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Modifying selections

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  9. Working with selections
    1. Make selections in Photoshop Elements
    2. Saving selections
    3. Modifying selections
    4. Move and copy selections
    5. Edit and refine selections
    6. Smooth selection edges with anti-aliasing and feathering
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    7. Keys for the Liquify filter
    8. Keys for transforming selections
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Move a selection border

Moving a selection border repositions just the border without altering the photo.

  1. Using any selection tool, click New Selection  in the options bar, and position the pointer inside an existing selection border. The pointer changes to indicate that you can move the selection .


    The New Selection option appears in the options bar when any selection tool is selected—except the Selection Brush tool. Switch to another selection tool temporarily, if necessary, to select this option.

  2. Do one of the following:
    • Drag the border to enclose a different area of the photo. You can drag a selection border beyond the canvas boundaries; however, this makes it hard to get back. You can also drag the selection border to another image window.
    • To move the selection in 1‑pixel increments, use an arrow key.
    • To move the selection in 10‑pixel increments, hold down Shift, and use an arrow key.
    • To constrain the direction to multiples of 45°, begin dragging, and then hold down Shift as you continue to drag.

Invert a selection

Inverting a selection changes the unselected areas into selected areas, protecting the area you previously selected.

  1. In a photo with an existing selection border, choose Select > Inverse.

    You can use this command to easily select an object that appears against a solid-colored area. Select the solid color using the Magic Wand tool, and then choose Select > Inverse.

Add to or subtract from a selection

You can add to or subtract from an existing selection to fine-tune selection borders. For example, you could make a donut-shaped selection by first making a circular selection and then subtracting a circular selection within it.

  1. Select a selection tool, and do one of the following:

    • Hold down Shift (a plus sign appears next to the pointer) to add to the selection, or hold down Alt (Option in Mac OS) to subtract (a minus sign appears next to the pointer) from a selection. Then select the area to add or subtract and make another selection.
    • Click Add To Selection  or Subtract From Selection  in the options bar, and make another selection. (The Add To Selection and Subtract From Selection options appear in the options bar when any selection tool is selected.)

Select an area that intersects an existing selection

You can limit the area a selection affects. For example, in a picture of snow-capped mountains, you can select white clouds in the sky without selecting parts of the white mountain below them by selecting the entire sky, and then using the Magic Wand tool with Intersect With Selection selected and Contiguous deselected to select only the white areas included within the existing sky selection.

Selecting the sky and top of mountains with the Rectangular Marquee tool (top). Selecting the Intersect With Selection option and using the Magic Wand tool to select the clouds (middle). Resulting image after increasing the brightness of the clouds (bottom).

  1. Select a selection tool, and do one of the following:

    • Select Intersect With Selection  in the options bar, and select an area that intersects the existing selection.
    • Hold down Alt (Option in Mac OS) + Shift so that cross-hairs appear next to the pointer, and select an area that intersects the existing selection.

Expand or contract a selection by a specific number of pixels

You can use commands in the Select menu to increase or decrease the size of an existing selection and to clean up stray pixels left inside or outside a color-based selection.

  1. Use a selection tool to make a selection.

  2. Choose Select > Modify > Expand or Contract.
  3. For Expand By or Contract By, enter a pixel value between 1 and 100, and click OK.

    The selection border is moved outward or inward by the specified number of pixels. Any portion of the selection border that runs along the canvas edge is unaffected.

Frame an existing selection with a new selection border

The Border command creates a soft-edged, anti-aliased selection border. When you add the new selection border, only pixels between the two selection borders are selected.

Using the Border command to create a 4-pixel border selection (top). Copying the selection to a new layer and filling to make an outline of the image (center). Filling the selection into the original image to create an outline around the image (bottom).

  1. Use a selection tool to make a selection.

  2. Choose Select > Modify > Border.
  3. Enter a value between 1 and 200 pixels in the Width text box, and click OK.

Include areas of similar color in a selection

  1. Make a selection with a selection tool and do one of the following:

    • Choose Select > Grow to include all adjacent pixels falling within the tolerance range specified in the options bar. (You may have to switch to a selection tool that includes a tolerance range, such as the Magic Wand tool.) A higher Tolerance value adds a broader range of colors.
    • Choose Select > Similar to include pixels throughout the photo, not just adjacent ones, that fall within the tolerance range.
  2. To increase the selection incrementally, choose either command multiple times.

    You cannot use the Grow and Similar commands on photos in bitmap mode.

Remove stray pixels from a color-based selection

The Smooth command searches around each selected pixel for other pixels within the specified color range and selects them.

  1. Make a selection with a selection tool and choose Select > Modify > Smooth.

  2. For Sample Radius, enter a pixel value between 1 and 100, and click OK.

Defringe a selection

When you move or paste a selection, some of the pixels surrounding the selection border are included with the selection. These extra pixels can result in a fringe or halo around the edges of the selection. The Defringe Layer command replaces the color of any fringe pixels with the colors of nearby pixels containing pure colors (those without background color). For example, if you select a yellow object on a blue background and then move the selection, some of the blue background is moved with the object. Defringe Layer replaces the blue pixels with yellow pixels.

Dog selected and copied to a new image where artifacts from the dark background are visible (top). Image after using the Defringe Layer command (bottom).

  1. Copy and paste a selection into a new or existing layer.
  2. Choose Enhance > Adjust Color > Defringe Layer.
  3. In the Defringe dialog box, type the number of pixels you’d like to replace around the object. A value of 1 or 2 should be sufficient.
  4. Click OK.


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