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How to Modify Selections in Photoshop Elements 9

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

You can refine that Marquee, Lasso, or Magic Wand selection to perfection in Photoshop Elements. Although these selection tools do an okay job of capturing the bulk of your selection, if you take the time to add or subtract a bit from your selection border, you can ensure that you get only what you want.

You’re not limited to the manual methods of modifying selections described below, or even to keyboard shortcuts. You can also use the four selection option buttons on the left side of the Options bar to create a new selection (the default), add to a selection, subtract from a selection, or intersect one selection with another.

Just choose your desired selection tool, click the selection option button you want, and drag (or click if you’re using the Magic Wand or Polygonal Lasso tool). The Add to Selection and Subtract from Selection buttons are also available when you’re using the Selection Brush:

  • When you’re adding to a selection, a small plus sign (+) appears next to your cursor.

  • When you’re subtracting from a selection, a small minus sign (-) appears.

  • When you’re intersecting two selections, a small multiplication sign (x) appears.

Adding to a selection

If your selection doesn’t contain all the elements you want to capture, you need to add those portions to your current selection border. To add to a current marquee selection, press the Shift key and drag around the area you want to include. If you’re using the Polygonal Lasso, click around the area. And, if you’re wielding the Magic Wand, just press the Shift key and click the area you want.

You don’t have to use the same tool to add to your selection that you used to create the original selection. Feel free to use whatever selection tool you think can get the job done. For example, it’s very common to start off with the Magic Wand and fine-tune with the Lasso tool.

Subtracting from a selection

Did you select too much? To subtract from a current selection, press the Alt (Option on the Mac) key and drag the marquee around the pixels you want to subtract. With the Alt (Option on the Mac) key, use the same method for the Magic Wand and Polygonal Lasso as you do for adding to a selection.

Intersecting two selections

To intersect your existing selection with a second selection, press Shift+Alt (Shift+Option on the Mac) and drag with the Lasso tool. Or, if you’re using the Magic Wand or Polygonal Lasso, press those keys and click rather than drag.

Avoiding key collisions

By pressing the Shift key, you get a perfectly square or circular selection. If you want to add to a selection, you press the Shift key. What if you want to create a perfect square while adding to the selection? Or, what if you want to delete part of a selection while also drawing from the center outward? Both require the use of the Alt (Option on the Mac) key.

Here are a few tips to avoid keyboard collisions — grab your desired Marquee tool:

  • To add a square or circular selection, press Shift and drag. While you drag, keep the mouse button pressed, release the Shift key for just a second, and then press it again. Your added selection area suddenly snaps into a square or circle. You must then release the mouse button first and then release the Shift key.

  • To delete from an existing selection while drawing from the center outward, press Alt (Option on the Mac) and drag. While you drag, keep the mouse button pressed, release the Alt (Option on the Mac) key for just a second, and then press it down again. You’re now drawing from the center outward. Again, release the mouse button first and then release the Alt (Option on the Mac) key.