Free-form outlines

In comparison to the rectangular and elliptical marquee tools, the lasso tool provides a rather limited range of options. Generally speaking, you drag in a free-form path around the image you want to select. The few special considerations are as follows:

Note

* Feathering and antialiasing: Just as you can feather rectangular and elliptical marquees, you can feather selections drawn with the lasso tool by selecting the Feather check box on the Options bar. To soften the edges of a lasso outline, select the Anti-aliased check box.

Although you can adjust the feathering of any selection after you draw it by choosing Select ^ Feather, you must specify antialiasing before you draw a selection. Unless you have a specific reason for doing otherwise, leave the Anti-aliased check box turned on (as it is by default).

* Drawing polygons: If you press and hold Alt, the lasso tool works like a free-form polygon tool. (Polygon, incidentally, means a shape with multiple straight sides.) With the Alt key down, click to specify corners in a free-form polygon, as shown in Figure 8-4. If you want to add curves to the selection outline, drag with the tool while still pressing Alt. Photoshop closes the selection outline the moment you release both the Alt key and the mouse button.

You can extend a polygon selection outline to the absolute top, right, or bottom edges of an image. If the image window is larger than the image, you can Alt-click with the lasso tool on the background canvas surrounding the image. You can even click on the scroll bars. Figure 8-4 illustrates the idea.

* The polygonal lasso tool: If you don't want to bother with pressing Alt, select the polygonal lasso. When the lasso is active, you can switch to the polygonal lasso by pressing L. Or drag from the lasso tool icon to display the lasso flyout menu and select the polygonal lasso that way. Then click inside the image to set corners in the selection. Click the first point in the selection or doubleclick with the tool to complete the selection outline.

If you make a mistake while creating a selection outline with the polygonal lasso, press Backspace to eliminate the last segment you drew. Keep pressing Backspace to eliminate more segments in the selection outline. This technique works until you close the selection outline and it turns into marching ants.

To create free-form curves with the polygonal lasso tool, press Alt and drag.

Figure 8-4: Alt-click with the lasso tool to create corners in a selection outline, shown as black squares in the bottom image. Drag to create free-form curves. Surprisingly, you can Alt-click anywhere within the image window, even on the scroll bars, to add corners outside the boundaries of the image.

Figure 8-4: Alt-click with the lasso tool to create corners in a selection outline, shown as black squares in the bottom image. Drag to create free-form curves. Surprisingly, you can Alt-click anywhere within the image window, even on the scroll bars, to add corners outside the boundaries of the image.

Adobe added the polygonal lasso for those times when Alt-clicking isn't convenient. If no portion of the image is selected, it's no trick to Alt-click with the standard lasso to draw a straight-sided selection. But if some area in the image is selected, pressing Alt tells Photoshop that you want to subtract from the selection outline. For this reason, it's often easier to use the polygonal lasso (although you still can make it work by pressing Alt after you click with the lasso tool, as I explain in the "Using Shift and Alt like a pro" section later in this chapter).

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