Selection Tools In Photoshop

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Making selections is the core of Photoshop's way of working.There are a variety of tools you can use for the purpose, so let's take a look at how to get the most out of them

In earlier versions of Photoshop there was no Select tool - one that looked like a traditional arrow cursor, that you would use to select 'objects'. Because Photoshop dealt primarily with pixels, it made no sense to have a Select tool - there were no 'objects' to select. Instead, the selection tools were default tools - ones you used automatically, to begin editing.

In Photoshop 7.0 there is an arrow tool for selecting objects, since the introduction of vector shapes (those drawn using a series of points or 'vectors') made this necessary. Despite this, the selection tools, in their many and varied forms, are still the main tools for doing 90% of the tasks in Photoshop.

Selections are an essential part of understanding Photoshop's methods and central to the way the program works - making a selection then performing an action on that selection is the basic workflow. The better you become at Photoshop the better you'll become at making selections and vice-versa.

No need for discretion

What's important to understand, though, is that selections are not necessarily discreet. They don't have to define rigidly what is or is not selected - they can be partial too.

Page 12 The Circular Marquee tool Page 13 Single Column marquees are Page 15 The Magnetic Lasso lets you makes an elliptical selection used to select only certain columns make detailed selections with ease
Page 17 The Magic Wandtool selects an Page 18 Quick mask mode turns any object in an image to change the colour painting tool into a selection tool

Page 20 Photoshop can convert channels into selections and vice-versa

It is perfectly possible to make selections so that some pixels are 100% selected and others are 100% unselected, and in between there is a selection gradient, where pixels are partially selected. This is how you create effects that blend smoothly into existing pixels, and this also forms the basis of 'anti-aliasing' -smoothing jagged, pixelated edges.

Feathering is the most basic implementation of gradient selections in Photoshop. When making a rigid selection using one of the Marquee tools for instance, you can tell Photoshop to make the edge of the selection slightly soft, or 'feathered'. This effectively creates a border around the selection where some of the pixels are partially selected, smoothing whatever effect or operation is applied to the selection, or merely preventing jagged edges.

The soft option

By making the feathered edge larger, you'll be able to create very soft selections, and this is very useful when making photo-montages, for instance, or retouching images. We'll look at how anti-aliasing and feathering are implemented in Photoshop's selection tools, and how you can use them to achieve professional results quickly and easily.

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