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Select with precision using the freehand Lasso tool

Added on Tuesday 11th of October 2011 09:09 am EST
 

by Renée Dustman
Application:
Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5
Operating Systems:
Macintosh, Microsoft Windows
 

You want to selectively edit an area in your image, but it’s very busy with color and objects of all shapes and sizes. This sounds like a job for the Lasso tool. Of the several selection tools Photoshop offers, it’s a great choice for creating free-form selections.

To make the most of the Lasso tool, we’ll show you how to:

 

  • 1) Set the various tool options to create the type of selection you need.
  • 2) Create a new selection around the image area you want to edit.
  • 3) Make a selection more precise by adding or subtracting pixels.

 

Photoshop gives you a variety of selection tools; the one you use all depends on the type of selection you need to make and the image in which you need to make it. The marquee tools, for example, are useful for selecting broad geometrical areas of an image. Whereas the Magic Wand tool allows you to select areas based on similarities in color. And then there are the lasso tools, which allow you to create freeform and straight selections, as well as selections that “snap to” pixels that fall within a color threshold. In this article, we’ll focus on the Lasso tool and show you how it’s a great tool for the job when the job is to create a freehand selection.

 

Create a new selection
Take, for example, the before and after images shown in Figure A. To create the after image, we need to first create a selection around the bride and her bouquet. This would take forever using the Magic Wand or Magnetic Lasso tool because of the color similarities between the foreground and background; and the Polygonal Lasso and marquee tools are out of the running for obvious reasons. The Lasso tool, however, is going to allow us to easily trace the well-defined edges of these objects. We’ll start with a rough selection of the outer edges.

 

Note: To work along with us, download our example image from the URL listed at the beginning of this article. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)
 

 

A

 

To create the initial selection:

 

  1. Open the bride.jpg file or any image you want to edit in Photoshop.
  2. Press L to select the Lasso tool in the Tools panel.
  3. Click the New Selection button on the tool options bar and enter a Feather value of 1 px, as shown in Figure B. (For a complete explanation of the Lasso tool’s options, read the info box “Roping the Lasso tool.”)
  4. Make sure the Anti-alias check box is selected on the tool options bar.
  5. Position the Lasso tool over the area you want to trace, such as along the edge of the dress in our image.
  6. Click and drag your pointer around the object(s) you want to select—such as the bride and bouquet in our image.
  7. Complete the selection by returning to your starting point.

 

 

Art: Please label selection buttons (l-r): New Selection, Add To Selection, Subtract From Selection, Intersect With Selection.
B

 

Tip: While using the Lasso tool, you can temporarily switch to the Polygonal tool to select straight edges in an otherwise curvilinear object. Simply hold down [option] ([Alt] in Windows), release your mouse button, and then click and hold where you want the straight selection edge to end. Release the key to return to the Lasso tool and continue dragging.
 

  1.  

 

When you release the mouse button, Photoshop automatically closes the selection by drawing a direct line from the coordinates where you let go to the starting point. As you can see in Figure C, our initial selection is pretty good, but not complete.

C

Edit the selection
Look a little closer at Figure B and you can see that some of the bride and bouquet aren’t selected, and some of the background is. No problem! We can use the Lasso tool’s different modes to add and subtract pixels.

To add to the selection:

 

  1. Press Z to switch to the Zoom tool and then click and drag over the selection edge you want to edit.
  2. Press L to switch bac...