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  • Writer's pictureNorthPoint

Pixels To Print: Making Quick Selections in Photoshop

Whether its masking out a person or an object from a background or only selecting one piece of a large image, making quick selections in Adobe Photoshop is a task that designers use quite frequently.  But thankfully, Adobe has provided us with a variety of tools that can help make this process quite easy! From the beloved magic wand tool to the newer object selection tool, Adobe covers pretty much all of the bases when it comes to working with specific selections.  Let’s take a look below at the 4 tools that we have to work with and how they can be used to help make your life SO much easier!!

1) Quick Selection Tool

Use the quick selection tool to quickly “paint” a desired selection.  As you drag, the selection expands and automatically finds and follows defined edges in the image. To get to the quick selection tool, click on the icon in your tools panel, or if hidden, hold down the magic wand tool or object selection tool to open the hidden drop-down menu and select from there.  In the options bar, you can select either the ‘new’, ‘add to’, or ‘subtract from’ buttons to choose what you’d like to do! (Shortcut: to quickly switch between add and subtract modes, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) key). You can also change the size of the of the brush by clicking the brush pop-up menu in the options bar. Finally, by checking the sample all layers box, you can make a selection based on all layers rather than one, and by checking the enhance edge box, you can automatically make your selection even smoother and more refined to the image edges.

2) Magic Wand Tool

The magic wand tool is similar to the quick selection tool in that it also selects similar surrounding pixels, but it focuses solely on selecting areas of similar tone and color with as easy as one click!  It is perfect for when you need to alter a specific color throughout your project.  All you have to do is click on any pixel and the magic wand will find and select matching areas! The tool is located in the same drop-down menu as the quick selection tool, and also has a variety of options that go along with it.  Similar again to the quick selection tool options, you can easily add and subtract from your selection by clicking either ‘new’, ‘add to’, ‘subtract from’ or ‘intersect with’ buttons.  

You are also able to specify tolerance in the options bar, which allows you to narrow or broaden the range of colors that are selected (super useful when only trying to select a specific shade of purple in an image, for example!) Checking the ‘anti-alias’ box will create a smoother-edged selection, just like the ‘enhance edge’ box in the quick selection tool options.  Checking the ‘contiguous’ box essentially forces the wand to only select pixels that are adjacent to each other rather than just selecting all pixels within the range of tolerance.  

3) Select Subject

Updated in the 2020 release of Adobe Photoshop, the select subject command selects the most prominent subject in an image with just one click.  This could include a group of objects if there are more than one in an image, or one if there is only one object in the image.  (This command is perfect for selecting subjects from portraits!) To access this command, go to Select > Subject, or click Select Subject in the option bar of any of the selection tools. To add or subtract from the selection, you can also use any of the selection tools’ add and subtract options to refine. If you want to fine-tune the selection even more, try going into the ‘Select and Mask’ workspace by choosing Select > Select and Mask and using the tools in the workspace accordingly!

4) Object Selection Tool

Last, but certainly not least, is my personal new favorite tool.  Just like how the select subject command selects all of the main subjects of an image, the object selection tool goes even further to be able to only select a specific object in an image.  The tool is also located in the same drop-down menu as the quick selection tool and magic wand tool and can be added or subtracted on as well by using the option bar options.  Choose the rectangle mode or lasso mode, and simply drag a rectangle or draw a rough circle around the object that you want selected, and the object will be automatically selected! To add to your selection, select ‘Add to Selection’ and draw another rectangle or lasso around your additional object, and to subtract, use the ‘Subtract from Selection’ option and again draw another rectangle or lasso around the object you want subtracted.  

If you haven’t already experimented with these selection tools, you are missing out on some of Adobe’s finest tools! Spend a few minutes with each to learn the ins and outs, and pretty soon you’ll be saving time like never before.  Just like that – you’re on your way to becoming a Photoshop expert! 

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