How To Use The Magnetic Lasso Tool In Photoshop CS5

How To Use The Magnetic Lasso Tool In Photoshop CS5

The Magnetic Lasso Tool is located in the Toolbox on the left side of your screen in Photoshop and is used to select objects inside a photograph or image. For this demonstration, I have chosen a stock photo from of a spread-winged barn owl against a grassy background. The contrast between the background and the owl’s white feathers makes this photo appropriate for demonstrating the use of the Magnetic Lasso Tool.

Here are the steps for making a selection with the Magnetic Lasso Tool and placing the selection on its own layer:

1. In Photoshop, open the photograph from which you want to make your selection.

2. The Magnetic Lasso Tool is located in the Toolbox on the left side of the Photoshop screen under the Lasso-Tool submenu and is the third icon down. If you click once on that icon, you’ll get whatever tool is already activated in the Lasso-Tool submenu. If you left click and hold, however, you’ll get the entire Lasso-Tool submenu, which contains the Lasso Tool, the Polygonal Lasso Tool, and the Magnetic Lasso Tool.

3. Left click on the Magnetic Lasso Tool to activate it, move the cursor over the photo, and you’ll notice that the cursor looks like a bird with a U-shaped magnet on the right and a short line pointing downward. The bottommost tip of that line is where the anchor points are set when you left click your mouse.

(If you prefer, you can change the default Magnetic-Lasso-Tool’s cursor to a circle with a plus sign in the middle by engaging the Caps-Lock key. Some Photoshop users feel that this alternate cursor makes following the outline of the object easier and more accurate.)

4. With the Magnetic Lasso Tool activated, left click somewhere on the outline of the object you want to select, release the mouse button, and drag the cursor along the object’s edge. The Magnetic Lasso Tool will set anchor points according to the frequency you indicate in the Options Bar at the top of the screen. Left click to set anchor points whenever the tool does not do what you want it to. Then release the mouse button again, and continue moving the cursor along the object’s edge.

5. If you make a mistake, just press the delete key or the backspace key, and the most recent anchor point will be eliminated. Do this as many times as necessary to get back on track.

6. When you reach the starting point, a small circle will appear on the bottom right corner of the cursor. Click to complete the selection, and a moving dashed line (sometimes referred to as “marching ants”) will appear around the perimeter of the object.

(A trick for forcing the tool to complete the selection is to hold down the Control key as you left click your mouse. The tool will draw a line from the cursor’s position to the starting point of the selection, and the moving dashes will appear. If you do the same thing with the Alt key, Photoshop will draw a straight line from that point to the beginning point and activate the moving dashes.)

7. Return to the Toolbox to pick up the Move Tool, which is the first icon at the top. With the Move Tool activated, click on the selected object and drag it to a new location, and you’ll see that you can move the selection around on that layer.

8. One way to isolate your selection for future use is to Copy and Paste the selection from the Edit menu. (Another way of creating a new layer is by doing a “Control J” on a PC or a “Command J” on a Mac.) When you paste it, Photoshop creates a new layer in the Layers Panel and displays it above the background layer. Click twice on the new layer’s label and rename the layer.

9. On the Layers Panel, select the new layer called “owl,” and with the Move Tool activated, you’ll find you are able to move the owl around on the layer. If you turn off the Background layer, you’ll see the selected owl alone on a transparent background.

It’s that simple! You’ve used the Magnetic Lasso Tool to select an object in Photoshop CS5, and you’ve isolated the selected object on a new layer. I hope you find this tutorial to be useful.


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