Adobe Photoshop is an incredibly complex program that takes time and effort to master. But part of being a professional user of this design software is learning all of the ins and outs during the process. That includes the multiple ways available for performing a single task. For example, did you know that there are six ways just to make a selection in Photoshop?

That’s it, just making a selection, and there are half a dozen ways to do it. Even those six are just the most well known and used methods – there are other, more complicated methods also available. But each one adds another element to your knowledge of tools that is crucial for moving into the professional stage of Photoshop use.

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Do I Really Need So Many?

Yes. It might seem redundant or even silly. But every option you have at your disposal in Photoshop was put there for a reason, in order to give you the very best tool for any job. Each selection method will be used for a different purpose, such as if you need complete and flawless accuracy or if you need a harder edge.

Think of it like a set of screwdrivers. There are dozens, with a number in a single set. The head shapes and sizes are all different, because they have to be used for a different screw type or job. If you just had a flathead, you wouldn’t get very far. You need everything you can get to make sure you have what you need for future projects, even if you don’t need it at that moment.

So, what are the six main ways of selection, and how do you use them?

1. Lasso

Lasso Tool
When precision isn’t your biggest concern, you can try the lasso tool. This is a complete free-form tool that lets you draw the edges by dragging your cursor. While this gives you total freedom, it can generate sloppy results, which is why many people prefer the polygonal lasso tool. This is a lasso that lets you move from one point to the next as you build the shape of the selection. Both can be used together, using the polygonal for straight lines and the traditional lasso for curves. This will smooth out the look of the selection.

2. Magic Wand

Magic Wand Tool
The magic wand is a tool that always had a cool concept, but never delivered on the goods. It works by selecting a portion of the image by sorting through color and contrast. Photoshop does this automatically when you click the general area, expanding out to capture everything within that color and contrast scheme. You can guess that the results have been pretty bad for most – unless you’re working on a logo or design that has a really solid color without layers to throw off the tool. There is some saving grace in an update that was released semi-recently called “refined edge.” It sort of smoothes out the jagged edges left behind. But it still doesn’t work for most projects, and you are better off leaving it unused.

3. Marquee

Marquee Tool
This one is very basic, and everyone stuck to it, along with the lasso, when they first got started in Photoshop. It has four formats: circle, square, single row and single column. The last two will pretty much only be used for single-pixel selections that are harder to capture with other tools. The other two are more general and easy to use. But the shape limits their usability.

4. Pen Tool

Pen Tool
This vector tool is the most controversial of all selection tools in the Photoshop arsenal. It creates paths in vector that can be used for scaling, editing and prompting commands. Many designers swear that it has given them a smoother surface selection with less effort. But they admit that it takes a lot of time and work to get used to it, which puts some people off. After all, Photoshop is already complicated. The truth is, a lot of people just won’t want anything to do with it. However, the versatility it offers makes it a go-to for any project, especially in photo manipulation. So you should take the time to get to know it, as it can be a valuable selection tool.

5. Quick Selection

Quick Selection
An example of the latest batch of more intuitive selection tools, this one is a keeper. It works by offering you a selection of brushes. You choose the best size and type for the tool and then paint across the selection. It is surprisingly good at capturing the edges without you drawing your way across it. Think of it as an improvement on what the magic wand should have been in the first place. It is a simple tool for fast selection, but one that actually works.

6. Color Range

Color Range
If you have bold colors that are clear and without too much shadow, you can use the color range tool. It is much more targeted than others that work on establishing a link between colors or contrast, but its function is limited. You basically bring up the toolbox and select the colors you want to have selected using the eyedropper tool. But if there is too much shade, it will have trouble correctly ascertaining the color in other regions. If your colors are simple, then this one is great. If not, use a more free-form selector.


These are not the only ways, but they are the six major selection tools that will help you to increase the professional quality of your work. How do you use Photoshop selection tools?

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