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Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski Share Their Best Selection Techniques for Photoshop Elements 10

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Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski show you how to select areas, save selections, soften edges, select areas by color, make selections using a brush, get Elements to help you with tricky selections, use the Quick Selection Tool, and remove objects from backgrounds.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is actually named after the band Select Start, because the name of the song that came up when I searched on the iTunes Store for the word “Select” was their song, titled “She’s Not a Hottie Hotty,” but I thought that “She’s Not a Hottie Hotty” would make a weird name for a chapter on how to make selections. I listened to “She’s Not a Hottie Hotty” and it actually wasn’t bad, but I really thought the song could use more references to making selections and fewer references to b-double-o-t-y. Okay, I have to be honest, I only listened to the free 30-second preview of the song, and I didn’t actually hear the word “booty” perse, but seriously, what song that includes the word “hottie” doesn’t have the word “booty” in there somewhere?

I mean, how many words are there that rhyme with hottie that aren’t used regularly by a toddler (made ya stop and think for a moment, didn’t I?). Anyway, Select Start (the band’s name) is really a pretty good name for the chapter, because we start with teaching you how to make simple selections, and then take you through Elements’ most important selection techniques, because being able to easily select and adjust just one particular area of your photo is really important. Once you’ve mastered selections, the next logical step is to learn how to break down people’s names rap-style, like Fergie (F to the E-R-G-I-E), but if you just wondered, “Why would the Duchess of York talk like that?” we have any entirely different problem.

Selecting Square, Rectangular, or Round Areas

Selections are an incredibly important topic in Elements. They’re how you tell Elements to affect only specific areas of your photos. Whether it’s moving part of one photo into another or simply trying to draw more attention to or enhance part of a photo, you’ll have so much more control if you know how to select things better. For starters, Elements includes quick and easy ways to make basic selections (square, round, rectangle). These are probably the ones you’ll use most, so let’s start here.

Step One:

To make a rectangular selection, choose (big surprise) the Rectangular Marquee tool by pressing the M key. Adobe’s word for selection is “marquee.” (Why? Because calling it a marquee makes it more complicated than calling it what it really is—a selection tool—and giving tools complicated names is what Adobe does for fun.)


Step Two:

We’re going to start by selecting a rectangle shape, so click your cursor in the upper left-hand corner of the cabinets above the stove and drag down and to the right until your selection covers the entire shape, then release the mouse button. That’s it! You’ve got a selection, and anything you do now will affect only the area within that selected rectangle (in other words, it will only affect the cabinets).

Step Three:

To add another area to your current selection, just press-and-hold the Shift key, and then draw another rectangular selection. In our example here, let’s go ahead and select the entire recessed area, including the countertop, so press-and-hold the Shift key, drag out a rectangle around it, and release the mouse button. Now the entire recessed area is selected.

Step Four:

Now let’s make an adjustment and you’ll see that your adjustment will only affect your selected area. Click on the Create New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette, and choose Levels from the pop-up menu. In the Adjustments palette, drag the middle gray slider under the histogram to the right (or left), and you’ll see the color of the recessed area changes as you drag. More importantly, you’ll see that nothing else changes—just that area. This is why selections are so important—they are how you tell Elements you only want to adjust a specific area. You can also drag the white and black sliders to get the lighting you want. You’ll notice your selection goes away when you add the adjustment layer.

Step Five:

Okay, you’ve got rectangles, but what if you want to make a perfectly square selection? It’s easy—the tool works the same way, but before you drag out your selection, you’ll want to hold the Shift key down. Let’s try it: open another image, get the Rectangular Marquee tool, press-and-hold the Shift key, and then draw a perfectly square selection (around the black area inside of this fake Polaroid frame, in this case).

Step Six:

While your selection is still in place, open a photo that you’d like to appear inside your selected area and press Ctrl-A (Mac: Command-A); this is the shortcut for Select All, which puts a selection around your entire photo at once. Then press Ctrl-C (Mac: Command-C) to copy that photo into Elements’ memory.

Step Seven:

Switch back to the Polaroid image, and you’ll notice that your selection is still in place. Go under the Edit menu and choose Paste Into Selection. The image held in memory will appear pasted inside your square selection. If the photo is larger than the square you pasted it into, you can reposition the photo by just clicking-and-dragging it around inside your selected opening.

Step Eight:

You can also use Free Transform (press Ctrl-T [Mac: Command-T]) to scale the pasted photo in size. Just grab a corner point (press Ctrl-0 [zero; Mac: Command-0] if you don’t see them), press-and-hold the Shift key (or turn on the Constrain Proportions checkbox in the Options Bar), and drag inward or outward. When the size looks right, press the Enter (Mac: Return) key and you’re done. (Well, sort of—you’ll need to press Ctrl-D [Mac: Command-D] to Deselect, but only do this once you’re satisfied with your image, because once you deselect, Elements flattens your new image into your Background layer, meaning there’s no easy way to adjust this image.) Now, on to oval and circular selections...

Step Nine:

Open an image with a circle shape you want to select (half of a lime here), and then press M to switch to the Elliptical Marquee tool (pressing M toggles you between the Rectangular and Elliptical Marquee tools by default). Now, just click-and-drag a selection around your circle. Press-and-hold the Shift key as you drag to make your selection perfectly round. If your round selection doesn’t fit exactly, you can reposition it by moving your cursor inside the borders of your round selection and clicking-and-dragging to move it into position. You can also press-and-hold the Spacebar to move the selection as you’re creating it. If you want to start over, just deselect, and then drag out a new selection. Hint: With circles, it helps if you start dragging before you reach the circle, so try starting about ¼″ to the top left of the circle.

Step 10:

We’ll change the lighting on the lime to really see the detail, so go under the Enhance menu, under Adjust Lighting, and choose Shadows/Highlights. Drag the Lighten Shadows slider to 0%. Then, move the Darken Highlights slider up to around 10%. Finally, take the Midtone Contrast slider down to –40%. That should bring out the detail in the lime. Now click OK, then deselect.

Step 11:

This isn’t really a step, it’s more of a recap: To make rectangles or ovals, you just grab the tool and start dragging. However, if you need to make a perfect square or a circle (rather than an oval), you press-and-hold the Shift key before you start dragging. You’re starting to wish you’d paid attention in geometry class now, aren’t you? No? Okay, me either.

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