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Photoshop’s Selection Tool Options

In this article let’s look at some Marquee Tool Options. You‘ll notice it changes depending on which tool you have selected, even which marquee tool. So lets have a look at what’s what.

I’ll start by having a look at some of the features that appear on all the marquee tool bars;

General Settings – The Rectangular Marquee Tool


The first group of icons determine how one selection interacts with another.


From left to right;

Replace any existing selection with a new one. (New selection)
Add to existing selection
Remove from existing selection
Keep existing selection only where new selection intersects with it.


Feather. It’s much easer to add a feather once you have set your selection, so it’s not very often you’re going to want to change this. (I’d love to know if you use this regularly and in what situations)

Next along we’ve got a drop down menu that sets out if we’d like to constrain the selection and, if so, how.


The default, ‘Normal’ lets us draw out the selection however we choose, no constraints.


The second option doesn’t restrict the size, only how wide to how tall. In the case above I have it set to 7 pixels across and 5 pixels high non dependant of measurements like inches, centimetres etc. So for every 7 across it’ll be 5 high, . Both the Width and Height can be entered via the keyboard or increased and decreased using the keyboard arrow keys.


The last option, Fixed Size, plonks down a selection the size entered in the Width and height boxes. Like many boxes of this kind we can enter cm, in, px etc.

Elliptical Marquee Tool

There’s on major addition with this tool;


Having this checked the curve of my selection will be nice and smooth, unchecked it’ll be blocky, of like steps

The Magnetic Lasso Tool


We’ve got a few more options to play with with the magnetic lasso so lets take a look;


Width is asking me how far, either side, from the cursor it should look for an edge.
Contrast is asking about the contrast between what you are trying to select and the background. If there’s a lot of contrast then I can set it quite high, low and I’ll have to set a low number.
Frequency is how often there’ll be an anchor point. If Im doing quite a complex image then I’ll want quite a high number here.

That final icon can be selected when I’m using a graphics tablet. Using pressure sensitivity I can adjust the width setting as I trace around my image.

Refine Edge

Refine edge needs a tutorial all it’s own. Fortunately Mike Hoffman and Gavin Hoey have it covered!

Complex Selections Made Simple with Photoshop CS5 by Gavin Hoey [Video]
Capturing Details with Refine Mask by Mike Hoffman

About Eric Renno (434 Articles)
Eric’s background in video editing with Adobe Premier led to his interest, and then obsession, with Photoshop. Starting TipSquirrel.com as a hobby he is proud to have gathered together and be a part of The Photoshop Nuts. Known as only “TipSquirrel” for two years, Eric ‘went public’ when he was a finalist in The Next Adobe Photoshop Evangelist competition. He’s also been a finalist in Deke’s Techniques Photoshop Challenge. While still taking on some freelance work, Eric has recently become a Lecturer at Peterborough’s Media and Journalism Centre where he enjoys sharing his knowledge as well as learning new skills. This realisation that he loves to teach has made Eric look at altering his career path.

3 Comments on Photoshop’s Selection Tool Options

  1. davver // 14/03/2011 at 10:22 am //

    Hi, regarding feather settings with the lasso tool, I generally have a high setting (between 8 and 32 pixels) when working on photos at work. There is a good reason for this though – quite often the photos we are given have poor lighting and I need to add a screen or multiply adjustment. It’s a little quicker to make a quick feathered selection around the face, create a new adjustment layer with mode set to screen and reduce the opacity, than to feather the selection afterwards, or blur the mask edges.

    There are important things to remember if you have anything other than 0 in that box though – adding to a selection (to cover slightly more, or ‘grow’ the selection) you generally want to start well within your marching ants, and subtracting from well outside. As all the lasso and marquee tools retain their feather settings I must admit it’s just the freehand lasso tool I do this with and only for this reason.

  2. Thanks davver! Its great to hear how other people use Photoshop, and I can see why you’d use the feather at the time of making the selection.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. davver // 14/03/2011 at 4:07 pm //

    No prob, glad to help! Incidentally I use this with a keyboard shortcut to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves…, which then gives me the options for layer mode and opacity. This was all learnt from Photoshop User TV btw. CS5 has all the mask adjustment options I can imagine needing, so I guess if you have more than a minute to spend per image, going with a 0px feather is a slightly safer option!

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