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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Rounding Up the Lasso Tools

Located under the Marquee tools in the toolbox, the Lasso tools are a collection of three different tools you can use to draw both straight and freehand edges when making an irregularly shaped selection. The three tools are as follows:

  • Lasso tool

  • Polygonal Lasso tool

  • Magnetic Lasso tool

Unlike the Marquee tools, which produce closed shapes, the Lasso tools let you draw a meandering path around a subject and return to the beginning point to finish the selection. If you release the mouse button or double-click it (depending on which tool you are using), Photoshop will make a straight line back to the starting point to complete the selection. So unless this result is your intention, make sure that you return to the starting point when using the Lasso tools.

These tools all act similarly. In the grand scheme of things, the Lasso tool is designed to draw freehand selections, and the Polygonal Lasso tool creates a selection made up of a series of straight lines. If you want to create a selection that combines both straight and rounded edges, you can toggle between these two tools by pressing the Alt(Opt) key while keeping your mouse button pressed. You might want to practice switching between these two tools because mastering this trick can come in pretty handy. If you start out making a freehand selection with the Lasso tool, keep the mouse button clicked as you drag. When you want to switch to making straight edges in the middle of the selection process, stop dragging (but keep the mouse button pressed), and press the Alt(Opt) key. As long as you keep holding the Alt(Opt) key, you are free to release the mouse button and click only on corners that make up the straight line. If you want to return to the Freehand Lasso tool, stop and press the mouse button; then release the Alt(Opt) key and continue dragging. Whew! Trust me—it's a lot easier to perform than it is to describe!


Polygon Definition According to the dictionary, the noun polygon is defined as any multi-sided figure. Polygon is not a dead parrot ("Polly gone"—ya gotta work with me here). Therefore, the Polygonal Lasso tool is appropriately named.

The Magnetic Lasso tool will automatically detect the edge of an object for you, on one condition: There must be a high contrast between the color of the object you are selecting and the background color surrounding the object. When the colors are similar, this tool might not work as anticipated; otherwise, it can save you a lot of work. If this condition applies to a part of the object but not the entire object, you can press and hold the Alt(Opt) key to toggle between the Magnetic Lasso tool and the Lasso tool, which allows you to finish the selection freehand.

Don't be intimidated by complicated selections. You might think, "Man, I couldn't sign my name with a mouse to save my life." You're not alone. Very few of us can. That's why Photoshop has made so many ways available to create a selection. In addition, all the methods available can be combined to make selecting something as easy as possible. So switch selection tools, switch selection methods—whatever works. And there are many ways to make it work.

Now, if it is still important to you to sign your name digitally, you might want to consider using a graphic tablet instead of a mouse. If you want to look into these handy devices as an alternative, the industry standard for graphic tablets is Wacom Technology ( Does this mean you absolutely need a graphics tablet to make a Lasso selection? Of course not! It is completely possible to make irregular selections with a mouse. Not only is it possible, at least three of this book's authors do it all the time.

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