Photoshop Toolbox Tools – Marquee Tools

Photoshop Toolbox - Beginners' Tips for Tools, Layers and More!

This time around we’re going to jump right into the Photoshop Toolbox for a closer look at the Marquee Tools to see how we can use them to make selections, center objects within a portion of an image, and more!

The second tool down in your toolbar (if you’re using a vertical toolbar) will be the Marquee Tools. You can select the Marquee Tool by hitting the button in the tool bar or by simply pressing the letter M. Here, as with many of the tools at our disposal, we have a number of different tool variations that are available to us. You will notice that in the bottom left corner of the tool’s button there is a small, dark triangle. This means that there are additional, related tools that you can choose from, depending on your needs. When we click on it here, you will see that we have a whole list of selection tools to work with:

  • Rectangular Marquee Tool – for creating rectangles and squares
  • Elliptical Marquee Tool – for creating ovals and circles
  • Single Row and Single Column Marquee Tools – Defines the border as a 1px row or column

I have personally never come across a use for the Single Row or Single Column tools, so I am going to skip them for now. If you’ve ever used them or know of a situation where they come handy, please share it in the comments. I would love to learn when you would use them.

Just like we saw when looking a the Move Tool last week, when using any of the Marquee Tools in combination with a few keys on your keyboard you will be able to extend the functionality of this already powerful tool. Here’s how:

  • Press M to select the current Marquee tool
  • Press Shift+M to switch back and forth between the Rectangular and Elliptical Marquee Tools
  • While holding the Shift key as you create your selection you can constrain your proportions so that you will create either a perfect square or circle (depending on which Marquee Too you have currently selected).
  • While Holding Option(Mac) or Alt(PC) your marquee selection will be created from the center rather than from the corner.
  • Combine the two and hold down Option/Alt+Shift and you’ll be able to draw a perfect circle or square from the center.
  • Hold down the Spacebar while still creating your selection to move it around so that you can make sure it lines up just right.

Once you’ve got a handle on how the tool works, let’s take it one step further, shall we? If you look up in your Options Bar you will notice 4 buttons that show different configurations of squares. These buttons dictate how your next selection will be created and how it will interact with other selections already present. The first, which is selected by default, simply creates a new ¬†selection. The next adds to the current selection allowing you to create more complex shapes by combining multiple sized rectangles and/or squares into a larger selection.

The next one over is the sibling to the last one where you can use your Marquee Tool again to remove portions o the selection. I like to think of it as cutting a chunk out or making a window.

The last button is the Intersect option. In this case, with your current selection active,  draw your next selection and you will be left with wherever portions of your new shape overlap the original selection.

Next in the Options Bar you are given the option to determine how much, if any, feathering you want to add to the selection. This can be done easily later on, but this just gives you the option earlier in the technique, if you so desire. To save time, instead of going up to the Options Bar every time you want to add or subtract from a selection, try a couple of keyboard shortcuts instead:

  • With a section currently active on the page, notice when you hold down the Option or Alt key you are shown a small + symbol in the cursor. This means that if you hold down the key until after you click, shape you draw before taking your finger off the mouse button will be added to the current selection.
  • Likewise, if you hold down the Shift key, while doing the same thing, you will be removing from the current selection.

I use those two all the time.

Next, you can choose the style of your selection. The default is set to “Normal” which gives you the freedom to create a selection of any size and shape you need each time. If you select “Fixed Size” or “Fixed Ratio” you have the option to set a specific set of dimensions or a ratio you would like to try and stick with. I actually used this option quite a bit recently when working on a project for my day job. I simply created a preset for a 50×50 pixel square so I could create color swatches for some product image.

Practice using the Marquee Tools and I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it in no time at all!

If you have a cool tip about the Marquee Tools or a use that has really helped your workflow, please share it in the comments so we can all learn from it!

Also, send me your Photoshop Questions to askjason@jasondmoore.com and I’ll be sure to answer them in an upcoming post. Thank you!

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