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How to Use the Lasso Tool in Photoshop CS6

Not much in life is perfectly rectangular or elliptical, and that’s where the Lasso tools in Photoshop CS6 come in handy. Most of the time, you have to deal with irregular shapes that have extrusions and protrusions (otherwise known as bumps or bulges) of some sort. The Lasso group of tools allow you to make freeform selections.

Photoshop offers three Lasso tools: the Lasso tool itself (which many call the regular Lasso to distinguish it from the others), the Polygonal Lasso tool, and the Magnetic Lasso tool. Each of the Lasso tools has its own special purpose in the realm of freeform selections.

But, in the category of simplicity, the Lasso tools are almost as easy to use as the Marquee tools. You just have to drag around the part of the image that you want to select. Just don’t indulge in too much caffeine. A steady lasso hand is a good lasso hand.

The selection you make is only as good as how accurately you can trace around your desired element. If you don’t make an exact selection the first time around, you can always go back and make corrections.

If, when making a selection, you find yourself fighting with your mouse (and losing), you may want to invest in a digital drawing tablet, such as a Wacom tablet. Using the stylus and the tablet can make mastering tools such as the Lasso a whole lot easier.

The Lasso and Polygonal Lasso tools both have only three choices on the Options bar to worry about — Feather, Anti-Aliased, and Refine Edges. These options work exactly the way they do with the Marquee tools.

To make a selection by using the Lasso tool, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Lasso tool from the Tools panel.

    The tool looks like (well, yeah) a rope. You can also use the keyboard shortcut; press the L key.

  2. Position the cursor somewhere on the edge of the element that you want to select.

    The hot spot (the lead point) of the Lasso cursor is the end of the rope. If you need a little visual assistance, press your Caps Lock key, which switches your cursor to a crosshair.

    Zoom in on the image if the element and the background don’t have a lot of contrast.

  3. Trace around the element and try to capture only what you want to retain in your selection.

    While you trace, a line forms that follows the movement of your mouse.

    Don’t release your mouse button until you complete the selection by returning to the starting point to close the loop. When you release your mouse button, Photoshop thinks you’re done and closes the selection with a straight line from your endpoint to the starting point.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/tomh1000 Image #1281272]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/tomh1000 Image #1281272
  4. Continue tracing until you return to your starting point; release the mouse button.

    Recognizing that you’re now done, Photoshop presents you with a selection marquee that matches your Lasso line.

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