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If you can drag a mouse, you can master the Rectangular and Elliptical Marquee tools to make selections in Photoshop Elements. These two tools are the easiest selection tools to use, so if your desired element is rectangular or elliptical, by all means, grab one of these tools.

When you define a selection in Photoshop Elements, you specify which part of an image you want to work with. After you have a selection, you can then adjust only that portion of the image, and the unselected portion remains unchanged.

Using the Rectangular Marquee tool

The Rectangular Marquee tool is designed to define rectangular or square selections. This tool is great to use if you want to home in on the pertinent portion of your photo and eliminate unnecessary background.

Here’s how to make a selection with this tool:

  1. Select the Rectangular Marquee tool from the Tools panel.

    It looks like a dotted square. You can also press M to access the tool. If it isn’t visible, press Shift+M.

  2. Drag from one corner of the area you want to select to the opposite corner.

    While you drag, the selection border appears. The marquee follows the movement of your mouse cursor.

  3. Release the mouse button.

    You now have a completed rectangular selection.

Using the Elliptical Marquee tool

The Elliptical Marquee tool, which shares the same flyout menu as the Rectangular Marquee tool, is designed for elliptical or circular selections. This tool is perfect for selecting balloons, clocks, and other rotund elements.

Here’s how to use the Elliptical Marquee tool:

  1. Select the Elliptical Marquee tool from the Marquee flyout menu on the Tools panel.

    It looks like a dotted ellipse. You can also press M to access this tool, if it’s visible. If it isn't, press Shift+M.

  2. Position the crosshair near the area you want to select and then drag around your desired element.

    With this tool, you drag from a given point on the ellipse. While you drag, the selection border appears.

  3. Release the mouse button.

    Your elliptical selection is done. If your selection isn’t quite centered around your element, simply move the selection border by dragging inside the border.

You can move a selection while you’re making it with either of the Marquee tools by holding down the spacebar while you’re dragging.

Perfecting squares and circles

Sometimes, you need to create a perfectly square or circular selection. To do so, simply press the Shift key after you begin dragging. After you make your selection, release the mouse button first and then release the Shift key.

When you’re making an elliptical selection, making the selection from the center outward is often easier. To draw from the center, first click the mouse button where you want to position the center, press Alt (Option on the Mac), and then drag. When you make your selection, release the mouse button first and then release the Alt (Option on the Mac) key.

If you want to draw from the center outward and create a perfect circle or square, press the Shift key, as well. After you make your selection, release the mouse button and then release the Shift+Alt (Shift+Option on the Mac) keys.

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