizontally or scale it down. Only the selection will be transformed, everything else remains protected.
  • Move it. Have you ever wanted to remove someone from a photo? You could select them and then move them out of the way.
  • Delete it. Just get rid of it completely.
  • Change the colour. Want to change eye color or dress color? Just select the bit of the image you want to change and fill it with the color you like.
  • Plus many more uses that you will come across as you use the application.

What and where are the selection tools?

Photoshop provides three main sets of selection tools in the toolbar: the Marquee tools, the Lasso tools, and the Quick Selection tools.

01 - Marquee Tools - Photoshop Selections 02 - Lasso Tools - Photoshop Selections 03 - Quick Selection Tools - Photoshop Selections

The best selection tool for the job will often depend on the characteristics of that area, such as shape or colour.

Marquee tools

We use the Rectangular Marquee tool (Rectangle-Marquee-Tool-Photoshop.jpeg) to select a rectangular area in an image.

The Elliptical Marquee tool (Elliptical Marquee Tool Photoshop), which is hidden behind the Rectangular Marquee tool, selects circular or oval shaped areas.

The Single Row Marquee tool (Single-Row-Marquee) and Single Column Marquee tool (Single-Column-Marquee) to select either a 1-pixel-high row or a 1-pixel-wide column, respectively.

Lasso tools

You can drag the Lasso tool (Lasso-Tool Photoshop) around an area to trace a freehand selection, it’s almost like using a pencil and is useful for making loose selections around objects or elements that don’t fit easily into a rectangle or circular selection .

The Polygonal Lasso tool (Polygonal-Lasso-Tool Photoshop), draws straight lines between clicks of the mouse.

The Magnetic Lasso tool (Magnetic-Lasso-Tool Photoshop) works something like a combination of the other two lasso tools, and it works most effectively when there is good contrast between the area you want to select and its background.

Quick Selection (Colour-based) tools

The Magic Wand tool (Magic-Wand-Tool Photoshop) selects parts of an image based on the similarity in colour of adjacent pixels. It is useful for selecting odd-shaped areas that share a specific range of colours.

The Quick Selection tool (Quick-Selection-Tool Photoshop) quickly “paints” a selection by automatically finding and following defined edges in the image.

Other Selection Tools

Some other tools that should be mentioned here are the Crop tool, the Pen tool and the Quick Mask mode.

The Pen tool lets us draw paths around objects which can then be converted to selections. The Pen tool is unique and definitely has its own steep(ish) learning curve so I’m not going to discuss it in this article, but I will in a separate post.

The Crop tool could be considered a selection tool because you use it to select part of an image and then transform it by either cropping away (deleting) the parts of the image that were outside the selection, or in some cases adding area to the canvas if the selection is bigger than your starting image. Again, the Crop tool warrants a post of its own too.

The Quick Mask mode lets make new selections or fine-tune existing by painting with a brush tip of your choice.

 

Getting back to the main Selection Tools now, let’s look at each tool in turn to see how exactly they work.


Select by Shape

These tools are what you might consider the “old school” Photoshop selection tools and in some ways they are the easiest to use.

The Rectangular Marquee tool

1. Open an image in Photoshop. I’m using this photograph of a ballerina, but you can follow along with any picture.

04 - Rectangular Marquee Photo

2. Select the Rectangular Marquee tool by clicking on the tool in the Toolbar or pressing M on the keyboard. Click and hold down the mouse button, then start to drag diagonally around an object. In this case I’m dragging a square shape around the ballerina’s face.

05 - Rectangular Marquee Photo - Drag

3. When you’re happy with your selection, release the mouse button. Your selection is made and you’ll see a rectangle or square dashed line around the object. This moving dashed line is often known as the “Dancing Ants”. The area inside the Dancing Ants is your selection. Any changes you make now will only affect the area inside the selection. In the next step, you’ll change the colour balance and see how only the selected part of the image changes.

4. Choose Image > Adjustments > Color Balance. Drag the Red slider all the way to the right hand side. Notice how everything inside the selection is changing to a red colour while everything outside the selection is protected and does not change.

07 - Rectangular Marquee Colour Balance

5. Click Cancel on the Color Balance dialog box to get back to your image without making any changes.

How to Deselect a selection

No matter which selection tool you use, there are a few ways to get rid of a selection.

  1. Click anywhere on your image with any selection tool.
  2. Choose Select > Deselect.
  3. Or much better, learn and use the keyboard shortcut Cmd + D (Mac) or Ctrl + D (PC)

Cropping an image based on a selection

To crop the image around your selection, choose Image > Crop. This will delete everything outside of your selection and resize the image canvas to the size of your selection.

The Elliptical Marquee tool

The Elliptical Marquee tool works in the same way as the Rectangular Marquee, except that it draws circles and ovals.

1. Select the Elliptical Marquee tool by clicking on the tool in the Toolbar. The keyboard shortcut is to hold down the Shift key and press M on the keyboard. Holding down Shift will cycle through a set of keyboard shortcuts when more than one tool has the same keyboard shortcut.

2. With the Elliptical Marquee tool selected, click and hold down the mouse button, then start to drag diagonally around an object. This time you’ll see a circular shape.

08 - Elliptical Marquee

Two Very Handy Marquee Selection Tool Tips!

  • To make the selection a perfect square or circle, hold down the Shift key as you drag.
  • To draw a selection from the centre outwards of any marquee, hold down the Option (Mac) or Alt key (PC) as you drag.

Single Row & Single Column Marquee tool

Realistically these selection tools are not used as often as the other marquee tools but they certainly do have their uses. If for example, you wanted to trim off just a tiny piece of an image, you could use one of these tools to select a single row or column of pixels the full width or height of the image.

Another nice use of this tool in graphic design is to simply fill the selection with a colour. This creates a hairline border.Here’s how to do it.

1. Select the Single Row Marquee tool . (There is no keyboard shortcut for this tool)

2. Click once on the image. A row of dancing ants will appear.

09 - Single Row Marquee

3. Right-click on the selection and choose Fill from the pop-up menu.In the dropdown box, you can choose from a Foreground or Background colour or choose “Color” to get the Color Picker.

10 - Right-Click-Fill-Single-Row

4. The selection is filled with colour. You may not see the colour because it is such a tiny selection, so press Cmd + D / Ctrl + D to deselect the selection and the colour will now be obvious. Below you can see a zoomed in view of the fill I’ve applied.

11 - Zoomed In On Fill


Freehand Selection

Obviously not everything you want to select will be a circle or square so we can turn to the three Lasso and Pen tools (which is not discussed here) to make more complex selections.

The Lasso Tool

The Lasso Tool is a freehand tool and is great for making fast, loose selections, or if you have a very steady hand (which I definitely don’t), you can make more intricate selections. You can drag the Lasso tool around an area to trace a freehand selection, just like drawing with a pencil.

1. Select the Lasso tool in the toolbox or press L on the keyboard.

2. Click and drag the mouse around the object you want to select as if you were drawing a line with a pencil.

20 - Loose Lasso Selection

3. Keep drawing with the lasso until you reach the starting point (or near the starting point), then let go of the mouse. Your selection will kick in.

21 - Loose Lasso Selection Complete

The Polygonal Lasso Tool

The Polygonal Lasso tool, draws only straight line segments around the area you’re selecting. It’s extremely easy to use.

1. Click on thePolygonal Lasso tool in the toolbar or hit Shift L to cycle through each of the Lasso tools until you come to the Polygonal Lasso.

2. For this example I’m making a selection around the head of the statue below. Start the selection by clicking once in the image.

3. Move your mouse farther along the edge that you’re selecting then click again and a selection line appears between the two clicks. Every time you click, another straight line connects that point to the previous point.

22 - Polygonal Selection Tool

4. To close the path and make the selection, click on the original point. Or double-click—wherever you double-click, that line will snap to the beginning.

22 - Polygonal Selection Tool Complete

 The Magnetic Lasso tool

The Magnetic Lasso tool is somewhat like a combination of the other two lasso tools, and works best when there is good contrast between the area you want to select and its surroundings.

When you draw with the Magnetic Lasso tool, the border automatically snaps to the borders between areas of contrast. You can also control the selection path by occasionally clicking the mouse to place anchor points in the selection border.

1.Open an image in Photoshop. I’m using this picture of a Trabant car I took on a street in Budapest. I’m going to use the Magnetic Lasso Tool to draw a selection around the car. As you can see ,there is a reasonably good contrast between the car and the background except under the wheels and the middle of the car where there is a dark shadow between the car and the kerb and the ground.

12 - Magnetic Lasso Photo

2.It’s a good idea to zoom in so that the main object of interest fills the screen. It makes it easier to use Selection tools when you can clearly see what you’re attempting to select. Use the Zoom tool (Z) and bring the picture to a magnification where you can see the whole object.

13 - Magnetic Lasso Zoomed In

3. Select the Magnetic Lasso tool, which may be hidden under the Lasso tool.

4.Click once to start your selection, then trace the outline of the object you’re selecting by moving the magnetic lasso pointer around the edge, staying fairly close to the edge as you move. Do not hold down the mouse button.

15 - Magnetic Lasso Difficult Selection

The cool part about this tool is that, although you may not be tracing 100% accurately with your hand, the magnetic tool snaps to the edge of the object and automatically adds fastening points. It does this very well if there is good contrast between the object and it’s background.

If you think that the tool is not following the edge closely enough, you can add your own fastening points by clicking the mouse button. You can add as many extra fastening points as you feel are necessary. You can also remove the most recent fastening points by pressing Delete for each anchor point you want to remove. Then, move the mouse back to the last remaining fastening point and continue selecting.

16 - Magnetic Lasso Difficult Selection

4. When you have traced the whole way around the object you’re tracing and reach the starting point again, move the Magnetic Lasso over the starting point and click once. Or double-click the mouse button to make the Magnetic Lasso tool close the selection.

18- Selection complete

5. The selection around the object is now complete. At this point you can make any edits that you like and they will be applied only to the selected area of the image.

How to duplicate a selection and put it on a separate layer

1. With the dancing ants still visible, make a duplicate of this selection by pressing Cmd + J (Mac) or Ctrl + J (Windows) to duplicate the selection and put it on a new layer.

17 - Duplicate Selection Onto New Layer

2. To see your selection with a transparent background, in the Layers panel, click on the eye icon on the Background layer to turn off it’s visibility. You can now see your selected object sitting on its own layer with transparency all around it.

19 - Selection on its own layer

Notice that once you duplicate the selection onto its own layer, the dancing ants disappear, meaning your selection is gone too. Selections are temporary and they will disappear if you deselect them either on purpose or by accident! Usually you can hit Cmd + Z (Mac) Ctrl + Z (PC) to step back if you’ve accidentally lost your selection.

Selections can actually be saved permanently as Alpha Channels which are saved with your Photoshop PSD file, but that’s another day’s work 🙂


Select by Colour

We’ve seen the tools that allow us to select areas by shape and the tools to make irregular shaped, freehand selections.  Our final set of tools are those that let us select an area based on colour. When used in the right places these tools, namely the Quick Selection and Magic Wand tools are fast and easy.

The Quick Selection Tool

As the name suggests, this tool allows you to make a selection quickly by painting in the area you want to select with a round brush tip. The brush tip size is adjustable, allowing you to paint both large and small areas. A larger brush creates a larger selection. You change the size of the brush tip either in the Options Bar or better yet with the same keyboard shortcuts for changing the size of any brush – left bracket key [ to decrease the size, right bracket key ] to increase the size.

For the best results with this tool,  use a hard-edged brush to produce well-defined edges

As you drag the tool around, the selection expands out and automatically finds and follows any strong, defined edges in the image. Like the Magic Wand tool (which is coming up next) it selects pixels based on tone and colour. However, where the Quick Selection Tool outshines the Magic Wand is by also looking for similar textures in the image.

  1. Open an image you want to make a selection in. I’m using this photo of two musicians dressed in Medieval clothing outside a modern department store 🙂 I want to select the female musician on the right. The Quick Selection tool will work well in this situation because the colour of her clothes are quite different to the background.23 - Quick Selection Tool Photoshop
  2. Zoom in close on the area you’re selecting, then choose the Quick Selection tool (W)In the Options bar at the top of the screen you can choose to set the Brush tip size and the hardness. You’ll get better results with this tool by using a hard-edged brush instead of a soft-edged one. A hard brush is 100%. All of the other options can stay as they are.24 - Quick Selection Toolbar Options
  3. Paint over the area you want to select. As you paint the selection expands to encompass pixels similar in colour to the ones you’re brushing across. In the case of the image I’m using, the selection rapidly fills out over the purple and yellow of the clothes and stops at the edge.25 - Paint In Selection
  4. Keep painting until you’ve filled the area you want to select.Now it is almost inevitable that you will select parts of the image that you don’t want. That’s where you can Subtract from the selection. In the image below, the arrows show areas inside the selection that I don’t want to include, mostly background that has been picked up between her arms and her hair.26 - Areas to subtract
  5. To deselect just those areas, hold down the Option key (Mac) or Alt (Windows). You’ll see the brush tip change from having a + symbol inside it to a – symbol. These areas are quite small so it’s a good idea to decrease the brush size by hitting the left bracket [ key. Paint in those areas you want to remove. If you overdo the subtraction, then release the Option or Alt key and paint back in the selection.27 - Subtraction Complete

The Magic Wand Tool

The Magic Wand lets you select areas of colour by clicking instead of dragging like the Quick Selection tool. The Magic Wand is brilliant for picking large blocks of similar colour, such as sky or a simple background, while the Quick Selection tool is better for selecting more complex objects.

  1. Select the Magic Wand tool Magic-Wand-Tool Photoshop by either clicking on it in the toolbar, or by pressing Shift + W to cycle from the Quick Selection to the Magic Wand.01 - Magic Wand - Owl
  2. In the Options bar02 - Magic Wand - Options Bar• Set the “Tolerance” level to a low number to limit the colour selection close to the first colour that you click on.  Set a higher number to pick up more colours outside that starting colour.

    Check “Anti-alias” for a smooth edge.

    • To select all similar colours in the image with just one click, uncheck “Contiguous”. If “Contiguous” is checked, only similar colours that are touching are selected.

  3. Just single-click on your image to select an area. Depending on the complexity of the image, you should find that most, if not all of the pixels in the colour you clicked on will be selected. You might see some small “islands” left which are areas that were not selected.03 - Magic Wand - One Click
  4. To add to the selection and get rid of those islands, hold down Shift and click in another area to select more.To subtract from the selection, if it’s picked up some pixels that you don’t want selected, hold down Option / Alt and click.04 - Magic Wand - Add Selections

Well my friends, that completes the beginners guide to using Photoshop’s Selection tools. I hope you’ve found it useful. If you have questions, please put them in the comments area below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

If you found this guide useful, I would be really grateful if you would share it. Thank you so much! 🙂