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Maximize your selecting power with the Lasso tool

Added on Monday 2nd of May 2011 04:15 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Because some selection tools are easier to use than others, it’s tempting to stick with the one or two that don’t require too much fuss. But don’t neglect the Lasso tool because you think it’s tricky to use. Investing just a small amount of time to master this tool will reap you a harvest of easy selections!


To master the Lasso tool, we’ll:

•     Explain how to use the Lasso tool, along with the many options it provides.

•     Explore the different selection modes, which make modifying selections easier.

•     Show you the practical applications of what we explained.

•     Discuss the options for controlling selection edges. 


Photoshop gives you a variety of selection tools to meet all of your image needs. The Marquee tools allow you to select regions of geometric shapes, like ovals and rectangles, which are useful for selecting broad areas of an image, but are less useful when you need precise borders. The Magic Wand and Quick Selection tools allow you to select areas based on similarities in color, which is useful for tracing borders when the areas you want are all close to the same color, but less useful when you need an area with a variety of colors. Lucky for us, Photoshop created the Lasso tool, which allows for control over large areas like the Marquee tools do, but with the precision of the Magic Wand and Quick Selection tools. You can combine freehand curves and straight lines into your selection, enabling you to customize your selection.


Learning the Lasso tool

First, open an image in which you want to select an object. To fully appreciate the Lasso tool, don’t choose something with simple shapes and a few colors. Instead, try to choose something a little more challenging. To activate the Lasso tool, simply select the Lasso tool in the Tools panel.



When you place the pointer over your image, a lasso icon will take the place of a standard mouse pointer. Click and drag the mouse button. When you release the mouse button, Photoshop automatically closes the selection by drawing a direct line from the coordinate where you let go to the starting point, as shown in Figure A. If you release the button near the start of your selection, Photoshop still draws the straight line, but it’s less apparent. If you release the button closer to the starting point, a shorter length of the straight line will be visible. After you’ve made a selection, you can move the selection, not the selected area of the image, by placing the cursor within the selection, clicking the mouse button, and dragging it to its new location.



Selecting to the extreme

In addition to the ability to mix straight and curved selection lines, the Lasso tool gives you the ability to manipulate selections. You can add to selections, delete from selections, and select intersecting parts of selections. These functions are accessed through the tool options bar, shown in Figure B.


The options you have to use the Lasso tool are as follows:

•        New Selection. Select this option when you want to make a new selection.

•        Add To Selection. With this option selected, any new selections you create are added to your current selection, allowing you to make multiple selections in the same image. In this mode, if there are any overlapping selections, it combines them into one.

•        Subtract From Selection. When you have this option selected, any part of a selection that you make which overlaps a previous selection is removed from the selection.

•        Intersect With Selection. When you have this option selected, if you draw a selection and overlap a previous selection, only the overlapping sections will remain selected.


Get down to selecting

Actions speak louder than words, so let’s do some selecting with the Lasso tool. We have a picture of a bass guitar with a funky background, shown in Figure C, and we want to select the entire guitar. Since the guitar has many curves and details, we’re going to select a broad area first, and use the Lasso tool’s different modes to perfect the selection.



Gentlemen, start your selection

When you’ve got an image to work with, you’re ready to begin. First, select the Lasso tool from the Tools panel. Next, click and drag around the object you want to select. Close off the selection by coming back to your starting point, as shown in Figure D. As you can see, our selection is far from perfect: We’ll make full use of the different modes of the Lasso tool to make it more accurate.



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