Photoshop Editing Technique 2 – Selection Tools

by Peter Zack

The Photoshop tutorial technique sections are found in this archive section beginning with the first article in the series.

This section will help in using the select tool. This is a great tool to fix and correct just certain parts of an image without changing the entire frame. In this tutorial we’ll make adjustments to part of an exposure that didn’t come out quite right in the original. You might want to create a Christmas picture for a card and add something that was selected and cut from another image. The easiest way to follow this tutorial is to open an image in Photoshop and try the various techniques.

TIP: To make sure you don’t change the original image, open the image file and go to the top menu bar. Image > Duplicate image and when the second copy opens, close the original and then go to File > Save as and re-title the copied image. There are many methods to file images; the method I use is to simply keep the original file name and add a subject to the title, e.g., IMGP1234 becomes “IMGP1234 window and vines”. That way if I misfile the work, I can always search by the original file name.

Shortcuts and some tools you’ll use:

– Zoom: keyboard “Z”, use Alt to go between – and +

– 100% Zoom: Double-cick on the Zoom tool to zoom 100%

– Magic Wand tool: W, this is the selection tool

– Inverse: Ctrl + Shift + i, this inverts the selection from what you chose.


We’ll use the magic wand tool to select a region or item in an image to move it or make changes to it. In this example (photo above) the camera metered the brick wall well but had trouble with the much brighter window reflections. So we’ll attempt to isolate the window from it’s surroundings and adjust it to balance the overall scene.


Open your image in Photoshop. First select the magic wand tool in the tool bar on the right side. Next you will adjust the tolerance which tells the software how many similar colours to select. Lower = fewer, and higher is more. Beside the Tolerance box on the upper tool bar is the Contiguous check box. If the box is checked, then the colours must be connected to be selected. If not checked, then the Magic Wand will select all similar colours across the frame within the tolerance. Next is Anti-Alias. This is used to smooth the edges of a selected area but no detail will be lost along the edge. Tolerance, Anti-alias and Contiguous must be selected and set before you begin using the Magic Wand.

We want to select the entire window region for adjustments. In the case of this shot we have 2 distinct colours (red and white) with a few other similar colour tones added. We have 2 choices in making the selection.
– We could select the entire red area and then go to the menu>select>inverse (use keyboard shortcut above) so the window is now the selected region.
– Or we can select the white window directly and add parts that don’t get selected with one selection attempt.

Sometimes the inverse method will work best because the area for adjustment is too variable or confused. Here the red area is not a great choice because all the vines, which are darker, will not be selected. We want the inverse part to be entirely selected and in this case it would be too difficult. But in many cases you can select a spot that is a uniform colour and set the tolerance between 10-60 depending on the colour shade*. If the tolerance is not capturing all colours you want, you can then go Select > grow or Select > Similar to expand the selected area.

TIP: Select > grow and Select > Similar do not have shortcuts. If you do something repeatedly go to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts. and select the item you want to have a custom shortcut for. In this case it would be under the Shortcuts for “Application Menus”. Click on “Grow” and a small dialog box opens, just type your new custom shortcut there and save with the Accept button.

So for this example we select a region in the white window. Then we have used grow, repeatedly, (or similar depending on which would work best for the scene) as far as we can without it selecting the entire image. But there are still a few small parts that don’t get selected. We will have to use another feature of the magic wand.  Hold down the Shift key (a small + will apear beside the tool) and with your mouse move the magic wand to an area you want to add to the selection. Click that region and it’s added. Using this feature of the tool, I now have the entire window selected.


I can now make the adjustments to the image as I want to, using all the adjustment features of Photoshop to get the result I want.

*Tolerance tells the program how sensitive to be. So if you input 20 and select green grass. It will take all pixel colours from 20 below the selected pixel colour and 20 above the colour you choose.

Cheers and good shooting –Peter Zack


2 Responses to “Photoshop Editing Technique 2 – Selection Tools”

  1. This is another fabulous article talking about the essential key points of using photo editing programme.

    Your writing is always a standard for me to look up to. I will be posting this article link around 🙂

  2. Oooooh, I get it. Huh, that could be useful!

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