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How to Paint with the Photoshop Elements Selection Brush

If the action of painting on a canvas is up your alley, try out the Selection Brush in Photoshop Elements 11. Using two different modes, you can either paint over areas of an image that you want to select or paint over areas you don’t want to select.

The Selection Brush also lets you make a basic selection with another tool, such as the Lasso, and then fine-tune the selection by brushing additional pixels into or out of the selection.

Follow these steps to paint a selection with the Selection Brush:

  1. Select the Selection Brush from the Tools panel or simply press the A key.

    If the Selection Brush isn’t visible, press A again to cycle through the tools. Or simply choose the Selection Brush in the Tool Options. This tool works in either Expert or Quick mode.

  2. Specify your Selection Brush options in the Tool Options.

    Here’s the scoop on each option:

    • Brush Presets: Choose a brush from the presets drop-down panel. To load additional brushes, click the down-pointing arrow to the left of Default Brushes and choose the preset library of your choice. You can select the Load Brushes command from the panel menu.

    • Size: Enter a brush size from 1 to 2500 pixels. You can also drag the slider.

    • *Mode (note that this drop down menu is not labeled as such): Choose between Selection and Mask. Choose Selection if you want to paint over what you want to select. Choose Mask if you want to paint over what you don’t want to select. If you choose Mask mode, you must choose some additional overlay options.

      An overlay is a layer of color (that shows onscreen only) that hovers over your image, indicating protected or unselected areas. You must also choose an overlay opacity between 1 and 100 percent. You can also choose to change the overlay color from the default red to another color. This option can be helpful if the image contains a lot of red.

    • Hardness: Set the hardness of the brush tip, from 1 to 100 percent.

  3. If your mode is set to Selection, paint over the areas you want to select.

    You see a selection border. Each stroke adds to the selection. (You’ll notice the Add to Selection button in the Tool Options is automatically selected.) If you inadvertently add something you don’t want, simply press the Alt key (Option on the Mac) and paint over the undesired area.

    You can also select the Subtract from Selection button in the Tool Options. After you finish painting what you want, your selection is ready to go.

  4. If your mode is set to Mask, paint over the areas that you don’t want to select.

    While you paint, you see the color of your overlay. Each stroke adds more to the overlay area. When working in Mask mode, you’re essentially covering up, or masking, the areas you want to protect from manipulation. That manipulation can be selecting, adjusting color, or performing any other Elements command.

    Again, if you want to remove parts of the masked area, press the Alt key (Option on the Mac) and paint.

    When you’re done painting your mask, choose Selection from the Mode drop-down menu or simply choose another tool from the Tools panel in order to convert your mask into a selection border.

    [Credit: ©istockphoto.com/PKM1 Image #3217961]
    Credit: ©istockphoto.com/PKM1 Image #3217961

    If you painted the selection in Mask mode, the selection border is around what you don’t want. To switch to what you do want, choose Select→Inverse.

    The mode you choose is up to you. One advantage to working in Mask mode is that you can partially select areas. By painting with soft brushes, you create soft-edged selections. These soft edges result in partially selected pixels. If you set the overlay opacity to a lower percentage, the pixels are even less opaque or “less selected.”

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