I was going to title this post Adding to, Subtracting From & Transforming a Selection in Adobe Photoshop, but that didn’t work for me. Growing and shrinking doesn’t do much better, so I’ll need to explain what I’d like to do below. It’s a pretty cool trick you may have never known about. Basically, there’s a method available that allows you to add to a selection that you’ve already made. Or, you can subtract from it. Let’s say you selected a square from a photo, but don’t want to include one corner. You can use this method to cut the corner out. It’s really neat, as you’ll see below.
I’m also going to go through a quick demo project today that I think you’ll enjoy. I’m going to make a selection from the cat picture above, transform that selection and then enhance it so it sort of looks like a postcard. Of course, I’ll play with adjusting some contrast and saturation and may even throw in a blending mode. I went over the project already and it came out nicely, so I think you’ll get something from it.
Making a Selection
Now, I’m not actually going to select anything, per se, from the cat photo. What I am going to do though is use the Rectangular Marquee tool to highlight an area, to show you the marching ants outline.
Adding to a Selection
As you can see in the above photo, I highlighted the area around the cat’s eyes. What if I wanted to also select the area around the mouth and add that to the area that’s already been selected? Well, if you look up at the options bar (while still in the Rectangular Marquee tool, or any selection tool for that matter), you’ll see a few additional features.
The four options shown are New Selection, Add to Selection, Subtract from Selection and Intersect with Selection. I already used the New Selection option. Photoshop defaults to that one when you choose a selection tool to work with.
Now, while my selection is active, I’m going to click on the Add to Selection option. I’ll see that this option is active by looking at my mouse pointer. It should be a cross with a small + in the lower right corner of the pointer. With this new option active, I’ll select the area around the cat’s mouth.
That’s pretty cool. I could have done the same thing with any selection tool. It works the same way. Also, I could keep adding and adding until I selected everything I want.
Subtracting From a Selection
What if I didn’t want to have a particular area selected? Let’s say that I wasn’t interested in having the cat’s right eye in my selection area. Well, if I click on the next option, the Subtract from Selection one, and “select” the area to deselect, I could remove it from the area. Let’s try it.
That’s awesome. Here, I’ll copy and paste the selected area into a new layer by clicking Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V on my keyboard. I’ll then place it on a white background to make it as clear as possible.
I’m sure you can see the possibilities with using this set of tools. If this is the shape I was going for, my method surely saves a bunch of time when compared to selecting rectangles and then trying to paste them together in new layers.
Transforming a Selection
Let’s start over. I’ll get rid of the white background and the pasted selection from above. We’ll start with the original cat picture.
My goal with this section is to make a similar selection to the one I originally made, but to twist it to the right a bit. I’d like to accentuate the cat’s eyes. First, I’ll make my selection.
Next, I’ll head up to the Select > Transform Selection menu item and click on it.
The moment I do this, the transform handles appear around the selected areas. These handles have the same capabilities that the Free Transform handles have under the Edit menu (if I was transforming something in a layer). So, if I bring my mouse outside the selected area and wait for the mouse pointer to turn into a curved double arrow, and then click, hold and drag, I can twist the selected area any way I wish. I’ll go to the right.
In the screenshot above, you can see the transformed selection area as well as the handles. To apply the transformation, I’ll need to click Enter on my keyboard.
Now, I can click Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V on my keyboard to copy and paste the selected area into a new layer.
Let’s play around a bit. As I mentioned above, I’d like to make this image into sort of a postcard look. To do so, I’ll double-click on the layer I just pasted to open up the Layer Style dialog box. Then, I’ll apply a stroke, change the stroke color to white and give it a width of 10 pixels.
Using the same dialog box, I’ll also give the layer a drop shadow, change the angle to 135 degrees, make the blend mode normal and alter a few other small settings. This is what I end up with.
It’s coming along, but it’s not quite there yet.
Since the top layer is nice and colorful, I’d like to differentiate it from the bottom layer some more. To do this, I’ll desaturate the bottom layer. I’ll head up to the Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation menu item and click. From there, I’ll push the Saturation slider all the way to the left. This will remove all color from the bottom layer.
This is what I get.
I’d say that looks really good. I could stop there, but I wonder what the top layer would look like if I applied the Darken blend mode to it. Let’s give it a try.
I could go on all day, but I think you get the picture. The possibilities are limitless.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I covered how to add to, subtract from and transform a selected area in Adobe Photoshop. Give it a try yourself and remember, all comments are welcome!
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