Software Applications

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial Part 3: Working with Selections

Adobe Photoshop Part 3: Working with Selections

Learn how to work with selections in this free Adobe Photoshop tutorial. This is part 3 of our free Adobe Photoshop tutorials.

Working with Selections

Using the Marquee Tools

To edit an image, you first have to select the areas of the image you want to edit. The marquee tools—Rectangular Marquee , Elliptical Marquee , Single Row Marquee , and Single Column Marquee —let you select areas you want to edit by drawing a rectangle, circle, 1-pixel-high row the length of the image, or 1-pixel-wide column the height of the image, respectively. A selection is indicated by a dashed, blinking border (“ants”), as shown below:

When you make a selection and then choose another tool, the selection remains active. To deselect an area, open the Select menu and select Deselect.

To use one of the marquee tools:

  1. On the toolbox, click one of the marquee tools. To open the flyout menu containing the various marquee tools, click and hold down the marquee tool that’s currently displayed:

  1. The Options bar displays the options for the marquee tool you selected:

These options are slightly different for each marquee tool, but all the marquee tools let you choose a selection state, represented by the four icons on the left side of the Options bar:

    • New Selection creates a single selection, which is normally defined by clicking and dragging, though you can also use the Options bar to define a fixed size. A new selection you create in this state replaces any existing selection marquee.
    • Add to selection lets you add another selection area to the existing selection. It also lets you define multiple selections. Each time you click and drag a selection area, another selection marquee is created. If a new marquee overlaps an existing marquee, the marquees are combined into one.

    • Subtract from selection subtracts the selection marquee you draw from an existing selection marquee.

    • Intersect with selection creates a selection based on the intersecting lines of the new and existing marquees. Like Subtract from selection, this option creates a selection from only the area of the new marquee that falls within the existing marquee.

  1. The Feather option on the Options bar fades the selection along the edges. Enter a width in pixels that you want the selection feathered.

Antialias is only enabled for the Elliptical Marquee tool, and antialiases the edges of the selection when checked.

  1. The Fixed Aspect Ratio and Fixed Size options in the Style drop-down menu let you specify an aspect ratio and size for the selection, respectively. Normally (when Normal is selected), the size is defined by the area you drag with your mouse. Selecting either of the other two options enables additional fields in which you enter the size you want in pixels.
  2. If you chose the Normal or Fixed Aspect Ratio style, click and drag the mouse to define the selection marquee:

Or, if you chose Fixed Size, click on the location where you want to place the pre-defined marquee.


To constrain a rectangular or elliptical marquee to a square or circle, press and hold the Shift key after you begin dragging. To draw a marquee from the center, rather than the corner, of the selection area, hold down the Alt key (or the Option key, for Mac users).

You can also reposition the marquee while you’re creating it by holding down the spacebar on your keyboard. Once you’ve moved the marquee into position, you can release the spacebar and continue to drag the marquee to the size you need.

After you’ve selected an area of your image, you can move the selection, copy it, cut it, edit it, or apply any number of effects to it. To quickly deselect a marquee, right-click and select Deselect from the shortcut menu.