Selections In Photoshop, Part 4: Tips & Tricks

    Jennifer Farley
    Jennifer Farley

    Photoshop Selections Tips & TricksOver this series, we’ve taken a look at Photoshop’s selection tools and how each one has its own appropriate use. The geometric tools for simple shapes, the freehand tools for more complex shapes, and the colour-based selection tools for areas where there are strongly defined edges between coloured areas. So to wind up, I wanted to show you a few tips and tricks for when you’re working with any of these tools.

    Moving your selection

    Once you’ve made a selection with the Geometric or Freehand tools, you can move the selection (not the contents) by simply dragging with the same tool.

    • To move the contents of the selection, switch to the Move Tool (Move Tool ) and drag to where you want.
    • To move a selection or contents of a selection 1 pixel at time, press once on the arrow keys in the direction you want.
    • To move 10 pixels at a time, hold down the Shift key and press the arrow keys.

    Repositioning A Selection Marquee While Creating It
    You may find that when you’re drawing a rectangle, or a circular selection, that the selection doesn’t always go where you want it to! But you can actually move a selection as you create it. Let’s take an example with the elliptical marquee tool. Say I want to draw a circular selection around the round meat on the plate.

    1. Select the Elliptical Marquee tool (Elliptical Marquee ) hidden under the Rectangular Marquee tool and drag out a circle. Remember, holding down Shift constrains it to a perfect circle.


    2. Ok, I’ve started dragging out diagonally, but I can see the selection is in the completely wrong place. Do not release the mouse button. If you accidentally release the mouse button, draw the selection again.

    3. Still holding down the mouse button, press the spacebar and you can now move your selection to the right position. Release the spacebar (but not the mouse button) and keep dragging till you have your circle in the right place at the right size. You might need to hold down the spacebar a few times to get the position right, but that’s ok, you’re saving loads of time by not having to redraw your selection. When you’re happy with the position let go of the mouse button. This works for the Rectangular Marquee tool too.

    Correctly positioned selection
    Hiding The Selection
    Sometimes you may find the border around a selected area is distracting, while you’re making adjustments, if so, you can temporarily hide the selection by pressing Ctrl + H / Cmd + H. The “dancing ants” will disappear but the selection is still active. Press Ctrl + H / Cmd + H to make the selection border visible again.

    Moving And Duplicating Simultaneously
    If you want to make a copy of something you have selected, here’s how you can duplicate it and move it at the same time.

    1. Make your selection using any tool of your choice. I’ve selected a cherry up in the top right corner of the plate.

    2. With the Move tool (Move Tool ) selected, hold down Alt / Option. The pointer becomes a double arrow, which indicates that a duplicate will be made when you move the selection.


    3. Continue holding down Alt / Option, and drag a duplicate away from your original selection. Release the mouse button and the Alt / Option key.

    You’ll notice that the copy of the cherry is now selected. If you want to make another copy, repeat the steps above, otherwise hit Ctrl + D / Cmd + D to deselect.

    Softening The Edges Of A Selection
    You can smooth the hard edges of a selection by anti-aliasing and by feathering.

    Anti-aliasing smoothes the jagged edges of a selection by softening the colour transition between edge pixels and background pixels. You must specify the anti-aliasing option on the tool options bar before using the selection tools. Once a selection is made, you cannot add anti-aliasing.

    Anti Alias
    Feathering blurs edges by creating a transition the selection and its surrounding pixels. Be aware that this can cause some loss of detail at the edge of the selection. You can add feathering by typing a number into the Feather field in the tool options bar.

    Selecting The Contents Of A Layer

    If you want to quickly select the contents of one particular layer, go the layers palette and Ctrl + Click / Cmd + Click on the thumbnail of the layer you want to select.

    Selecting Contents Of A Layer

    Alright, so that concludes this series on making selections in Photoshop. Today’s tips will help you speed up and improve your selections. And now … practice!!

    I recommend that you pick out pictures of different shaped objects, people, animals, anything really, and practice selecting. Anyone can use the geometric tool but can you make a good selection around your friend and put them on a new background? Don’t forget that you can add to selections by holding down Shift key and subtract from a selection by holding down Alt / Option. Go forth and select!

    Do you have any other selection tool shortcuts you’ve come across? I’d love to hear them! Please add them to the list.

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