LESSON 3 – Basic Selections

CIOS F255 - University of Alaska Fairbanks


From time to time, you may find that you want a photo of a single object. Sometimes you want to use a photo like this for graphic design work, to include in a brochure or on a Web site. You may want to take an object from a photo in order to use it in a larger photo collage. The challenge is to isolate just the object and remove it from its background.

At the end of this lesson you should be able to:

  1. Describe the strengths and limitations of the Photoshop selection tools
  2. Demonstrate how to transform a selection
  3. Accurately distinguish between the pixels within a selection and the selection itself
  4. Reposition a selection marquee
  5. Move and duplicate the contents of a selection
  6. Use keyboard-mouse combinations that save time and hand motions
  7. Deselect a selection
  8. Rotate a selection


  1. Read and Complete  –  Make Selections Adobe Tutorial
  2. Review the Select and Mask Workspace (some of this is overlap from the tutorials but it is important to learn about this work area when we start compositing images.
  3. Read Move, Copy and Delete Selected Pixels


Select & Mask – You will need  to become very  familiar with the Select & Mask interface, as it is essential for making good selections. Please don’t forget to watch all the videos in the    Make Selections Adobe Tutorial  if you are unfamiliar with this interface. There will be some related questions on the quiz.

Select & Mask introSelect & Mask intro

Selection Keystroke Tips

Perfect Squares and Circles –  Holding down the shift key as you drag with the rectangular or elliptical marquee constrains the shape to a perfect square or circle. Note that this only works while you’re dragging the original selection. If you’ve already made a selection, holding down the shift key adds to the selection.

Inverse  –  You can switch the selected and unselected areas by choosing Select > Inverse (Shortcut = Command + Shift + I or Control + Shift + I).

Saving and Loading Selections –  Some selections are difficult to make. When you have completed your complex selection, or even while you are in the process of making it, you can Save your selection, so that if you deselect, you can return to your selection at a later time. Select>Save and Select>Load

Deselecting/Reselecting  – Command+D (Control+D on PC) is the shortcut for choosing Select > Deselect from the menu. If you deselect, and then realize you need the selection back, you can press Command+Shift+D (Control+Shift+D) to reload it.

Cancel Partial Selection  –  If you begin making a selection and then decide you don’t like it, you can press escape to cancel a partial selection.

Let Go of the Lasso –  When using the lasso tool to draw a large or precise selection, my mouse finger sometimes gets tired and shaky. If you hold down the option key, you can release the mouse button and the lasso won’t automatically close the selection. Take a moment to let your hand relax, and then begin drawing again (and release the option key).



Since the photographer didn’t have time to set up studio backdrops and lighting, the guitar was simply held up in front of a white wall while she took the photo. The first step was to remove the object from its background, then create a new background and rotate the guitar into the desired position. She added a slight drop shadow to give the image more depth.

A previous student got creative and turned his dog into a musician for this assignment.

"Bear Bait Rocks the Duece" by SilverWolf

“Bear Bait Rocks the Duece” by SilverWolf

Saving Selections for Later Use



Step 1:  Netsuke are highly ornamental Japanese beads that were traditionally  used to hold small pouches closed. There are a number of photos of netsuke available for us to use  the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Find at least  two  you like and download them.

Step 2: There are lots of images online that are available for us to use and modify that are in the Public Domain  (copyright-free). One site that offers such images is Magdeleine. Click here to view images that are available on that site.    Find one you would like to use as a background image for your Netsuke.

  1. Open your Netsuke  files in Photoshop.
  2. Use the tools and techniques you learned about in this lesson to select the main object and remove the original background and take detailed notes on the steps you took to select the objects.  Try using different selection tools on the two Netsuke, move them around, try out the select & mask tool.
  3. copy the Netsuke (Cmd/Ctl A – to select all, Cmd/Ctl C to copy)
  4. Open the background image you chose in step 2 and paste (Cmd/Ctl V)  your Netsuke on the new background in it’s own layer. Use the move tool to put your Netsuke in the right place.
  5. Make any necessary adjustments to either layer to make your Netsuke fit with the background better. If there is something that we didn’t learn last week that you would like to fix (background image has a shiny surface with reflections so the Netsuke should have a reflection, go ahead and consult the Adobe Help Center or Google for a steps on how to accomplish the task).
  6. Save your .psd file in case you need it later.


  • use of tools covered in chapter lessons
  • quality of selections
  • written description of process


  1. Use ‘Save for Web (Legacy)’ to optimize your file.
  2. Create a new post on our site. Upload  your optimized image as well your notes. Report on any difficulties you encountered and how you handled them.


Log into  Blackboard  and take  QUIZ #3  located in the Quizzes section.


Comments on other student’s work is encouraged.