Today, I’m going to touch on the ultra-beginnings of making selections in Adobe Photoshop using the Rectangular Marquee tool. Since this tool is so useful and so popular, I’ll be writing many posts that cover how you can take advantage of it, and its variations, during your photo editing workflow. At this moment though, my plan is to merely introduce you to one aspect of what’s in store.
In today’s post, I’ll talk about what the rectangular marquee tool is, what it looks like in practice (how you can identify it) and what you can accomplish with it. Regarding this tool and others like it, things begin very slowly, but become quite complex the further you go. A solid foundation is essential.
What is the Rectangular Marquee Tool?
The Rectangular Marquee tool is a tool that’s located in the left toolbar that allows you to select something in a layer. There are multiple variations of this tool, which we’ll discuss in later posts. For right now, I’ll focus primarily on this one because it’s fairly straightforward.
If you click on the area I’ve circled in the screenshot above, you can drag your mouse out to explore similar tools. For now, keep the Rectangular Marquee tool selected.
Selecting Part of an Image
Once you select the Rectangular Marquee tool, you can move over to your image, click down with your mouse pointer and drag in a specific direction. The goal here is to encompass the area of the image you’d like to select.
To select the area that’s outlined in the above screenshot, I clicked at the upper left corner and dragged down to the lower right. That’s where I let go of the mouse pointer.
Now, in the beginning, this may take some practice. After a few tries though, you’ll find that you can become an expert – fast. If you select something and then decide you don’t want it selected anymore, you can simply click outside of your selection. That will make the selected outline disappear. Another method for deselecting something is to head up to the top menu and click on Select > Deselect. This will have the same effect.
By the way, the dashed outline is called Marching Ants in the Photoshop world. This is because, while not seen in the screenshot, the dashed line moves, similar to what marching ants would look like.
Moving a Selected Area
After you select something in Photoshop, you most likely want to use it somewhere else. Right now, I’ll show you one method for moving something and when I’m finished with this, I’ll show you another method – a better one.
Let’s say I select the left flower of my image. I’d like to see that flower moved over to the right. One method I can use to accomplish this is to, while the flower is selected, click on the Move Tool.
Once I click on that tool, I can click anywhere inside my selected area and drag to the right.
The only problem with this is that, while the selected area was moved, it’s now stuck in the same layer. We also have this big empty area that resides where the selected area used to be. FYI – in all my years using Photoshop, I’ve never once moved something using this method. I simply show it to you so if you accidentally end up with something that looks like this someday, you’ll know what you did. Perhaps some day in the future I’ll do something like this, but I’ll need to discover a reason first.
Copy Selection to New Layer
In general, when making a selection, it’s advisable to copy and paste that selection to a new layer. This will give you the versatility you otherwise wouldn’t have.
Now, there are a few methods for copying and pasting a selection to a new layer. The first is to make the selection and then click Ctrl+C to copy and then Ctrl+V to paste. When you do this, a new layer will be automatically created and the selected section will appear in that layer. If you’d like an even easier keyboard shortcut, can you make your selection and simply click Ctrl+J. This will have the same effect and you reduce the operation by one click. And, as usual, there is always the top menu. If you make your selection and then head up there and click on Edit > Copy and then Edit > Paste, the same exact series of events will occur.
The best part of the copy/paste method is that it’s non-destructive, meaning, the layer you’re selecting from remains in tact. If you hide that layer from view, you’ll always have it to work from.
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