Photoshop Marquee tools

In this post I am going to write a basic overview of the Marquee Tools. After reading this article the readers will be familiar with the Rectangular Marquee Tool, the Elliptical Marquee Tool, Single Row Marquee Tool and the Single Column Marquee tool.

If you have just launched Photoshop for the first time your tool box will show you the Rectangular Marquee Tool. To access the other Marquee Tools just click and hold down the Marquee Tool button and you will get a popup window giving you the option of choosing any one of the 4 Marquee Tools. This holds true for any tools on the photoshop toolbox that have a small black arrow on the bottom right corner of the button. The little arrow indicates that there are more tools available hidden underneath the tool that is currently shown for selection.

Marquee Tools All

All marquee tools have a few general rules. They are used to make geometric selections of portions of pictures. Everything that is inside the selection will be affected by all other photoshop tools. For example if you select something using the marquee tools then it gets surrounded by little dashes (also known as marching ants). Now everything that is surrounded by the marching ants will be effected by any other photoshop tools.

Elephant Marching Ants In this image I selected a rectangle in side the image using the rectangular marquee tool and then I went to Image > Adjustments > Invert. Notice that only the area inside the selection was affected. That demonstrates what the marquee tools are used for. It’s a very valuable tool that is used a lot by people who use Photoshop.

General Rules

The marquee tools can be made more precise if you hold down the ALT key or the SHIFT key when making selections.

  1. If you hold down the SHIFT key and then click and drag using the marquee tools (rectangular or elliptical) then they will form perfect squares and perfect circles no matter how you drag the mouse.
  2. If you click with the mouse and then hold down the ALT key before dragging then the rectangle or ellipse will have their center where you first clicked.
  3. If you click and then hold down both SHIFT and ALT keys then it will create a perfect circle or square with the center where you clicked.
  4. If you press SHIFT + M then you can quickly shift from rectangular marquee tool to elliptical marquee tool quickly.

Marquee Tool Option bar.

Photoshop version 7 and beyond have a Tool Option Bar on top of the screen.

Selection Options

Selection Buttons The most useful options are probably the selection options. The right most button is the “New Selection” button. When this is pressed then our marquee tools will select what ever you click and drag around.

The second button is the “Add to Selection” tool. This does what the name suggests. If you have selected an area of your picture and you want to extend that selection or select another part of the picture while keeping the first selection still active then you choose this button before making another selection. Instead of creating a new selection it will ADD to what ever is already selected.

The third one is just as useful and important as the second button. This is the “Subtract from Selection” tool. You guessed it, if you want to REMOVE a part of the selection then choose this button and then click and drag. What ever your selection now touches will be removed from what was initially selected. If you want to select a doughnut then you can choose the New Selection button and make a circle (using elliptical marquee tool) and click and drag. Now you will have the outside selected but how will you remove the center? You probably guessed it. You will click on the “Subtract from Selection” tool and make another circle in side the doughnut and photoshop will remove it from your selection leaving only the doughnut selected.

The fourth button is “Intersect from Selection”. If you have a new selection and you chose the Intersect from selection tool then make a selection that over laps your first selection then only the areas that are overlapping will remain selected.

elephant with feathering The next option is the “Feather” option. The description of feathering from the Adobe manual is, “Blurs edges by building a transition boundary between the selection and its surrounding pixels. This blurring can cause some loss of detail at the edge of the selection.” Basically when you set a feather value in the selection options then you will not get an exact selection. All the previous examples would yield and exact outline of a circle or rectangle of straight line. When you set a feather value you will get a blurry edge. Here is a picture of the elephant selection with a feather value of 15. As you can see it inverted the colors out side the selection as well. The blurriness only happened over 15 pixels.

The last thing here is the Style Option. If you choose normal then everything will act just like described above. If you choose fixed aspect ratio then you can define the ratio between the width and height. 1 and 1 would mean it would make perfect squares and perfect circles. 1 and 2 would mean that your height will be twice as high and your width.

With fixed size you can say exactly what size your shape will be. Just enter the height and width in pixels and your selection tool will make it so!

If there are any comments or questions just post them here 😀 I hope this helped!

16 thoughts on “Photoshop Marquee tools

  1. Pingback: photoshop tips » The Move Tool

  2. sakya das

    it is a good class for the beginers for the photoshope .i realy congratulate u from my hearts and hope u would continue the good work for the new one who are said to be the begiiner

  3. Pingback: » Selection Masks Photoshop Tips, Tutorials, News and Art

  4. Khurrum Post author

    sakya das > Thank you very much 🙂

    I will continue to write tutorials for beginners and then go to more advanced topics as well. Thank you for visiting 🙂

  5. Ardo

    I’m stuck with an nasty problem:
    How can I get the distance, between the marquee and the layer, identical from left and from right?

  6. Khurrum Post author

    Hi Ardo 😀

    This may not be the best way to do this but I do it this way any way. To center a marquee so that it has the same distance to the left and to the right:

    1. Turn on Rulers (View > Rulers or CTRL+R)

    2. Make sure Snap is active (View > Snap)

    3. Now you’ll see rulers on the edges. Click on the ruler on top, hold mouse down, and drag down. Since you have Snap activated the ruler will snap right in the middle of the canvas. Release the mouse button when it snaps or gets stuck a while in the center.

    4. Click on the ruler on the left, hold mouse down, and drag right. Since you have Snap activated the ruler will snap right in the middle of the canvas. Release the mouse button when it snaps or gets stuck a while in the center.

    5. Now the exact center is where the 2 rulers meet in the middle. Choose the marquee tool that you want and hold down the ALT key. While ALT key is down click where the 2 rulers meet in the center and drag away from it. The resulting marquee will start from the middle and will have the same distance from the right and the left (and top and bottom too.

    I hope this helps 🙂

    Thanks for visiting.

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  11. Mark

    Thank you for the tips. But, I can’t figure out why my marquee tool won’t show cross-hairs of some sort. =(

  12. Khurrum Post author

    Hello Mark,

    Try pressing the caps lock key and see if the cross hairs show up.

  13. Ricky

    Recently my selection tools in Photoshop CS3 have been experiencing problems. I’m a advanced photoshop user and have never seen such an issue feather is doing something odd when i make selections with the marquee tools and the lasso’s..the lasso will not feather no matter what i set the feather to…and for some reason the circle marquee and the rectangle marquee always have a feather on them, even when i change the feather to there a way to reset photoshop or something of that sort…i’d rather avoid the 3 hour installation for the CS3 Master Suite again.

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