Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Adobe Photoshop > Technique

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Introducing the Marquee Tools

The Marquee tools, shown in Figure 3.1, are used to create selections in the shapes of rectangles, ellipses, rows, and columns that are 1-pixel wide.

The best way to see how these tools work is to use them to create some neat stuff. So, let's jump right in and make a poster for the National Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. Our theme for this program is the World of Texas Bluebonnets, and to make such a world, we'll use the Elliptical Marquee tool.

Figure 3.1Figure 3.1 The Marquee tools provide the basic building blocks for many selections.

Creating a World of Flowers

  1. Open BluebonnetField.tif from the Examples/Chap03 folder on the Companion CD.

  2. Select the Elliptical Marquee tool from the toolbox by placing the cursor over the Marquee tools icon and clicking the small black triangle in the lower-right corner of the button. This opens the tool selection.

  3. For this next step, make sure that the Info palette is visible. If it's not, go to the Window menu and choose Info. This enables you to use the Width and Height numbers in the lower-right corner as a guide while you carry out the next step. Your circle doesn't have to be the exact same size, but the circle I created was about 286 (pixels). If your measurements currently aren't in pixels, you can click the plus symbol (+) in the lower-left corner of the Info palette and choose Pixels from the drop-down list.

  4. Place the cursor near the center of the photograph. Click and hold the mouse button, and press Alt(Opt)+Shift; then drag the mouse outward to form a circle roughly in the position shown in Figure 3.2. When the circle looks about the right size, release the mouse button and the keys. The edge of the selection is marked by a flashing black-and-white marquee that has come to be called "marching ants."

  5. NOTE

    Adding to the Marquee Tools Holding down the Alt(Opt) key while making a selection with the Marquee tools starts the selection in the center and moves outward from there. Adding the Shift key constrains the Marquee tool to a perfect circle (or a perfect square, in the case of the Rectangular Marquee tool). Also, if you would like to move the selection to a better position, just click and drag it to relocate the selection (or use the arrow keys to move it). This only works as long as the Marquee tool is active.

    Figure 3.2Figure 3.2 Hold down Alt(Opt)+Shift, and drag out a circle. The figure has the selection highlighted to make it easier to see, but your own selection will not have this highlight.

  6. Press Ctrl(„)+C to copy the selection. Only the contents of the selection will be copied to the clipboard.

  7. Press Ctrl(„)+V to paste the selection onto a new layer (the selection marquee disappears). If it is not already showing, open the Layers palette (F7) to see the new layer. Because you are going to need the selection again (it was lost when you used the Paste command), go to the Select menu, choose Reselect, and the marquee returns. You need this selection before applying the next filter; otherwise, the shape of the sphere will distort.

  8. Now go to the Filter menu, choose Distort, Spherize, and use the default setting of 100%. The bluebonnets have been distorted as though they were in a glass ball (as shown in Figure 3.3).

  9. Figure 3.3Figure 3.3 The selection allows the Spherize filter to be applied to the top layer without distorting the shape.

  10. Press Ctrl(„)+H to temporarily hide (or turn off) the visibility of the selection marquee to make this next step a little easier.

  11. TIP

    Hiding and Displaying Marching Ants When you press Ctrl(„)+H to hide a selection, the selection is still active. If you need to see the selection again (to reassure yourself that it is still there), just press Ctrl(„)+H again to toggle the visibility back on.

  12. Select the Dodge tool from the toolbox. Right-click (Macintosh: hold Ctrl and click), and then choose the soft 100-pixel brush, set the Range to Midtones, and Exposure to 50%. To make this look like a glass sphere, you need to lighten the edges. The trick to this effect is to apply just the edge of the brush inside of the selection edge. We expect to see a little more light reflected near the top upper-left part of the sphere, so apply additional strokes of the Dodge tool here (see Figure 3.4).

  13. Figure 3.4Figure 3.4 Applying the Dodge tool along the edges defines the edge of the selection.

  14. Press Ctrl(„)+D to deselect the image. (Even though the selection is hidden, it is still active, which means that you need to deselect it when you are finished with the selection.) On the Layers palette, click the Background layer to make it the active layer. Go to the Filter menu and choose Blur, Guassian Blur with a Radius of 2.0. Click OK. Click Layer 1 to make this the active layer. Press V to switch to the Move tool and drag the wildflower sphere to the right of the image, as shown in Figure 3.5.

  15. On the Layers palette, click the Background layer once more. Click the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette and choose Hue/Saturation. In the Hue/Saturation dialog box, check Colorize and change the settings to Hue 36, Saturation 25, and Lightness 0 (see Figure 3.6). Click OK. Now you should have a brightly colored sphere of bluebonnets on top of what appears to be a sepia tone photograph. If you would like to add just a slight amount of color to the Background layer, lower the Opacity for the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to 60%.

  16. Figure 3.5Figure 3.5 You can use the Move tool to position the finished "wildflower world" anywhere in the image.


    Figure 3.6Figure 3.6 The Hue/Saturation command makes the background look like a sepia print.

  17. Now you'll place a title on this poster.

  18. Press D for default colors. Press X to switch white to the foreground. Choose the Horizontal Type tool from the toolbox. On the Options bar, choose Impact as the font at 48 points, and select Right align text. Click in the document and type A World of TEXAS Bluebonnets (pressing Enter once after typing the word of and again after the word TEXAS). Hold the Ctrl(„) key to toggle to the Move tool and reposition the text if needed (see Figure 3.7). When the text is the way you want it, press Ctrl(„)+Enter (Return) to commit the text to a layer. Click the triangle in the upper-right corner of the Layers palette and choose Flatten Image.

  19. Go to the Filter menu and choose Render, Lens Flare. In the Lens Flare dialog box, choose the default settings of 100% for Brightness and 50-300mm Zoom for Lens Type. In the Flare Center preview box, drag the marker to position it, as shown in Figure 3.8.

  20. Figure 3.7Figure 3.7 Add text and then flatten the image to prepare for the next step.


    Figure 3.8Figure 3.8 This wildflower poster looks a lot better in color.

Tips and Tricks Using Marquee Tools

So what did you do in the preceding exercise? You used several key combinations to extend the use of the Marquee tools. These combinations are referred to as modifier keys. This is what they do:

  • Shift key. When you press Shift after you press the mouse button, it constrains the Ellipse tool to a circle and the Rectangle marquee to a square. If you don't use Shift, getting a selection that is a perfect square or circle is nearly impossible.

  • Alt(Opt) key. Pressing Alt after you press the mouse button makes the marquee expand outward from the center. If you don't use this option, the marquee is created diagonally from the upper-left to the lower-right. Centering the selection without Alt can take forever.


Position a Selection While Making a Selection At any point while creating a selection (without lifting your finger off the mouse), you can press the spacebar to reposition the selection marquee by dragging it with the mouse. Release the spacebar, and continue to create the marquee selection.

The Marquee tool modifier keys are unique in that the action they perform is relative depending on whether they are pressed before or after the mouse button is pressed. If the modifier key is pressed before the mouse button, the action changes.

The Marquee Tool Options Bar

If this is the first time you have worked with Photoshop, you may think the Marquee tools are quite limited. After all, how often will you need to select a square, rectangle, ellipse, or circle? The truth is that you can create just about any shape imaginable using these tools if you learn how to use some of the features found on the Options bar (see Figure 3.9).

Figure 3.9Figure 3.9. The Options bar adds more capability to the Marquee tools.

Here is a brief breakdown of what the items on the Options bar will do. You can refer to Figure 3.9 as the items are explained:

  • New Selection. When you select this option, a new selection is created. If there is an existing selection, selecting this option cancels out the existing selection and replaces it with the new one you create. There are modifier keys that will override this (which are covered later in this section).

  • Add to Selection. This option adds to an existing selection. If you have made a selection and would like to add to the selection without using the icons on the Options bar, you can press Shift to get the same result.

  • Subtract from Selection. If you have an active selection and would like to subtract from that selection, you can select this option (or use the modifier Alt(Opt) key).

  • Intersect with Selection. If you choose this option when a selection is active, the result will be the intersecting areas of two selections. The key combination that can produce the same results is Alt(Opt)+Shift.

  • NOTE

    Boolean Operations These modifications to existing selections are sometimes called Boolean operations, named after George Boole (1815-1864), a British mathematician who invented a simple way to describe algebraic operations using the terms and, but not, and others. Unfortunately, a digital device was needed to carry out the Boolean operations, and that was not to happen for more than 100 years! Nonetheless, Boole was named a fellow of the Royal Society in 1857.

  • Feather. This option allows you to give the selections a soft edge by blurring and building a transition boundary between the selection and surrounding pixels. This also gives the selection corners a rounded appearance because the greater the number, the more you blur (or soften) the hard-edge results of the selection.

  • Anti-aliased. This options smoothes the jagged edges of a selection by creating transition pixels between the edge and background.

  • Style. There are three styles, as you see here:

  • Normal. This option enables you to determine the size of your selection as you drag.

  • Fixed Aspect Ratio. This option enables you to fix a ratio for your selection. For example, if you want the selection to be twice as high as it is wide, you would enter 2 in the Height and 1 in Width.

  • Fixed Size. This option enables you to enter values for Height and Width to create a precise selection (when the dimensions are known).

The Marquee tools interact with existing selections in four different ways. The default setting for the Marquee tools is New Selection. The ones you will use most often to interact with existing selections are the Add to and Subtract from settings. By using the Marquee tools in combination with these settings, you can make almost any irregular shape imaginable. The last setting, Intersect with selection, is a little unusual in that when you drag it over an existing selection, only the part of the selection that the two selections have in common will remain. Don't worry about this one for now; there won't be too many situations in which you'll need it—but that doesn't mean you shouldn't experiment. Once you understand what it can do, you might discover a time when this option fits perfectly with what you want to accomplish. That one time will make you glad you gave it a chance.

Feathering the Selections

Until now, we have been considering selections that have a hard, defined edge. The circle mask used in the previous exercise had an anti-aliased option. Anti-aliasing gives an edge a smooth look as opposed to a jagged bitmapped look. But don't get the smooth look of anti-aliasing confused with feathering. Feathering builds a transition along the edges, in effect blurring the edges.

You will want to give a selection a soft edge in many different circumstances. One reason might be that you are removing a person or a thing from a photograph and placing it into another photograph. Using a feathered selection enables you to blend the subject into the picture more smoothly. You need to be careful with the amount of feathering you apply to the mask, however. Usually, just a few pixels are sufficient. If you put in a large amount of feathering, the object looks like it is glowing or has fur.

Figure 3.10 was created using Photoshop's selection tools. After I made the selection, I applied three different settings of feathering and copied the image to the clipboard each time. Of the three copies of Michelle, the one on the left was made using a selection that was not feathered; the middle one used a 3-pixel feather, and the one on the right had a feathering value of 9 pixels. Although the higher feathering setting in the image on the right loses tiny detail in her hair, it gives it a desirable softening effect; but remember that this smoothing effect on hair (as in this example) isn't always the effect you might be after.


Feathering Is Relative The feather effect produced by any particular setting is controlled by the size of the image. For example, I took the original photograph of Michelle on my digital camera at a high-resolution setting, and as a result the image is pretty large. On an image with a greater resolution, a 3-pixel feather would have less of an effect. Conversely, a small resolution file might find the 3-pixel feather setting to be too much.

Although you can do many things with the Marquee selection tools, they serve a pretty basic function. When you need to create an irregularly shaped selection, it is time to take on the Lasso tools.

Figure 3.10Figure 3.10 Use of feathering produces much softer edges when a subject is copied out of a photograph.
  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account