When you wish to edit part of an image file in Elements, you must first select the region that you wish to change. When you select a part of an image the selected area will be indicated by a dashed selection border called a “selection marquee.” The changes that you then make will only affect the area inside of the selection, protecting the rest of the image file against changes. In this chapter you will look at the various tools Elements provides to make selections in your images.
Making Pixel Selections
There are many ways that you can make pixel-based selections in an image file. Elements provides you with several tools that you can use to select pixels in an image. You have a set of marquee selection tools, a set of lasso tools, the Select Brush tool, the Quick Selection tool and the Magic Wand tool. There are also a few commands that you can select from the Menu Bar that will also allow you to make pixel-based selections.
After you make an initial selection, making another selection will typically replace the previous selection. However, you do have some additional selection options that allow you to add secondary selections to a primary selection, subtract a secondary selection from a primary selection, find the intersection of multiple selections, or find the union of multiple selections. Once you make a selection, you can move the selected area by simply clicking into the middle of the selection and dragging the selected area to a new location before releasing it.
To make selections using the Menu Bar, you can use the “Select” menu command. Before you make a selection, you must ensure that you have the appropriate layer of the image selected in the Layers panel (see the “Layers” chapter). Click on the layer in this panel from which you would like to make a selection, first. Then you can freely select using the Menu Bar or one of the tools available in the Toolbox.
If you wish to select all of the pixels in a layer, you can choose “Select| All” from the Menu Bar. To deselect a selection, choose “Select| Deselect” from the Menu Bar. If you are using one of the marquee tools or the lasso tool, you can also simply click one time into the image outside of the selected area to deselect a selection, as well. You can select your previous selection that was made by choosing “Select| Reselect” from the Menu Bar. If you make a selection in an image and then wish to select everything except what you had initially selected, you can choose “Select| Inverse” to select everything that wasn’t selected, excluding the original selection that you made.
The Marquee Tools
The Marquee Tools allow you to select basic shapes. You can create a selection that is a rectangle or an oval. To make a selection using one of these tools, first select the Marquee Tools button in the Toolbox and then either the Rectangular or Elliptical Marquee tool from the Tool Options Bar. Then you just click and drag from one corner of the selection area to the other, releasing the mouse button when you are finished.
So let’s take a look at all of the options that you have when you make a selection using the marquee tools in the Toolbox. First, start by making sure that you have the correct image layer from which you want to make the selection selected in the Layers panel. Then select the desired marquee tool that you want to use from the Toolbox and Tool Options Bar.
Next, use the Tool Options Bar to specify which selection setting you wish to use: “New Selection,” “Add to a Selection,” “Subtract from a Selection,” or “Intersect with Selection.” After you have clicked the desired button in the Tool Options Bar, you can then select a “Feather” option for the selection by adjusting the slider or by typing (in pixels) the width of the border that should be feathered. Feathering softens the selection border so that it isn’t clean and crisp. If you are using the Elliptical Marquee Tool, you can also check or uncheck the “Anti-aliasing” checkbox. With anti-aliasing enabled, the edges of the rounded selection appear less jagged than when anti-aliasing is disabled.
Next, select an aspect ratio by using the “Aspect” drop-down. If you select “Normal,” then you will create the selection marquee by simply clicking and dragging. If you select “Fixed Aspect Ratio,” then enter a desired height-to-width ratio in the “Height” and “Width” text boxes. When you click and drag to draw the selection, the height-to-width ratio entered here will remain intact as you select. If you select “Fixed Size,” then enter the specific size in pixels in the “Height” and “Width” text boxes. You will not have to click and drag to make your selection, but rather you will click once to create a selection of the size that you specified.
Now to create the selection, just click and drag over the area that you want to select. If you hold down the “Shift” key as you drag the marquee selection, it will draw a perfect square if using the Rectangle Marquee Tool or a perfect circle if using the Elliptical Marquee Tool.
After making your selection, you can refine the edge of your selection by clicking “Refine Edge” in the Tool Options Bar. In the “Refine Edge” dialog box, use the sliders to adjust the edge by choosing “Smooth,” which removes jagged edges, “Feather,” which softens the selection edge by blurring it, “Contrast,” which increases the contrast of the selection edge or “Shift Edge,” which will increase or decrease the selection edge. You will be able to see what adjusting the sliders does to your selection. When you are done, simply click “OK.”
If you wish to reposition the selection after you have drawn it, just click and drag from the center of the selection area and drag it to a new location, releasing it when it is in the correct place.
The Lasso Tools
The Lasso Tools let you draw either free-form selections with curves or straight-edged selections for irregular polygonal selection shapes. The Magnetic Lasso Tool is a really neat selection tool that allows the selection’s border to “snap” to the pixilated edges of an element in the image that you trace. This can be very useful for selecting objects with complex, irregular edges set against a high-contrast background. Because each tool behaves differently, you will have to look at how you can use each tool in the set on an individual basis. Let’s start by examining the Lasso Tool.
To use the Lasso Tool, click the “Lasso Tools” button in the Toolbox. In the Tool Options Bar, be sure that the “Lasso Tool” is selected. In the Tool Options Bar you can select the type of selection you want to make, just as you did with the Marquee Tools. Then, to create a selection, click and drag with the mouse to draw a freehand selection. Trace the outline of the area that you wish to select, making sure that you drag it back to the origin (starting) point. If you release the mouse before dragging it back to the starting point, Elements will draw a straight line from where you stopped dragging back to the origin point for you. If you wish to draw a straight line as you are drawing, you can hold down the “Alt” key on your keyboard and click from where you want the line to begin to where you want it stop to create a straight line. This will draw straight lines between the points that you click.
To use the Polygonal Lasso Tool, click the “Polygonal Lasso Tool” button in the Tool Options Bar. In the Tool Options Bar you can select the type of selection you want to make, just as you did with the Lasso Tool. To use the Polygonal Lasso Tool, click from point to point where you want to draw a straight line for your selection. Once again, you want to end by clicking on the initial starting point of your selection. You will see a small circle next to the lasso tool when you are over the starting point. Click at that point to finish the selection. Also, like the Lasso Tool, if you hold down the “Alt” key on your keyboard you can draw a freehand line until you release the “Alt” key. So this is the inverse of the behavior of the Lasso Tool.
To use the Magnetic Lasso Tool, click the “Magnetic Lasso Tool” button in the Tool Options Bar. Then look at the options that you can set in the Tool Options Bar. The first few options are the same that you can set for any of your selection tools. However, the Magnetic Lasso Tool has a few more options. The first is the “Width” slider. Here, you can set a pixel range from the pointer within which the Magnetic Lasso Tool will look for the border of the item of which it is tracing. Next, you can set the “Contrast” slider as a percentage. This sets the sensitivity of the Magnetic Lasso Tool to variations in the contrast between pixels, which is how this tool finds the edges of image elements. Setting a higher percentage sets the tool to only find edges that sharply contrast with their surroundings. A lower number detects lower-contrast variations in color. The “Frequency” slider allows you to set a number between 0 and 100. A high value increases the frequency with which the Magnetic Lasso Tool sets its fastening points for the edge of the image element as you trace its border. The “Feather” slider softens the edge of a selection. The higher the setting, the softer the edge. If you are using a stylus tablet, you can toggle the button in the Tool Options Bar. If selected, the button will have a light-grey square around it. If this is on, an increase on the pen pressure causes the edge width setting to decrease. To turn it off, simply click it again.
Once you have the settings you desire set, you then click and drag the pointer of the Magnetic Lasso Tool around the border of the image element that you are trying to select. As you do this, it will add fastening point anchors where it discerns the edges of the object. If it adds a point that you would rather not have, you can press “Delete” on your keyboard to delete the fastening points that you have created as you drag. Then you can back up and re-drag the line. You can also manually click at any point as you are dragging to manually set a fastening point. You may need to do this in crevasses and corners of the image element. To finish the selection trace your way back to the starting point and place the Magnetic Lasso Tool over the origin point until you see a small circle next to the tool. Click there to close the selection. You can also close any selection you have made by double-clicking at any point along the way, which will draw a line from where you double-clicked back to the origin.