Using the Quick Selection Tool

The Quick Selection tool lets you select the outline of a shape within an image (for example, this yellow flower that I need to cut out and paste into another image) without having to manually trace its outline. This is easiest to do with bold shapes that stand out from the background, but you can edit the selection with precision where needed.

This is just one of the many Photoshop techniques you’ll try out on our 2-day Photoshop course. Coming to us to train in person means having a trainer on hand to trouble-shoot and give you advice – much more useful than trying to figure out this complex software by yourself or by using online video tutorials that can easily go out of date. If this is old-hat to you, why not come on our Advanced Photoshop course?

To Use the Quick Selection tool:

1. Load your image in Photoshop and select the Quick Selection tool (hint: it’s toggled with the Magic Wand tool).

Photoshop Quick Selection tool-1

2. In the options bar at the top, specify whether to add a new selection, add to an existing selection, or subtract from a selection. Usefully, once you’ve started making your selection, Photoshop will automatically switch this option to ‘add to’.

Click on the drop-down within the options bar to change the brush size (for accuracy needed), or just use the ‘[ 'and ']‘ on your keyboard. By clicking on the drop-down, you can also change the brush size and spacing of the selection.

Checking the box for ‘sample all layers’ means all layers will be selected, based on the selection made in the one selected.

Auto-Enhance refines the edge of the image automatically. If you don’t select this, you can refine the image later, using the Refine Edge options.

3. Make your selection!

To do this, simply click outside of the part of the image you want to select, and drag the cursor around it.

Photoshop Quick Selection tool-2

This will select everything but your shape, but I usually do this as it means less time needs to be spent adding to the selection with detail within the shape.

To invert the selection go to Select > Inverse, or Ctrl + Shift + I on your keyboard.

Photoshop Quick Selection tool 3

Photoshop Quick Selection tool 5

If the Quick Selection tool has missed part of your shape (i.e. if it hasn’t distinguished it from the back ground), use the add and subtract options to refine the selection.

4. Refine Edge

Whether you selected the Auto-Enhance box before making your selection or not, you can now use the Refine Edge feature to adjust your selection. Adjusting the sliders in the pop-up window will automatically preview the change in the image. This may take a few seconds so it’s worth being patient and using trial and error to see how you want your selection to appear.

For example, here’s what the image would look like if I added some feathering – note that the slider is only half way up!

Photoshop Quick Selection tool 5

The box above includes a way of adjusting the contrast levels in the image. We’ve written a post about different uses of contrast, that you may also find useful.

Top Tip: If you want to use this selection in a new document, you can just copy and paste it over. A quicker way is to click ‘Refine Edge’ at this point, make sure your edge is to your specifications as above and click on the drop-down next to ‘Output To’. You can now copy this image into a new layer, a layer mask, or a new document entirely.

For more on masks, have a look at our Quick Mask tutorial.

Flower image by Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr.

Similar posts you may like:

  1. Photoshop Quick Mask Tutorial
  2. Tutorial: How to Make a Lightsaber in Photoshop
  3. The Best Bits of Photoshop CS5
  4. Tried and Tested: Top 5 Features in Photoshop CS5
  5. Photoshop Shortcuts


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Aaron Charlie

Aaron Charlie is a Creative Design & IT expert at Silicon Beach Training. Connect with Aaron on Google+

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