Selections! (Part 2)
So you're thirsty for more, eh! Okay, there are a
few more advance ways to make selections. The first is probably
the most powerful way to select parts of an image and I probably
use this method more than any other. It will give you absolute perfect
control when it comes to selecting most natural objects. The option
I am speaking about is quick mask mode - and you're gonna love it
Lets take our rubber ducky picture once more since
its a nice crisp picture to work with. Then make any kind of selection
you like in the middle of it, I've used the lasso tool to quickly
draw a circle like this:
Now we have to go into quick mask mode! To do that
we use the mask on and mask
off buttons here:
When we click the mask on button the following picture
What has happened? Photoshop has turned your normal
selection into a kind of red masking paper. Because of our original
selection this masking paper has a circular whole cut out of it.
If you would like to go back to our first selection just hit the
mask off button again. Feel free to switch between the two as you
So what's so special about mask mode? While you are
in mask mode you cannot actually paint on your picture (though it
looks like you can). Instead, when you paint it will change the
shape of the mask. Try it, use the brush tool to draw a line across
the middle of the ducks head, like this:
Now press the Mask Off
button again and you will be presented with the following selection:
Bingo! That's really all quick mask mode does! It
allows you to paint the shape of your selections. Once you have
painted the shape you need, you can just come out of quick mask
mode and use that selection as if you had drawn them with the lasso
By default photoshop only shows black and white as
the colours to be used in quick mask mode. This is because you are
NOT painting over your picture. You are merely painting the shape
of your new mask. Its a little bit like using that latex masking
fluid artists use; they paint it on their work to mask out certain
areas and then peel it off after.
To paint more red masking over your painting choose
black. To rub out the red mask choose white. To quickly switch quickly
between white and black just press the switch colours icon as shown
in the picture below:
|TIP: In quick mask mode Photoshop will usually show
the masking paper as red by default. But if you double-click
on the Mask On button it will ask what colour you'd like to
have it and also how transparent you'd like the paper. This
is useful if you were editing something red like a rose because
it would be hard to see. I suggest you keep the masking paper
transparent enough to see the picture easily because this makes
This Quick Mask mode is the most useful of all the
masking modes became it lets you spend time literally drawing the
perfect selection. You can change the size of your brushes and use
all the shaping tools available in Photoshop. It really is the best
and quickest way to select almost any complex object.
MAGIC WAND TOOL
The magic wand tool is yet another useful way of selecting
areas of a picture, but why is it magic? Well, lets show how it
works on our duck picture again. Choose the magic wand icon from
Now without messing with any settings just click the
wand in the middle of the ducks mouth. You will probably get an
effect like this:
The magic wand tool tries to select a single colour
for you, but since most modern photos have millions of colours in
them, and that even a single block of near pure colour (like the
ducks beak) would contain hundreds of shades of red, the only way
the magic wand can select this colour is to select a large groups
of colours that are very similar to each other!
If our aim was to select just the red beak of the
duck with one click we would have failed. So what do we do? Well,
look up to the options tool bar and you will notice that the magic
wand tool has a special option called Tolerance.
Increasing the tolerance number will make the magic
wand less picky. In other words with a high tolerance it will select
colours that are less similar than each other. If you lower the
tolerance then it will only choose colours that are more similar
to each other. If we want to choose the whole of the ducks beak
then we must turn the tolerance up a bit. In this case I have turned
it up to 60.
Notice that almost all of the ducks beak has been
selected except the brightest white highlights. Using a lower number
would no doubt leave the less bright highlights alone too.
There is usually more than one way to do something
like this. For example, you could try leaving the tolerance at its
default level and select more than one part of the beak. To do this
click in one place of the beak, then hold down the Shift
key like we did to add selections in the previous article. Then
click on another part of the beak that hasn't yet been selected.
Most of the time this method works very well.
Yet another method that is almost the same is to use
the Grow command. Go to: Select > Grow.
This command automatically looks for similar colours near to the
selection you already have.
Before we leave this subject, this looks like the best place to
tell you about the Select > Similar option. Let's say we had
two or more ducks in our picture instead of one. Maybe we would
like to select the beak of every duck at the same time. All we do
is select one ducks beak with the magic wand tool and then choose
Select > Similar. Photoshop will
then select any colour that falls into the same range as the original
ducks beak. In actual fact I have not found the select similar option
all that useful, but I'm sure one day I will =o).
More Magic Wand Tricks
One last trick we can do with the magic wand is to
take away from a selection we made. For example, lets say we wanted
to grab just the middle yellow balloon and make copies of it.
It would take quite some time to select the balloon
with the lasso tool. It couldn't be captured with the magic wand
tool alone because its multicolored. You couldn't easily select
just the sky with the magic wand because of the other baloons in
the way. If you could just select the sky you may be able to then
choose Select > Inverse. This would work on our duck picture
because it is alone on a white background!
So what do we do? First we select the balloon with
the normal rectangular marquee as shown in the above picture. Then
we select the magic want tool and leave it at its default setting
of 32 (you may need to change it on other pictures?).
Hold down the Alt
key on your keyboard and click the sky area inside the rectangular
Bingo! As you probably recall from my first selection
article holding down the Alt
key subtracts from a selection. In this case the magic wand tool
subtracted the blue sky around the balloon Try it yourself, its
a very useful method.
Now if you wanted to copy and paste this balloon all
over the place all you need do is go to Edit
> Copy and then Edit > Paste.
Photoshop automatically pastes every new image in the exact same
position you cut it from so you may not see it at first. So use
the move tool (encircled below) to reposition the newly pasted image.
|Note: Photoshop automatically pastes every new image
on a new layer. This means if you paste more than one you will
need to select that layer to move it. This is not important
for now but all this will be explained in my tutorial on layers.
Still hungry for more? Then move onto my selections
guide Part 3.